Avoid These Mistake in Internet Poker – part one

People ask what it takes to be a consistent winner in Internet poker. First, it takes many of the same skills it takes to win in offline games. You’ll need a solid understanding not only of poker’s basics but of some of the more counterintuitive strategic concepts and how to apply them in different situations.

You also need to understand probability and outs, and to have the emotional fortitude and self-discipline to stay on your best game at all times. The importance of the latter requisites can’t be overstated. Maintaining discipline is especially important online because the games play much faster while numerous distractions of home office may clamor for your attention at a time when you should be concentrating on the action.

Therefore, you must be willing to continually do the work — yes, it’s work! — of observing and analyzing all the action and be committed to playing only when you “have the best of it.” And you must be able to leave any good game that has become a bad game — even when you’re stuck.

Next, you must make adjustments in your game for Internet play. I’ve written extensively in this column and elsewhere about how online play is more inherently card-based than people-based — meaning that, in general, you should bluff less and trap more.

But there are some specific Internet ploys I rarely see in print.

For example, when holding a big hand, you can often induce a bluff from a late-position player by auto-checking rapidly twice in succession. (To do this, use the “play-in-turn” or “advance action” buttons.) By sliding inconspicuously into a fast-flowing stream of checks around the table on both the flop and the turn, you’re effectively simulating total indifference to the pot.

Since many Internet players have learned that lightning-fast clicks around the table mean that the pot is simply there for the taking, this represents a profitable opportunity. By trapping players who have just enough awareness of this sort to get into trouble — especially in pot-limit or no-limit games — you’ll be taking advantage of that newfound “knowledge.”

Conversely, let’s say you’ve made a late position bet in hold’em with a mediocre hand. If you find yourself check-raised by someone who instantly clicked off on both the flop and the turn, your best course is probably to fold — you’re almost certainly facing someone with a big hand who knows the ploy I’ve just described.

Interestingly, I’ve recently read in several books containing chapters on Internet poker that you should never use play-in-turn buttons because their telltale pacing gives away too much information about your hand. True enough, as far as straightforward play. But what about using the play-in-turn buttons as I’ve just described — to plant misinformation?

Admittedly, using play-in-turn buttons to execute counter-timing-tells is a bit of an art, but with careful observation you’ll learn when you can profit from such maneuvers. In the meantime, if you spend some time lurking in large Internet games, you can see this sort of thing in action.

OK, I’ve shared one of my secrets with you. Now let’s look at some critical online errors you may be making that have little to do with your live poker know-how.

Many otherwise competent Internet players repeatedly make these same costly mistakes. Assuming you play a winning game to begin with, here are just some of the ways you can sabotage yourself online:

Failing to adequately plan your online bankroll and all other financial aspects of online play, such as deposits, cashouts, and transferal of funds:

I’m putting this first because so many players fail to plan adequately for the somewhat complicated maze of Internet account funding.

The good news: in the future, a primary online financial hub for Internet poker may make it possible to move poker funds instantaneously between different virtual cardrooms as well as in and out of your personal bank account. In the meantime, planning is crucial. In order not to be caught short at crucial moments, you must budget and plan all financial details carefully for each online cardroom you use. Your preferred method of depositing funds and cashing out may work well with some sites but not with others. Always check in advance for any time constraints in cashout policy: At some of the smaller sites, there may be a lag of at least three days between the time you request a cashout and the actual processing. If you ask for a cashout in the form of a bank draft, be prepared to wait up to two weeks or more for its arrival.

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Deliberately pursuing other activities while playing, or allowing yourself to be consistently distracted:

Poker, whether online or offline, takes a good deal of concentration and focus to play well. You’re almost certainly not playing your “A” game if you’re also watching your favorite TV show, answering e-mail, tending to office chores, or exploring new relationships in online chatrooms.

And what about the tells and moves you’ll fail to notice if you’re otherwise occupied? If someone successfully pulls off a check-raise after inducing a bluff as I described earlier, will you absorb this information and avoid a trap later in the game yourself? Or will you be occupied elsewhere?

The vast majority of online tells are timing tells. These include pauses of various lengths, odd delays in action, and the lightning-fast checks, bets, and raises resulting from use of play-in-turn buttons. Unless you’re visually on top of the action, you’ll miss these valuable clues.

In short, pay attention to your game and leave multitasking to those who don’t mind parting with their bankrolls.

Also, do you play in online games around children or other family members? Is your concentration frequently broken by pets, or by events in a busy office? Even if you don’t multi-task deliberately, such interruptions can be just as bad for your online bankroll. So choose your playing environment with care — try to play when intrusions, distractions, and noise will be at a minimum.

Failing to pay attention when you’re not in a hand:

If you practice good starting hand selection, you won’t be in many pots. This means a large portion of your potential winnings will come from observing and analyzing the action in hands you’re not involved in. Always use sideline time profitably by noting the mistakes and betting patterns you see in your opponents’ play.

Playing in more than one online game at a time before you’ve proven you can win consistently in one:

Due to the much faster pace of online play (cyberspace games are often twice as fast as traditional cardroom games), consistent winners can rake in even more profits from simultaneous action in two or more games. But notice I said that it’s the consistent winners who benefit from double or triple action. Losers will just lose their chips much faster. Until you’ve proven with written records (you do have them, don’t you?) that you write your bottom line in black, stick to one online game at a time.

Failing to take good notes:

In live traditional games, you may find it easy to remember your opponents and to recall how they’ve played in the past. But in Internet poker the visual cues of facial characteristics, clothing, age, gender, and distinctive mannerisms are absent.

For best results in Internet games, you need to keep accurate, detailed notes of screen names and their playing patterns. I can’t emphasize this enough — you have no way to know cyberspace opponents other than by pairing screen names with important details of prior action. Unless you have a bona fide photographic memory, you can do this only by keeping an accurate book on each opponent you encounter.

If you use an online cardroom’s note-taking features, make sure you know how to preserve your notes for the long term rather than just for the current session. (If you have any doubts, keep a notebook of your own instead.)

 

This article originally appeared in Woman Poker Player Magazine Print Publication.

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