Top 10 Online Poker Tips
Online poker players come in many shapes and sizes. Some people have a natural talent for poker and take to it like a duck to water, while others will take longer to get into the groove. Whether you are starting out on your online poker journey or just looking to improve your game, these top tips should set you well on your way.
1. Get a good welcome bonus
Every good online poker site will offer a welcome bonus for new players when they make their first real money deposit. Sometimes this will come in the form of a fixed amount (some sites will even give you a small amount of money to start playing just for registering, without depositing a single penny), but normally poker sites will your initial deposit amount in the form of an 'unlockable' bonus.
Among the most common is a 100% first deposit bonus: this means if you deposit ZAR100, you can unlock another ZAR100 incrementally by playing real money poker games on the site. Not getting a good welcome bonus is tantamount to passing up the chance of free money, which no one wants to do.
2. Learn to multi-table
An online poker site earns its money from players paying rake on each tournament or cash game hand: this is a set percentage of each pot or tournament entry fee that goes to the 'house', and unlocking a bonus is usually based on generating a set amount of rake.
All good poker rooms online will allow you to multi-table, in other words play more than one table at once (usually up to at least four, often more), and this is a great way to generate rake quicker, and by extension make money at a quicker rate when you are winning.
However you shouldn't run before you can walk. It is important to make sure you can handle the demands of playing one table before loading up a second, two before loading up a third, and so on. Mastering online poker is a learning experience, and you shouldn't try to skip steps in the process in an effort to get ahead.
3. Master your tilt
Almost every poker player will have experienced tilt at some point, and don't think it won't affect you just because you're playing online poker rather than live. Tilting means making rash decisions, usually after losing a big pot or getting unlucky in some other respect, and it has happened to the best of us.
Different people will have different reactions to going on tilt, but if you can steady yourself and treat each hand afresh without letting emotions get to you then you'll be on the right track.
4. Learn strategy
The growth of online poker over the last 15+ years has seen detailed strategy play a much larger part. In addition to the print books from respected players like Doyle Brunson and Dan Harrington, many of the online generation have taken to posting instructional videos on the internet.
Much of this content is available for free, and can be a great tool to help you improve your game. While basic strategy for live play has been around for decades, online poker is forever developing and strategy for different situation is responding in king. You can find strategy tips for beginners, intermediate players and even those at the top of the game, so whatever your level, there should be something suitable for you all the way through your poker journey.
5. Understand pot odds
One of the biggest mistakes beginner poker players can make is to ignore pot odds. These equate to the likelihood that your hand will win against your opponent's hand in any given scenario. Far too often a player will call a big bet with a poor chance of winning just because they have money invested in the pot, but sometimes the reverse is true and a player will fold, thinking they are behind, when they have the right odds to call.
Say you are playing a cash game and need to call an all-in bet of ZAR50 on the flop with ZAR250 already in the pot. You are getting odds of five-to-one to make the call, so you only need a better than one in six chance of winning in order to justify calling the bet. In the long run, making the right call based on pot odds will make you money, even if short-term results don't always make it seem this way.
6. Manage your bankroll
While some movies or TV shows will have a poker player sit at the table with all the money they have to their name, this is rarely a good rule of thumb. You never want to put yourself at risk of losing more money than you can afford, so practising bankroll management, i.e. only having a small percentage of your money on the table at any one time, is the way forward.
A tried and tested approach for recreational no-limit hold'em cash game players is to always have at least 10 buy-ins (or 1,000 big blinds) for the stakes you are playing. For example, if you have a bankroll of $100 then you should stick to games of $0.05/$0.10 or below. When your bankroll grows you can step up, and when it shrinks you should be prepared to drop down in stakes.
If you are an online tournament player, you should have more buy-ins for your preferred stakes than for cash games. This is because tournament play has higher variance, and you can often go several tournaments without winning a single cent, even if you play perfect poker.
7. Become a specialist
No limit Texas hold'em is undoubtedly the best known variant of poker: it is used in the World Series of Poker Main Event and features in the majority of televised tournaments, not to mention movies and TV shows. However most online poker sites will offer many other variants, not to mention different categories within no limit hold'em such as heads-up (one against one) or six-max games.
With such variety on offer, it does not pay to be a jack of all trades and master of none. Your best option is to find something you are good at and practice that extensively so you can beat less experienced players. You never want to be the fish at the table.
8. Analyse your play
Ask pretty much any one of the world's top poker players about how they got to where they are today, and they will tell you a lot of it is down to them analysing their own play. It has helped them find their strengths and improve on them, as well as finding their weaknesses (or 'leaks') and working out a way to get rid of them.
Online poker rooms will allow you to look back at hand histories to see if there are things you have been doing well or badly, and you can access these at any time. It can also help to speak to other poker players and ask their advice, or talk through your last tournament or cash game session with a group of poker friends.
9. Play at a trusted site
There are countless online poker sites out there, as the game has grown in popularity over the last two decades. This means you are almost spoilt for choice when deciding where to play, making it all the more important to choose a trusted site.
Trusted poker sites give you the security that you are playing a fair game and will always be able to collect your winnings after a big score, while the best and most trusted sites will also attract more players, creating big prizepools and ensuring that games are running 24/7.
10. Understand that poker is about the long game
It is frustrating to lose at pretty much anything, and poker is no exception. However you shouldn't feel too disheartened if you don't start winning straight away: poker is a journey of improvement and perfection, and losing your first deposit is not the end of the world.
The most important thing is to develop a winning habit, and this means working out what you are doing wrong as well as what you are doing right. In the long term, it is better to repeat good decisions where you got unlucky than bad decisions that you got away with.
The best poker players play millions of hands online, so good and bad luck will ultimately balance each other out over time. That means you need to make the most of what you have control over, namely the ability to make good decisions in your poker game.