Avoid These Mistakes in Online Poker

Some of the biggest mistakes you can make in Internet Poker:

(1) Failing to adequately plan your online bankroll and other financial aspects of online play;

(2) Multitasking or allowing yourself to be repeatedly distracted while in games;

(3) Failing to observe the action in all hands, not just those you’re in;

(4) Playing in more than one game at a time before proving you’re a consistent winner in one; and

(5) Failing to take advantage of online anonymity to create good notes for future reference.

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Today I look at two more all-too-common — and extremely costly— mistakes made by online poker players:

 

6) Failing to consistently select the best game:

A vast number of cyberspace games are available around the clock, and there’s a considerable amount of useful game information available on most sites’ lobby screens.  At most online cardrooms, one glance at the provided statistics reveals the size of the average pot and shows how many players, on average, see the flop in hold’em or Third Street in stud.

Moreover, unlike in the real world, it takes only a few mouse-clicks to anonymously watch several different games simultaneously and further whittle them down to the best possible choice. An investment of ten or fifteen minutes’ observation can thus pay off handsomely over the next few hours — and all it takes is a bit of time and patience!

Why, then, would any player stay in a game where the average pot is just one-third the amount of the typical pot in another game at the same site with the same structure and limits? And why would someone stay in a game where most flops are seen by only 3-4 players instead of switching to an adjacent game screen where most of the table stays in every time? And above all else, why do players sign up for the first available game at their chosen structure and limits rather than seek a game where they’ll have a real edge?

Why, indeed! Yet I see this sort of irrational behavior online time and time again. Online as well as offline, game selection is the single biggest factor in determining your poker winnings or losses. In the real world, constraints of geography and time may often limit your choice of games. But if you’re failing to practice excellent game selection in cyberspace, there’s simply no excuse. None at all.

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7) Failing to react to changing game conditions:

In Internet poker as in real life, it’s important to know when the party’s over.

I’m talking about your party — the one where you’ve managed to do your legwork and find a great game and done well through most of the session. Maybe you’ve even tripled quadrupled your chip stack. You’ve even busted a couple of terrible players.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that the game has very possibly changed for the worse and you haven’t left yet. Whether it’s to have gone in search of a better game or just to have quit for the day, you should have left several rounds ago. Despite the fact that the party has really gone downhill, you’re still at the table trying to scoop up any leftovers. It seems you’ve never learned when to leave.

Here’s a dose of ugly reality: Those who don’t know when to leave a deteriorating game often wind up as the most forlorn of guests — the one with the decimated or non-existent stack at a table now full of cyberspace toughies.

 

Think it can’t happen to you?  Consider the following scenario:

Let’s say you’ve just put in some reconnaissance time at three different online cardrooms and after about twenty minutes have found a great pot-limit or no-limit hold’em or Omaha game in which you’ll clearly have a significant edge. You know this because:

  • The game is the type and structure you want, and the buy-in isn’t too steep — you already have enough funds at the site to buffer a few bad beats.
  • Six very loose players, probably newbies, are donating to the pot on nearly every round. They’re likely to go all-in when you lay a trap with a set or other big hand.As you enter, one goes all-in with ace-little and loses to a player holding A-K. But ace-little promptly re-buys and jumps right into the action again.
  • Two other players are obviously either on tilt or drunk, and are spouting off in the chat box about all the bad beats they’ve taken from the newbies in the past hour.
  • You’ve identified a solid regular through your previous notes as well as the fact that he’s looking at very few flops, and a seat is open just to his left.

It’s time to jump in. You click into Seat 5, just to the left of the tight player and just to the right of several newbies nicely lined up like fish in a shooting gallery. Depending on your overall strategy and bankroll considerations, you buy in for what you consider an optimal amount (more about this in a future column) and come in behind the button.

This is truly an auspicious beginning for your evening session, and you were even lucky enough to spot this game before the sharks started wait-listing for it!

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Now let’s move forward in time.

It’s three hours later and you’ve tripled your chip stack. The game has been all you had hoped it would be, since you’ve taken only one bad beat — for a minimal amount since the newbie was almost all-in anyway — and you’ve personally busted two poor players with big stacks by trapping them with top set and nut flush.

Occasionally checking the lobby screen, you smile to yourself as your great game’s waiting list grows longer with each new round. At the top of the list you spot several familiar screen names designating players you know to be experienced online players.

“They’ve missed the best of this game,” you think to yourself as the invisible dealer sweeps you a pot that busts yet another poor player.

At this point, things couldn’t be better. You’ve quadrupled your buy-in and look forward to booking a truly stellar session before calling it a day and catching the last of the late evening sportscast. Hey, maybe you’ll even finish that novel that’s been sitting on your bedside table. Life is great!

But suddenly the game is changing. One of the pros on the waiting list takes the seat just to your right, which was just vacated by the busted newbie. Then, in short order, another poor player leaves and the next shark on the list takes her seat. A few hands later, another bad player leaves when he catches a good hand that holds up in a big pot. “I’m even,” he types into the chat box. “Goodnight, all.” Another good player instantly takes that seat.

This game has really deteriorated and you know it’s time to leave. And it’s now that you make a truly bad decision.

The one remaining terrible player has been hit with the cyberspace deck for the last four rounds and has an enormous stack. Eying all those virtual chips won with miracle draws, you decide to play another few rounds to see if you can catch a hand and relieve the lucky winner of at least part of those chips. And this decision will spell your downfall.

For what happens next is that the bad player somehow strikes pay dirt on the river again. He busts your set of kings with one more miracle draw and then promptly leaves the table with a lot of your chips.  There’s not so much as a “Sorry, better luck next time,” to you in the chat box.

So you’re left staring at his empty seat, soon to be filled by another good player. Now you start mumbling to yourself — this hand cost you a significant part of your winnings.

In a hurry to win back those lost stacks, you immediately play the very next hand, K-10, right up front. You think, “Maybe I can get lucky like that, too.” And indeed, it seems you do when you flop a king and a ten.

Well, congratulations — you’ve just become the prime fish at the table. Welcome to my game — yes, that’s me on your right. I’m about to leave this game myself in search of something better, but I don’t mind taking the rest of your chips before I go. You see, I’m holding pocket tens.

See you next week with three more mistakes to avoid at the virtual tables! Keep checking WomanPokerPlayer.

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