If you really want to improve as an online poker player, you need to put in the hours. Unfortunately most of you, unless you quit your jobs and freak out your family and friends, don’t have the necessary amount of extra time needed to devote yourself to the study of the game. That is why we have compiled a comprehensive list of the ten most important online poker tips that hopefully will enable you to begin to iron out the kinks in your game and compete with just about anyone you happen to meet online.
10. Play for chips, and only for chips
When playing online, it’s very easy to become distracted and forget that you are playing for money, and therefore it is vital to play when you are in a normal and healthy state of mind. If you’re depressed, drunk, angry, heart-broken, irritated, or just plain pissed off about losing earlier, stay away from the virtual poker table because this extra baggage will not help you play any better. In fact, in most cases it ends up costing you dearly. The task at hand should be to win chips, not exact revenge, gain respect, or whatever other motivation you may have in mind.
9. Bet to learn something about your opponents
Poker is all about gaining knowledge and one of the best ways to do it is to act and then read the responses of the players you are facing. You don’t always bet because you think you have the strongest hand. In the early stages of a hand, for example, you want to probe the strength of your opponents’ hands by raising. You also might want to use defensive betting early on as a way to avoid having to make a bigger bet in the later stages of a hand.
8. Bluff Sparingly
Contrary to what most inexperienced poker players may think, the bluff is an over-rated aspect of poker. So many newbies try to bluff regularly and fail. If you watch poker on television, you will notice that professional poker players seldom use the technique. This is because for the bluff to work a certain set of conditions must exist. First of all, there must be a seemingly very low chance of being called by your opponent. For this to occur you have to have determined how this player has behaved up until this point. You must also have established a certain table image, which is one of a cautious and predictable adversary.
7. Don’t let earlier bets influence your decisions
One of the most common mistakes that beginners make is falling prey to the belief that they must stay in a hand if they’ve already contributed a significant amount to the pot. They seem to think, “Well I’ve bet $35 and now I might as well stay in for only another $10”. This is a psychological impairment and it’s completely wrong. In the course of a single hand, momentum can easily swing in favor of your opponent and one must be able to recognize the shift and pull the plug when you’ve lost that edge. Once you’ve placed money in the pot, it’s no longer yours so don’t let it factor in to your next decision.
6. Mixing it up
Throwing the occasional curve-ball is a good way to keep your opponents guessing. The best players in the world are impossible to read because they understand the importance of being unpredictable. Overly loose players can easily be spotted and defeated by being patient while very tight players are perhaps the easiest to spot because they only ever play the nuts. The occasional bluff, even when called, will do a lot to project a volatile table image and keep your opponents in the dark as to your true feelings.
5. Choose your opponents wisely
At first you might think that this is easier said than done, for how can you know who you are up against when you log in any given poker room? But, really, you need to consider other things like table limits and your previous success at those rooms. Don’t step into high-betting arenas just because you have won a few hands recently. Keep in mind that one significant losing hand at a big table could erase several of your earlier victories at a lower-stakes one. You should be hoping to learn something from every level at which you play, and only progress when you feel like you’re ready for a new challenge.
4. Understand player position
This is a critical aspect of poker that many amateurs overlook. As the dealer button moves around the table, you need to be aware of how your betting should change. When it’s your turn to act in the later positions, you have a major advantage because you have seen the way others are betting and you can decide if your cards are really good enough to continue. You can also afford to loosen up your starting hand requirements, depending on how aggressive the betting before you is. If the players before you are raising and re-raising and you’re holding, say, a pair of nines, you should probably consider folding. Conversely, if everyone appears happy to limp in and you have the same cards, you may want to raise in order to flush out any players waiting on a draw.
3. Pay close attention to the cards on the table
So many new players are surprised when they lose hands. For example, you have put together a strong hand, such as a three of a kind, but when their opponent flips over his cards to reveal a straight that you hadn’t even seen coming, you were already reaching for the pot. Not only is it embarrassing, but it goes to show that you weren’t aware of the hands which could beat yours and their potential on the board – a classic beginner’s mistake.
2. Play fewer hands
Beginners and novices make this mistake over and over again. They want in on the action and try to give themselves a chance to win every pot, even when their cards don’t warrant it. Sure, by taking risks you will win a few pots here and there but over the long run you’ll lose more. You want to capitalize on good hands and minimize the luck factor, which inevitably means folding rather than playing a lot more hands. It requires patience and self-discipline and, yes, it may get boring sometimes but if you’re playing more than three or four hands out of 10, something’s probably not right.
1. Learn the odds
The importance of odds and probabilities in all forms of poker cannot be stressed enough. At first glance, it sounds like an unreasonable demand for a new player to make mathematical calculations on the spot, but once you have the basics down you’ll find that concepts such as pot odds and implied odds are not really that difficult to master. The internet is full of great instructional material on this aspect of poker, so get out there and uncover some of it.
Finally, remember to use the technology designed to improve your game. There are loads of online poker tools aimed at giving you an extra edge. Odds calculators, tracking software, and instructional programs are just some of the utilities which are available for you to download (often for free) and they can really strengthen your online game.
At the end of the day, every poker should be mindful of each and every one of these golden rules. They are, after all, what separate the sharks from the fish.