It took me years of mistakes before I was able to start winning consistently in online poker. My biggest problem? I had never read one poker book. Not one. I blamed months of continuously losing on luck. While the majority of times I went broke seemed to occur because of a bad beat, I shouldn’t have had brought that much money to the table in the first place. Mistake #2: Not managing my bankroll.
There are too many bad and weak players for me not to be winning, I thought. I knew I could take the occasional bad beat and still be a winning player, but I had to get better, so I started reading poker books and websites dedicated to strategy.
The key to winning in online poker is making fewer mistakes than your opponent(s). If you can acknowledge your mistakes you stand a lot better chance of making the necessary adjustments.
1. Playing too many hands
Playing too many hands is indicative of impatience. If you’re an impatient person you’re simply not going to be a winning poker player. When you play too many hands you’ll find yourself in tough spots where you never should have been in the first place. Players who play too many hands often have a difficult time laying down hands, even when they know they’re beat. Drawing hands can get you in a whole lot of trouble. Just because your cards are suited doesn’t mean you need to play the hand. If you’re dealt suited cards, you’ll hit your flush 1 in 16 times, and for those of you keeping score at home, that’s a sorry 6.3%. The same goes for connectors like J-10, 9-10, 8-7 etc. You stand to lose a lot of money when you start chasing draws. It’s a losing habit.
Avoid playing Ace-rag. A-7 might win a hand occasionally, but it doesn’t offer much chance for improvement. Weak aces can cost you big money, especially if you play them out of position. Say the board shows A-J-Q and an opponent makes a strong bet. That player can very well have a hand like A-J, in which case you’re dominated. If you don’t have the discipline to fold Ace-rag against a pre-flop raise when you’re out of position, you probably won’t have the discipline to fold it when you see that flop.
2. Not managing your bankroll
No one wants to play at the $.10/$.25 limits when they’re used to playing at $1/$2, but for many, it is necessary. Bankroll management guidelines are put in place to absorb the downswings that are a regular occurrence in poker. It doesn’t mean you don’t have the skill to play at these higher limits, it simply means you have protection for those inevitable bad beats. Managing your bankroll means playing at the right limits and not bringing all of your bankroll (or even a quarter of it) to one table.
3. Playing out of position
By playing out of position you’ll find yourself in some tough spots where you stand to lose a lot of money. Read Online Poker Lowdown’s post on The Importance of Table Position to learn how to play from the blinds, early, middle and late position.
Key mistakes players make are playing too wide a range of hands from early position, calling too many raises for the blinds and failing to raise enough from late position.
4. Playing on tilt
Stressed. Tired. Angry. Vengeful. If you feel any of these emotions, don’t play poker! If you have a stressful day at work, playing online poker is probably the last thing you should do. There’s nothing like wasting a day’s pay by playing poker when you should be doing something more productive! If you’re playing when you’re tired then you’re probably not paying enough attention to the game. If you log on when you’re angry, poker can send you over the edge. Take a real bad beat? Don’t try to get vengeance. If the player is a fish and sucked out on you, let him meet his demise with his mistakes, not yours. Emotions and poker don’t mix. There is only one way to win when you’re feeling stressed, angry, tired or vengeful: don’t play poker.
5. Playing at too high of stakes
This is equivalent to playing above your skill level. If you’re playing at too high of stakes you also aren’t practicing good bankroll management. The players (generally) are better as you move up, and if you don’t bring enough money to the table you can be in for a short game.
You might be thinking, “I’m sick of all these bad beats. I need to move up so I can play with good players.” That’s a nice thought, but realistically, if you’re losing at the lower levels you’re going to get crushed at the higher ones. Choose your game carefully. If you’re a beginner, SnGs are a good way to hone your skills, and they usually pay out to 1/3 of the field.
6. Not picking up on patterns or tells
A good poker play is a student of the game, meaning they are constantly learning from others how to improve. It doesn’t matter which level you start at, if you want to be good you have to pay attention to the game and take notes on your opponents and your mistakes. If you play the same tables at a designated time each night, you’ll definitely run into the same players, making those notes even more important. In online poker, generally the only tells are betting tells. That is, tells gained from how much your opponent bets, the time it takes them to bet, and if they are using the “in turn/insta” “ boxes like “check/fold” or “bet/raise.”
If you’re a serious player, I suggest investing in poker tracking software, which will show your opponents’ showdown percentage, pre-flop raise percentage, aggression factor and the percentage of time a player voluntarily puts money in the pot.
7. Not knowing when to log off
If you are running stagnant, that is, if you aren’t ahead after 45 minutes or so at the same table, consider leaving the table or the poker room. It’s our nature to think that, after we win a big pot, we’ll continue to win. So you start craving more money. Then you’ll take a beat and tell yourself you’re not leaving until you get back to your original mark. Then you get to your original mark, and you can’t leave because you’re “on a roll.”
If this sounds familiar, you need to asking yourself “who is in charge?” The more control you exercise over the game, the more successful you will be. Limit yourself to playing within a reasonable time frame. No matter where you are at this time, quit.
It takes time to become a good online poker player. If you don’t read books, online articles or watch video analysis, you probably won’t improve very much. Education is always a wise investment. The more you win, the more fun you will have!