Top 10 Tips for Online Poker Players
Online poker is competitive, fast and ruthless. If you take to the table without knowing the fundamentals of how to win, you should expect to give away considerable sums of money to your new digital friends. Unless you're running a charity for your brother poker players, it's time to sharpen up those poker skills.
In the cut-throat world of poker this is no straight forward task. You're going to need to see the game in a new light, and to help you do that, please come with us to ancient China, approximately 2,500 years ago.
"All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable … when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near", these are the words of human history's most renowned military strategist Sun Tzu, writer of The Art of War. He may have been stood atop a hill in a time long forgotten, but he intimately understood the need to bluff your opponent. Between him and these more modern words of wisdom, you'll make a much more fearsome challenger the next time you sit at the table and look down at the cards.
#1 Learn How to Calculate Outs
These days, online poker relies more on a very solid understanding of the mechanics of the game, combined often with a thorough working knowledge of mathematics. This makes it a far less mysterious business. You don't need a degree in quantum physics, but one of the very simple calculations you must take on concerns counting your "outs". Let's start with an example. If you have a hand that is not looking strong, but has the potential to improve to become a winner, you need to decide whether it is worth continuing with it through the various stages of the pot. In short, you need to identify the cards that will improve your hand - known as "outs". The best definition for an "out" is a simple one: "outs" are the cards left in the deck that improve your hand. In the words of our ancient guide Sun Tzu "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles". Knowing your outs is the first step to knowing yourself and building a picture of where your opponent stands. And as Mr Tzu says, this is critical to your online battle.
#2 Don't Let Tilt Get The Better Of You
Tilt is a poker term that is often used to describe the angry or frustrated emotional state of a player. You'll find it commonly associated with the result of simply taking a bad beat or losing a big pot. But going on tilt can be caused by a number of things; such as losing multiple hands, or simply getting angry with another poker player. The events that can push a poker player to go on tilt are known as 'tilt triggers'. Once you are in this state of mind you fail to see the game clearly, and players will often be prone to throw away large sums of money very quickly. The key to overcoming this is to play less hours consecutively. Humans are not designed to be sitting in front of a computer for long hours, with concentration at intense levels. As Sun Tzu would say, "One mark of a great soldier is that he fights on his own terms or fights not at all". Make sure you play on your own terms, not when you're vulnerable to the challenge of your opponents.
#3 Master Hand Selection
In poker it is important to have good starting hand selection. This prevents you from entering pots with sub-standard hands, which could eventually lead to you losing a stack of money in the process. "Starting hand selection" is simply choosing the good hands over the bad, and thus folding the bad hands when the inevitably come along. Stick with the good hands, and you should see better results in the long run.
#4 Review Your Play
Keep a record of hands, wins and losses. You can either do this with paper and pen, or track down some of the freely available software that'll do it for you. The best use of these statistics is to monitor trends. They should be reviewed on a regular basis and analysed to see what trends are apparent. Are you playing more hands than previously? Maybe you've loosened up too much. Habits that go unchecked are death to any aspiring poker player, be aware of them and act accordingly.
#5 Study the Play of Others
Sun Tzu most often heard refrain is "To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy". There are thousands of excellent poker players out there, you can learn invaluable tips and strategies by seeking out their thoughts and monitoring their approach. Daniel Negreanu is a professional Canadian poker player, with six World Series of Poker bracelets and two World Poker Tour championship titles. The man knows his poker. He has a blog at Full Contact Poker where he posts his thoughts and feelings about the game, and resources like that can be a gold mine to anyone who wants to improve their fortunes at the table.
#6 Study Your Opponents
This is related to the last point, but deals with the reality of winning when you're in a live game and looking for the moment to raise. Almost all players have patterns of play, and whilst you can't see their physical tells when you're playing online, you can get to know when their on to a big hand if you monitor their play when they win and lose.
#7 Play At A Good Poker Site
If you're about to hand over your bank details, you need to know whether you are going to be in capable hands. This point is most pertinent when it comes to matters of security, but also relates to the games and quality of service you'll experience. There's only one way to get this information - do your homework. Go online and read multiple reviews of that poker site's credentials, don't just rely on a friend or a one off good review. Seek out the many poker forums and read up on how people are getting on with the different providers. All the best strategy and luck in the world won't help you if the site you're using isn't a highly secure and reputable enterprise.
#8 Read Plenty of Theory
"Can you imagine what I would do, if I could do all I can?" To unlock Sun Tzu's words of wisdom, you must endeavour to reach your maxim potential as a poker player. This means education on poker theory. If you've made it this far in the article, well that's a great start, but you must seek to build on these foundational tips. The fundamental theorem of poker is an idea first put forward by David Sklansky, he holds that it expresses the essential nature of poker as an endeavour of decision-making in the face of incomplete information. "Every time you play a hand differently from the way you would have played it if you could see all your opponents' cards, they gain; and every time you play your hand the same way you would have played it if you could see all their cards, they lose". Add this kind of knowledge to the more advanced mathematics that relates to the probability of different winning hands, and you'll improve at a steady pace over time.
#9 Master Multi-Tabling
Multi-tabling has become a massive phenomenon with the boom of online poker. When playing at multiple tables the rule that governs success is simple - you're more likely to get lucky. Start out slowly, if you're having trouble following the action on one or two tables, don't add more. Slowly ease your way into playing more than one game. Once you're comfortable playing one game, add another.
#10 Manage Your Bankroll
Establish a limit. Most players won't have a serious bankroll when starting out, so it's important for individuals looking to play regularly to take some time and think about how much of that money you are willing to risk. Use that number to deduce your limit, and make sure you stick to it.
All this advice can be distilled into one sentence from our regular advisor Mr Tzu, "Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win". The warrior that approaches the poker table with considerable preparation is ready to win, those without this knowledge are there for the taking.
Now go out there and start taking.