After years of playing online poker, I’ve decided to share some of my vast storehouse of otherwise useless knowledge with my loyal readers. Here then, in no particular order, are seven tips for improving your chances of succeeding in online poker.
- Don’t confuse freerolls with real poker. Freerolls attract mostly two types of players: inexperienced players and poor (i.e. bad) players. Players who are in either of these groups tend to be impatient and lacking any kind of discipline. You will not improve your game if most of your experience comes against players in these two categories. To paraphrase former professional wrestler Ric Flair, “To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.” Good players aren’t going to spend several hours of play chasing a $2 payout.
- Only play when you are fully committed to playing. Just because you’ve got 15 minutes before the spouse gets home doesn’t mean you should fire up the computer and play a few hands of 5/10 poker. The artificial time constraint that you have placed on yourself will cause you to think differently about the session. You will feel more pressure to get a quick win and most likely start playing cards you otherwise would not normally play. Do everything you can to eliminate distractions and constraints on your play.
- Learn to control your emotions. I wrote an earlier blog post identifying the Five Stages of Tilt. If you find yourself slamming your mouse down every time you lose a hand on the river, it’s probably time to call it a night before you fritter away the rest of your bankroll. Tilt is a bigger problem for online players than live players because most of the time you are playing by yourself in the comforts of your own home (or your parents’ basement, whatever the case may be). That means there is no one around you to check your behavior. When playing live poker in a casino, most people aren’t going to start acting like spoiled 3-year-olds every time they lose a hand. Here are some tips for trying to avoid going on the Tilt Express.
- Learn to fold. It sounds silly, but folding is a skill, and it is one of the most difficult to master. Folding should not be considered quitting or giving up. Folding is how you minimize your losses. You can always tell the inexperienced or bad players because they limp into lots of hands, frequently out of position, and fold before getting to the river.
- Stay in your lane. For cash game players, start out at the lowest stakes you can find on your site, and don’t even think about moving up to the next level until you have demonstrated consistently that you can win at the lowest stakes. One of the most common mistakes made by new players is to step up in stakes as soon as their bankroll gets a bump. That’s the worst thing you can do. Having one winning cash session or making it to a final table in a multi-table tournament and getting your first big score doesn’t mean you’re ready for the $100 (or even $10) tourneys, or $1/$2 cash games. You need to make sure your game is ready for the next level before you blow through your winnings in a couple of bad sessions.
- Don’t drink and play. Poker is a game of decisions, and the consumption of alcohol (or other mind-altering substances) – no matter how much you think you can handle it – will only impair your decision-making abilities. Steer clear of the booze until you have finished with your session.
- One hand at a time. Don’t try to multi-table until you have proven that you can single-table effectively. It’s like dating. If you’re lucky enough to get a date with a super model, don’t push your luck and go after her roommate, too.