Well Kept Secrets about Online Poker
Online poker is a complex environment to get your head around. There are some well kept secrets about online poker that we wanted to document and was the inspiration behind this article being written . So first things first. What qualifies as a 'secret'? In the context of this guide, a secret is something that is less well known that would have a positive or negative impact on a players' game. The vast majority of advice out there is pretty similar in terms of advice on making improvements. We are focussing on some of the secrets that are less well known - secrets that can have massive impacts on a players ability to play their best game.
There's an old saying: "You can learn how to play poker in 15 minutes. Learning how to play poker well can take a lifetime".
This is old school but well known in poker circles. If there is one saying that you remember, this isn't a bad one, as it is supremely true. Poker is a complex game to master, no doubt about it. There are many different facets to the game and many different ways in which the game can be played, some profitable and others not. As we play and clock up the mileage, we need to keep adjusting our game, finding our strengths to build upon them and removing the leaks we have in our game. We need to learn from our mistakes and improve - this is a life lesson, not a poker one. The only way we achieve this is by recognizing when something isn't working and making the corrections to put it right. Similarly, when something is working, we can determine how we do it even better.
With the internet as it is, we have an inordinate number of resources at our fingertips. Pretty much anything you want to learn, you can have a how to guide up in a couple of clicks. This is invaluable and means we can have all the tools we need to improve, at next to no cost. The failure if there is one here, will be that we don't bother to do our homework. Whether it's online forums, books, articles or videos - there are no excuses as to why we can't continually be improving. Many of these mediums offer insights into some of the greatest poker minds in the world. The fact that we can find our poker idols and watch them play whenever we want, really shows how mainstream the game has become.
One secret that most good players won't want you to know about is that most players lose money online. Either they don't have the skills to win or they don't spend enough time improving. Throwing money around before you fully understand certain key concepts like bluffing, value betting, expected value and the use of odds to support your decisions isn't going to put a smile on your bank managers face. Whilst it's hugely important to be confident, confidence shouldn't be confused with arrogance. There's a fine line on the stretch to stupidity. Start small and profitable at a level before moving up to higher stakes.
Players underplay the importance of Preparation
One well known fact that isn't hugely discussed is the mental preparation that should be undertaken before taking to the tables. There is a huge difference between online and playing live. Your state of mind differs when you're playing online. Imagine you are traveling to a land based tournament. From the second you step out of your house, all the way to the casino, you are mentally preparing for the challenge. Even waiting in the lobby, talking to other players, you are getting in the frame of mind needed to try to play your best game. The build up to a live tournament can be an exhilarating one. By the time you actually see your first hand, a couple of hours might have passed (possibly more) and having had all that time to mentally get in the right frame of mind, you are ready for the challenge.
Online preparation could very easily avoided with the relative ease at which you can be seated and playing.
Many players do not appreciate that you will only play your best poker when your mind is in the state to do so. Go for a walk around the block, have 10 min's quiet time .....disconnect the phone. Many of these distractions are not an issue in a live environment. The distractions that are a factor, you probably won't overlook, as you are mentally prepared. The cost to enter and the prize money whether online or live is the same. Virtual or not, it's all got the same value. Remember we are playing to win - don't underestimate the value of mind set when playing anywhere. Set some time aside to get into the frame of mind. Keep distractions to an absolute minimum and make sure you are in comfortable surroundings. You want to give yourself every chance to play well.
Settings and surroundings whilst playing online poker
Everyone is different. What works for someone won't work for someone else. Ensure that everything is set up the way you like it and keep distractions to a minimum. This can be settings on your PC or something in your house. Do you want to hear the noise of virtual chips going into each pot? Do you really want the phone ringing, or your friend typing messages to you on Skype? Some people are distracted easily, others less so. You know yourself better than anyone what you need to do to allow full focus on your poker.
Over time you will develop your own set of preferences. The onus is really on you to work out the optimal conditions that induce you to play your A-game. And often you'll only get to this through trial and error. Some things which you wouldn't have thought would annoy you actually do, so play about a little and figure out what works and what doesn't. Don't assume that you like the sound on or off. Try it both ways.
Likewise, most of the top poker rooms offer a chat box, a small window in which you or other players can chat to other players on the table. Most of the chat is limited to abbreviations like "nh" (nice hand) "ty " (thank you) or "yw" (your welcome) - and a few less polite ones but i won't go into that here. Some players will use this chat box do induce bad play (tilt) as part of their strategy. If you think there's a danger they could get under your skin - turn it off or block their chat.
Another key area to be aware of is that your computer is most probably located in a room common with many other activities that you undertake on a day to day basis. Try to move your PC or Laptop to an area that is associated with the least distractions. Build yourself a poker den. Your space where the legend that is you gets to work! If you have a study, close the door. The common player does not give these distraction much credit for affecting their game, yet it absolutely will. The top players do. You can't be playing your best game if you have an eye on the TV and your phone is ringing every 20 minutes.
Using the Pre Action Buttons
Some pre-action buttons should not be used unless you are tying to induce a bluff. Don't play down the importance of these buttons or the story they tell about the cards that you have. Use them only when there is a reason to. For instance, using the auto fold button every hand gives the impression that you don't think much about the hands you have - maybe even that you are impulsive. You want your opponents to believe you give equal consideration on each hand. They will be less inclined to bluff you as often where they see you as a good player who thinks about each play.
Similarly, auto raising looks too strong. Auto calling looks weak and can induce a bluff raise / squeeze play from opponents.
Giving free Information when Mucking
It is not uncommon for players not to use the 'Auto Muck' button showing hands to their opponents from time to time. If you play a hand to the river and lose the pot, showing your cards shows your opponents what you went to the river with. You could be attracting unwanted attention from the observant players on the table, especially if you have been particularly loose or aggressive. You can very easily lose both respect and your ability to bluff. Why take this risk. Fold and let them stew as to what you had. Why make them feel good they made a good fold.
Good players play to the river when the prospects to improve justify. Showing your cards when they don't will only make you look weak and put a target on your back. As soon as this happens you will spend your time fighting to win pots and defending your blinds, which will likely come under attack. This situation is easily avoided. Don't show your cards unless you are wanting to give away the information.
Showing Bluffs Without a Plan
In the same way that showing your cards at the river can give information to your opponents, showing bluffs has a similar effect. You don't want your opponents to know when you are bluffing. You certainly don't want them to know the frequency of your bluffs. It's far stronger if they believe you make moves with the best hand.
Showing your 2-3 off suit might seem like a good idea at the time. Most of the time, players do this as they're trying to get under the skin of their opponents. It might be that they are trying to get one over on a good player. Whilst you may feel like a god on that hand, one hand doesn't win a session. If you are up against a good player - do you really want to try to intimidate him? You gain far more respect taking down the pot in quiet and moving on to the next hand.
By showing a bluff, you will find it more difficult to bluff going forward as players will give you less respect. This is an important point as you are seriously limited if you can't get away with bluffs. This may even limit your ability to play small ball poker - which isn't going to help you build a stack.
Successful bluffing requires your opponent to give you credit for the hand. If they see you as a bad player, they will increase the pressure. Should a player on your table ask you to show, which they will from time to time, just muck your cards. You are under no obligations. You dont want to be improving your opponents state of mind.
Players who have been pushed about and lost a few pots, particularly where they thought they should have won, will from time to time begin betting irrationally (go on tilt). Inducing this irrational play from players can be very profitable as they will often play the right hands badly, play from the wrong spots or commit too many chips to situations that don't warrant contribution.
The Importance of Game Selection
When you playing online for the first time, it is advisable to focus on learning how to play. Nothing more fancy. Play games you are familiar with, at least until you develop the basic skills. You are not going to be much competition for top players at this stage.
Most beginners start with Texas Hold'em, which is by far the most popular of all games. Of course this doesn't mean you need to follow suit. If you would like to see which games are available online, check out our online poker games listings where we compare each poker room for each of the games that are available.
We also have a comprehensive selection on the rules of all the different game.
Dangers Using Virtual Chips
Playing with virtual chips can be a surreal experience. They don't exist any any form other than on your computer screen as a graphic. Try to compare the two experiences. Firstly sitting in a Casino you make a physical exchange, taking cash from your wallet, handing over the cash and receiving your chips. You count to make sure you have been given the right value. You are also playing with them whilst being very aware of how many you have in each stack. While you are at the table you are fully aware of the relationship between the chips and the amount of money they represent. You respect the chips and their value. You will also base many of of your decisions on the amount of chips you have.
Online, this relationship is abstract. You can't feel the chips; you didn't need to go to the bank or put your hand in your wallet to get cash. A few clicks and you have paid the entry fee. The value of money online can be somewhat hidden, however your virtual chips still represent real money. Many players, especially those fairly new to the scene will find it difficult exercising the same control they would in live situations. It is essential you do this to ensure you maintain control over your game. Virtual or real, money is money. It has the same value whether online or not. so give your chips the same respect. Remember, a loss online has the same impact on your bank balance.
Managing your moods
Unlike playing poker in a Brick and Mortar game, you have the perfect opportunity, playing online, to better manage your moods. Playing face to face, when a player sees a chink in your armour you will likely be put to the test. It is far more difficult to hide. Online, no one will see any mood swings unless you make it obvious. We need to control our emotional swings. We need to play our A-game.
If you are in a bad mood, you will not be playing your best game. The best advice we can give you is to stay away from the tables. You have an advantage playing online as you can get up and walk around or shout at the screen and no one will be the wiser. Don't let your pride get in the way of your bankroll. When you feel like you should get up and leave a game, do it.
Patience, Patience, Patience
One of the biggest secrets online is that the top poker pros are unbelievably patient. More patient than you will think is possibly. They use restrain and make some unbelievable folds. Playing a long session can be boring and there is always temptation to play more hands than we should.
It's a lack of patience that often leads to players playing hands when they are likely well behind. For instance continuing to play QQ aggressively when you have 4 callers and there's an A and K on the board. Any bet would likely be an easy fold for a top player. A less skilled player will not want to believe they are beat. After all they might have waited an hour to get a premium hand.
Patience and hand selection if absolutely key to playing winning poker.
Important Beginners Guides..
Read this no nonsense guide on how to play poker - covering the basics and game play. Perfect for those starting out.
A no nonsense guide on how to play the game. Ideal for beginners looking to take the first steps on learning the game.
Check out this set of rules. It's as close to universal as you will get! Most card rooms use a variation of these.
We have a range of new player bonuses that will get you a bigger bonus that if you visited the site direct!