Beginner Poker: Shake, Shake, Shake!

Jeff FreemanUndoubtedly, you'll be nervous about your first game of poker. On the flipside, there's an undeniable excitement about it, too.

Get used to it.

No, no. Seriously. Get used to it. You'll get the feeling each and every time you pull up a chair and sit behind your fresh stack of chips, when you find yourself with pocket aces, or when you're hoping to pull off a bluff for a giant pot with nothing more than 2-7 offsuit.

Consistency is key in poker, and that stands true in your body language as much as it does your betting habits (another article for another time). Your mannerisms are constantly under observation. Just because it's not your turn to act doesn't mean someone isn't watching.

So when I say "get used to it," I mean it. In my poker-playing opinion, nerves are the most basic and most common emotion. Learn to control them -- or at least keep them under wraps. Good poker players use their opponents' weaknesses to their advantage. It won't be long before an observant player realizes your hands are even slightly trembling.

Personally, I like to work on my poker mannerisms during online play with free chips. I'll readily admit, it sounds silly -- but would you rather develop your mannerisms during a live money game? That can get pretty expensive pretty fast.

When you finally get a hand you want to play, treat your mouse like your stack of chips. Don't touch it unless you absolutely have to. Take some mental notes of your movements. Even during online play, you might find yourself a little jittery or shaky. You might breathe a bit heavier while hoping someone buys your bluff. I noticed that I bounced my right leg when I got impatient!

The next step, of course, is to eliminate those problematic mannerisms.

Stick with me on this one: I've found that "plotting a course" for your hands and arms helps reduce shakiness during any kind of play. Once you've decided to bet, call, check, or fold, plot your movement from start to finish.

Finally, when you're prepared to take action, remember two important words: "fluid" and "deliberate." Reaching for, manipulating, and acting with your chips without hesitation shows strength and confidence. On most online poker sites, you're given at least ten seconds to decide what you want to do. Make the most of that time.

The mannerisms you work on behind the screen of a computer won't make you any less nervous when time comes to sit down at your next game. However, I believe the ideas I've outlined and practiced myself can help you attain a level of confidence that you wouldn't have without practicing your mannerisms.

As you become more experienced, the nerves-to-excitement ratio will fluctuate. No matter how many games you play, though, it'll always be there. Making yourself less predictable is key in poker. Shutting out others' ability to pick up on your nerves is a step in the right direction.

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