I'm one of the most experienced in the biz when it comes to teaching women how to play poker. I formerly taught poker classes for hundreds of women through the female empowerment organization Poker Power.
I authored my women’s poker book, A GIRL’S GUIDE TO POKER.
I’ve led just about every women’s poker workshop you can think of outside of a bachelorette party. (Although one time a group of girlfriends and wives hired me to create a pre-wedding poker workshop for their men and husbands).
And as much as I love leading these classes, I know so many guys want to be able to teach their girlfriends or wives how to play poker.
So, get ready for the ultimate D-I-Y guide and the world’s best date night:
How to Teach Your Wife or Girlfriend Poker!
Ditch the Deck!
If you’ve already tried to teach your wife or girlfriend how to play poker, you know it can be challenging. You also probably tried teaching her with a deck of cards.
I do not recommend this.
Even though we may have romantic notions of playing cards by the fire, you’re lucky if you can get past a few rounds.
- Shuffling takes way too long.
- It’s too easy to get distracted.
- And unless you’re a top-tier pro, heads-up poker (1-on-1) can get boring.
My husband and I met at a poker table… and we even get bored playing this way! It will be hard enough to teach your girlfriend or wife how to play poker—don’t use this format.
As a matter of fact, I recommend you scrap the deck of cards entirely.
What you should do instead is use a computer.
- Online poker is 3x faster than live poker—per table. At a casino with a professional, speedy dealer, you’ll see an average of only 30 hands/hour. Online you’ll see an average of 90 hands/hour. Plus, you can potentially build up to playing two tables at once—now you’re at 180 hands/hour!
There’s a reason computer whiz kids can beat players with decades of experience. Believe it or not, they may be multi-tabling to the extent where they’ve seen as many hands in one year as someone in their 80s has seen in their entire lifetime.
- You’ll focus more on the cards. Again, when you’re teaching your wife or girlfriend how to play poker with a regular deck, it’s incredibly easy to get distracted. Simply shuffling takes longer than you think… and you probably laugh or make flirty eye contact.
While this is sweet, it probably feels impossible to concentrate. It is 99% more difficult to teach someone how to play poker this way! (Not an accurate statistic, but it’s close!)
- You can talk through your hands. When you play battling heads-up against each other, it doesn't make sense to see her cards. But you can talk through the thought process when you're teaching her how to play poker on a computer.
You can print out or display a hand rankings sheet of what-beats-what on your phone and go over the answers together. This way, you can guide her.
- Winning is way more exciting when there’s real money. If you want her to feel the same rush you do, it’s fun to play for real stakes. It doesn’t need to be large—you can play for literal pennies. Micro-stakes are totally fine. You’ll probably save a lot of money on a Saturday night steakhouse by entering a few $2.00 tournaments.
Just remember that you want her to get excited and experience an actual win. Even a single poker hand will likely be significant to her. Using play chips isn't the same. She'll also feel more enthused by defeating other players, which brings me to our next point.
- You get to play a full table. When you teach your wife or girlfriend how to play poker on the computer, there's never a shortage of players. You're no longer in boring heads-up land where neither of you has good cards.
It is both more realistic and more fun because you don’t need to wait indefinitely for intriguing match-ups.
Avoid Fixating on These Rules
If you’ve tried teaching your wife or girlfriend how to play poker in the past, you likely got stumped in two places: the blinds or the hand rankings. It’s hard to get past either of these subjects.
They are incredibly tedious and complicated to follow for someone learning the ropes,
That’s why I recommend glossing over this section as much as possible; it’ll come. If you start online, you don’t need to address the blinds in detail. It becomes pretty intuitive. Explaining the concept of blinds is usually a massive turnoff for beginners and makes them disinterested in the game entirely.
I can already feel her eyes glazing over! Let the virtual dealer put out the chips when first starting out. It’s not worth the headspace.
You also don’t need her to know all the hand rankings instantly. The most common hands—one pair, two pair, and three-of-a-kind—come naturally to most people. I like to have a reference page printed out or displayed on a mobile with all the hand rankings so she can follow as she goes.
You can help show her when specific situations come up. Learning what beats a flush or straight takes time. There are no quick fixes to getting someone to comprehend a full house. Fortunately, these aren’t as frequent.
Don't get too caught up in this step when you want to teach your girlfriend or wife how to play poker.
Honestly, “two pair beats one pair” is enough to get her going.
Don’t Settle for Bad Cards!
As lenient as I am on the other things, I’m an absolute stickler when choosing the right cards. She has to learn how to fold. Tell her that in many cases, professional poker players fold 80% of their hands.
Yes, that’s before the flop.
If you don’t want her going broke, help her develop discipline early. She can always expand her hand selection later. (It’s the old adage: You need to know the rules in order to break them).
Keep things as simple as possible. I use an old beginner's trick from professional poker player Daniel Negreanu: Don’t play any cards under 10.
That’s it.- Period.
Fold your hands unless both cards are 10 or higher.
So, a hand like Jack-Nine is not good enough - nor is Ace-Seven. You need both cards to be premium, not just one. It doesn’t matter if they’re suited. This fact only increases the hand’s equity by 2-3% anyway.
If you want a little more leeway, I stick to this system. (Feel free to have her write it down):
Only play hands in the following three categories:
- Big cards. Both cards need to be 10 or higher.
- Pairs. Both cards are the same.
- Suited + Connected. The cards are consecutive and the same suit. So, like Five-Six of diamonds or Eight-Nine of Clubs. How about a Nine and 10 of different suits? Nope—not good enough!
Be strict with these when teaching your wife or girlfriend how to play poker - if you want to set her up for success. She’ll lose money in the long run playing cards like Eight-Three suited.
She can always get creative later—practise solid fundamentals now.
Playing Poker in Real Life
Once you’ve taught your girlfriend or wife how to play poker, it’s off the casino! Right? Not so fast—there are some things you want to handle delicately.
Firstly, location matters. Some venues are classier than others. Try to have her first experience at a fancy casino or Vegas hotel rather than a divey card room when possible. The aesthetic matters and people behave better in more sophisticated environments.
Generally speaking, a classier location means the clientele will be less rowdy.
But you can lean into the boys’ club aspect of it a little bit. I’m not one of those people who think women need to always start playing poker at Ladies’ Events. They’re lovely for some women, but others can find them cliquey and uncomfortable.
It effectively depends. Many women even think it’s pretty cool to battle against the boys—it’s much more fun to win a hand against the grizzled tough guy than one of the gals.
And if you’re teaching your girlfriend or wife how to play poker, chances are she’ll want to be able to play near you.
So, keep her close, start slow, and enjoy this new endeavour together.