Online poker can be a frustrating game; one day you’re up, the next you’re down. If you want to be a winning poker player, you have to do your homework. Only a small percentage of poker players win online. Why? Becoming a good poker player requires plenty of attention and dedication. The majority of online poker players lose because they aren’t willing to put in the time to learn and grow their skills.
1. Manage your bankroll.
Most amateur online poker players don’t play with proper bankroll management. Consequently, most players are losing players.
Playing within your bankroll means only bringing a small percentage of your poker bankroll to the table at a time. Poker pro Chris Fergusen recommends never buying into a cash game or a Sit & Go with more than 5 percent of your total bankroll. Many players dislike this because they feel they are “above” playing at lower limits.
Now, 5% isn’t a strict number. I’ve heard players with successful bankroll management using around 10% of their bankroll. The point is you always need to have enough money in your bankroll to absorb the downswings. Online poker can be a cruel game. If you bring $100 to the table you better be prepared to lose $100. Even the best players can’t defeat dumb luck.
2. Use proper table position.
Playing too many hands is the number one mistake made in online poker. Bad poker players have tunnel vision: they can only see the value of the cards in front of them. Good poker players measure the value of their hole cards in relation to their position at the table (as well as a number of other factors).
Late position is a big advantage over early position, and if you watch poker pros play on television you will see them leveraging their position to make strategic bluffs and bets they wouldn’t have made from an early position.
3. Play pocket pairs carefully.
Pocket pairs can get you into much trouble online. High pocket pairs like Queens, Kings and Aces need to be played aggressively pre-flop because it is unlikely you will improve your hand.
If you are called and do see a flop, keep in mind that just because you have an overpair to the board does not mean you need to go all in! If I had a dollar for every time I saw someone with JJ or QQ push after the flop, only to lose to KK or AA, I’d be able to refund some poker accounts. It’s very hard to get away from a hand when you have an overpair to the board, especially when the board lacks any draws. You stand to lose a large sum of money, but it doesn’t have to be all of your chips, as Shane Pacheco demonstrates against Allen Cunningham.
4. Don’t play poker when you’re bored, frustrated or preoccupied.
This is akin to “don’t play poker on tilt”—it’s easy to recommend, but hard to do. From personal experience, your bankroll will experience much more drastic swings if you attempt to play when you’re feeling one of those three emotions. The rationale goes that if you’re playing poker to escape boredom, you’re probably going to play too many hands or get involved with higher stakes to feel stimulated. If you’re playing when you’re frustrated or preoccupied, you’re going to play much more loosely. You won’t pay attention to your table(s), and you’ll miss obvious tells and disregard note taking.
5. Take notes when you play.
Take notes on your opponents’ style of betting. You might not gather enough information to learn a tell, but you should be able to spot patterns in their betting. For instance, say a player continually make an odd number bet ($4.95 instead of $5). What does it mean? Are they trying to intimidate their opponent? If you see enough showdowns you might be able to at least make an educated decision the next time you are involved in a hand with that player.
Hand histories and poker tracking software can give you an edge on your opponents. Poker Tracker and Poker Table Ratings are popular pieces of online software that can help you make more informed decisions.
6. Learn from the pros.
Even though the pros play at higher levels, you can still apply their techniques and strategies to your game. Websites like Deuces Cracked use videos from some of the top poker instructors to educate you on situational poker and advanced techniques. To play like the best you have to learn from the best. Online poker really is a different beast than live poker at a casino, and watching how online poker pros play and multi-table can vastly improve your game.
7. Know your odds.
You don’t have to be great at math to calculate odds. There are online calculators to do that for you! Calculating your pot odds is important when deciding whether you should make a call. It’s a huge advantage and one that you should use instead of just listening to your money-hungry gut.
8. Get your money in the pot.
You’ll find plenty of fish playing low- to mid-limit cash games. These fish are willing to call more money online than they would in person. Unless you have the nuts or near-nuts, do not slow play your hand. You will set yourself up for big losses if you do. Play your hand aggressively and get your money in the pot! If you’re afraid of making big bets, you’ll find yourself consistently getting outdrawn. Err on the side of making too big a bet rather than too small.
9. Find lucrative Guaranteed tournaments.
A guaranteed tournament is a tournament where the poker room guarantees there will be at least a certain amount of money in the pool. If the buy-ins don’t equate to that amount they will cover the rest. The most lucrative Guaranteed tournaments have a smaller number of players and thus a larger portion covered by the poker room. You’re not going to find too many of these types of Guaranteeds in high-traffic poker rooms like Full Tilt and PokerStars, so stick to smaller rooms with lower traffic. You’ll find even more lucrative ones at odd hours of the day, such as early in the morning.
10. Play at multiple tables.
Multi-tabling ensures two things: that you’re not going to bring all your money to one table, and that you won’t have the time or the inclination to be distracted on the internet. Start out with just two tables. See how well you can balance playing and taking notes. If you’re playing at too many tables, you won’t have the time to take notes and it also becomes quite difficult to pick up on any tells or betting styles your opponents’ may have.
Do you have any other strategies that have consistently won you money in online poker?