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5 tips for beginning poker players

5 tips for beginning poker players
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Since we are all on lockdown, many people have rediscovered online poker, specifically Texas Hold 'Em. While pay money sites are not legal, there are a lot of free card rooms and player-money exchange rooms where you can hone your game. We started a free poker club on Pokerstars.net with tournaments every night at 8 p.m. for no real money. We also do noon tournaments.

On Saturday, we will be doing an online charity tournament.

Maybe you are stuck with your family and want to get a game going to stay busy. This will work for you as well. This is just a basic introduction to get you started. There are a lot of good resources out there once you master the basics.

So if you are looking for something to do and have only a passing knowledge of the game, here are five tips that will get you on your way.

1) Learn the basic rules

It sounds silly, but knowing which hand beats what is important. This will give you a detailed look at the basics. If nothing else, learn the ranking of each hand. You can also observe tables once you join our poker club. Pay attention to what is happening with the other players and familiarize yourself with the software and how the game is played. Pay particular attention to the players who are winning the most chips.

2) Start with the free games

This is an excellent chance to get involved, learn and see what the game is like with no risk. Most of the people in the poker club are pretty good players, so you will get a chance to test your skills without losing any money. The game will change when you play for dollars, but when you are learning, this is a good way to start.

3) Limit your hands at the beginning

When first getting started, playing tight is the best way to learn. Unless you are in the blinds, stick to top starting 10 hands:

1. AA

2. KK

3. QQ

4. AK (same suit)

5. JJ

6. 10-10

7. AK (different suits)

8. AQ (suited)

9. 9-9

10. AJ (suited)

Or you can use this table, which ranks all the hands, although slightly different.

As you become more familiar with the game, you can begin to expand which hands you play.

4) Understand the importance of position

If you have the button, you will be last to act after the flop. This is a big advantage; the later position you are in, the more advantage you will have. Think of it as being the dealer in blackjack. You don't have to act until everyone else does. Again, knowing how to take advantage of this will come with more practice.

5) Find your personality

Eventually, your game will match your life. If you are a wild risk-taker, you will likely develop an aggressive game. If you are a passive person, you will likely be a tight player. But there are many ways to win. Early on, avoid too much bluffing. You will figure out the right times to do it as you learn more and become more accustomed to the game. But let your personality dictate how you play as your skills develop.

The bottom line

This is just a starting point if you have been interested and want to mess around a little and see if you can learn. Use losses as learning experiences; go back and evaluate what you did right and wrong. Sometimes you will just make a bad play. Sometimes you will get outplayed. Sometimes you are just unlucky. As Matt Dean used to say, "decisions, not outcomes." The more right decisions you make, the better off you will be in the long run.

Questions? Hit me up at faour975@gmail.com

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Who's going to step up in the Astros outfield? Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.

Astros manager Joe Esapda has certainly faced his share of criticism this season. When it was looking like another playoff appearance was out of reach in May, many were putting the blame mostly on Espada (Jose Abreu took his lumps too).

Now that the Astros have crawled above .500 and are in striking distance of the division leading Mariners, a new challenge has emerged.

Who should be playing regularly in the outfield and at first base? It would be nice if one of these options really stood out from the rest of the pack. But that hasn't been the case, at least since Joey Loperfido returned on June 21. So I decided to dive into this minuscule sample size to see who's making the best case to get regular at-bats as of late.

How have the bats fared since Loperfido returned?

When Loperfido rejoined the team, the Astros said they would get him more at-bats this time around. And that did happen for a while. He started five straight games after being recalled to the big league club (June 21).

His first game back was terrific as he recorded 3 hits with 2 doubles and 2 RBIs. But after that, he's done next to nothing as a starter. He did have a huge pinch hit against the Mets, but otherwise he's been pretty underwhelming since his big game against the Orioles on June 21.

So if Loperfido doesn't appear quite ready, what about Chas McCormick? McCormick shares some similarities with Loperfido recording one multi-hit game since June 21. He's started 4 games, plus some pinch hit opportunities. He, too, had a big game against Baltimore, but hasn't done much else in limited chances.

Trey Cabbage has shown some flashes with 1 multi-hit game in three starts. But nothing to write home about.

Mauricio Dubon has 2 multi-hit games with nine starts over this span, splitting time in the infield and outfield.

Jake Meyers appears to be the mainstay out of this group. His offense has been solid, and his defense is Gold Glove worthy. He has two multi-hit games in nine starts.

Jon Singelton may not play the outfield, but he does impact Dubon's playing time at first. He has two multi-hit games in six starts, which includes a three-hit game with a dinger against the Mets.

Let's assess the situation

Okay, we covered all the recent stats for these players and one thing has become apparent. Nobody is doing enough to get regular starts outside of Meyers and Dubon. And that has more to do with their season-long resume.

One could argue Singleton has been okay over this short stretch. But he's almost 33 years old. Expecting him to show much improvement over his career numbers seems unlikely. He'll continue to get chances against right-handed pitching, but that's about as far as it goes. We've already seen him lose playing time to Dubon even with righties on the mound.

Just look at Wednesday's lineup. Espada started all righties outside of Yordan Alvarez against left-handed Blue Jays starter Yusei Kikuchi.

Photo via: MLB.com/Screenshot

Right-handed hittingGrae Kessinger is starting at first base over Singleton and Loperfido. This should tell us everything we need to know about the logjam in the outfield and at first base.

Espada has seemingly made this a full-blown platoon situation. And that's not changing unless one of these players steps up and takes the job.

Over the next two weeks before the All Star break, the sample size will get bigger, and we'll have a better idea of who deserves the most playing time. Hopefully, Kyle Tucker will return around that time, and that will make cracking the lineup even harder for these guys.

That's when predicting the Astros lineup will get a lot easier, in theory. Meyers and Dubon have done enough to play almost every day. With Meyers in center and Dubon bouncing between the outfield and first base. Which means Singleton will start against righties fairly often, and Dubon should play first when a lefty is on the mound.

If that's the case, Espada won't be looking to put Cabbage or Loperfido in left field against a southpaw. Chas McCormick will likely get most of those starts, being right-handed.

What about Yordan?

When he plays left field, we typically see Yainer Diaz hitting DH. I would expect that to continue. When Yainer has the day off and Yordan plays left, expect Espada to play the matchup (shocker).

The other factor to consider is Cesar Salazar. We know he'll get starts behind the plate, spelling Yainer Diaz. So those lineups could be a little tougher to predict depending on if Yainer is in the DH spot.

But Salazar does deserve a quick mention. Espada received some criticism for pinch hitting Cabbage for him in the ninth inning of Tuesday night's loss. This season, Salazar has been money with runners in scoring position. He's slashing .571/.500/.714 with an OPS of 1.214.

Cabbage made Espada look even worse with an uncompetitive at-bat, swinging at three straight high fastballs.

But that goes along with the point of this article. Espada is going to have his hands full trying to predict which player will come through on any given day.

If someone doesn't separate themselves from the bunch, he's going to play the matchups almost exclusively. Which is understandable based on the cards he's been dealt.

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