I am a huge poker fan. I played on the Internet for a long time, before my free time completely ran out, however my love for poker didn't and I still enjoy playing the game, and I feel that the best bet to keep playing is in a home game.

However, most of my friends are completely unaware of poker stuff, they barely know the rules and are not much interested in the game. But still, we occasionally meet in each other's homes for dinner or whatever. Sometimes, I bring my chips and decks and try to set up a poker game. For some of my friends they are being introduced to poker for the first time, I mean to the game itself, for obviously they are aware of its existence. Then, I try to teach the rules and gameplay: chips denomination, blinds, hand rankings, game betting, fold, calling, raising and so on. At some point, they realize that its just to much information and start getting bored, then I realize that it really is a lot of information and rules and maybe I am not explaining them the better way. Anyway, I can't also expect that they absorb that information and process it on the fly, since learning the game is really hard, I simply want them to feel the need to repeat the experience (so I can keep playing, ehehe).

Turns out we play for one hour or so and the next time I suggest to play again, they just don't feel the pleasure and discard the possibility.

My question then, is quite simple: I want to have someone to play with, and want to share my passion of the game, just that the others see the beauty of the intrinsic dynamic that lies within it. I don't expect that anyone to fall in love with it, the very first time they're playing the game, so more objectively, what would a good way be, to teach the game to first timers, such that they feel interested with the game and seek the possibility to keep playing it.

I am specifically talking of NLHE.

Thank you.

  • I've had the best success by having a simple game with a small buy in ($1 or something), something to get them invested in the outcome without feeling overwhelmed. I call it the gateway bet :)
    – Devin
    May 3, 2013 at 15:32

3 Answers 3


I'm in exactly the same situation, down to every cruel aspect of it. It's actually quite amazing, something that people without knowledge of probability distributions would call a huge coincidence :D .

I think the problem in your approach is the fact that you throw a huge amount of information at them. Texas Hold'em (and poker in general) is a game with a very big number of rules, including those for marginal situations (for example, think about side-pots).

For example: When I first started with poker, I practiced alone for a few days the different hand combinations. I shuffled the cards and layed out the cards for 4 players face up, together with all 5 community cards. The goal was to minimize the time in which I correctly figured out which one of the hands is best. I did this hundreds of times until I was pleased with the result. What I'm trying to say is: figuring these things out takes time... in some cases, a lot.

The way I would do it is one step at a time:

  • On the first night, teach them everything there is to know about hand types (what is a full house, flush etc.). Show them how you can combine your cards with the community cards.
  • On the 2nd night, show them how the Dealer button moves clockwise after every hand. Also, while you're at it, explain to them who gets to act first, second, third etc.
  • On the 3rd night, go into the streets: preflop, flop, turn, river.
  • On night nr. 4, you can explain the limits to them: what are the blinds, what is the minimum bet, what is the maximum bet, what is a raise etc.

The order of these topics and which one should be covered on which night is not necessarily set in stone. Make up your own little plan.

Bottom line: no matter how you plan on teaching them, do it gradually. Throwing a lot of information at people will only frustrate them, which will make them give up the next time. If you do it slowly, they can accumulate the information more easily, which will make the experience more enjoyable.


The most important thing is that you should be aware of the fact that you cannot teach poker to someone who doesn't like the game. Yes, it's a great game and yes, I enjoy it very much. But, as much as it hurts, it doesn't mean that my friends should like it too. Judging by what I read, they don't seem to like it that much. So, before everything, make sure that they actually like the game.

The second most important thing is that people, when they are introduced to a new thing, like to experience the new thing as soon as possible, then, if they enjoy it enough, to build from there. As the first lesson, I would teach them only the basic rules of NHLE and get the game going. If someone protests, claiming, truthfully, that they are weak, you can always say: so are we. Plus, we don't play on anything. It's only for fun. For an added security, you can add: don't worry! I won't let you make mistakes or break the rules.

I'd even postpone the chip denomination lesson, giving the same value of 1 to all the chips. You have time to teach them math.

After that, it all depends on how much they enjoy the game. As I said, if they don't, then it's a dead end, no matter how good you are and how many $$$ you actually earn from poker. It's an emotional thing and you know that you cannot beat emotions, if they are high enough.

I hope it helps, Good luck!

  • 2
    I don't disagree with you (after all, most answers here will have a substantial amount of subjectivity in them), but how can someone like the game without knowing the game ? May 4, 2013 at 7:48
  • I think that if one likes the basics, it's likely that he'll love the game for what it is. But if he doesn't like even the basics, he won't be interested in knowing the game any further. May 4, 2013 at 18:26

The problem is that you can't teach someone a subject matter if they're not really interested in it. Poker is a great game, but unless the student wants to learn, they're not going to. Imagine you showed up at one of these get-togethers, and one of your friends said, "Hey, let me teach you Chess. It's an awesome game, but it's complicated. You'll love it." Unless you actually want to learn the game, you're going to decline and/or tune out. Same with poker.

Suggest you find like-minded people (via Meetup, etc) to find people to play poker with.

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