Tips For Winning at Online Poker
Online poker is a thrilling, challenging and rewarding game, beloved by millions around the world. Competitors battle it out for supremacy in intense international tournaments that often offer prize pools reaching multi-million dollar sums. In short, online poker is a blast!
Unlike games such as roulette or online slots, poker in any form is a skill-based game. You are very unlikely to win much at all if you simply sit down at a table, virtual or otherwise, and simply wing it. There are rules to remember, card values to memorise and many strategic decisions to take.
As a result, players who are just starting out in online poker can feel a little intimidated about getting stuck in. Even players who have given it a go can find themselves out of their depth sometimes. With this in mind, the CasinoTop team have put together a comprehensive guide about how players of any experience level can improve their poker strategy and their overall performance.
1. Start Small
Whenever a game of poker appears in the movies, the audience often struggles to see the players behind the gigantic wall of chips on the table. This image is meant to reinforce the idea that there is a lot at stake in the game, creating tension in the story. Many people seem to think that all poker games routinely include enormous sums in the prize pot because of what they see in films.
This couldn’t be further from the truth and there is a lot to be gained from playing with smaller amounts, no matter your level of experience. Starting out with small bets can help a novice player feel more confident about their play. After all, you are more likely to feel at ease if you aren’t gambling away this month’s rent. This holds true in both online poker and poker games at a gambling venue or casino.
Lower stakes games are perfect for new and intermediate players who want a low-risk environment in which they can practice their strategy. The learning opportunity provided by being able to practice in this way is worth the price of a tiny bet. It’s also a good way to practice against players of a similar level who are likely to choose low stakes games for the same reason.
2. Understand The Software
Poker is a complex game and online poker software is complex too. If you decide to play online poker games made by different game developers, the layout and functionality of each kind can also vary. This means that even experienced players can sometimes feel caught off guard when they open up a new game.
The key to preventing that feeling is to give yourself enough time to understand and try out the poker game in question. Some casinos offer downloadable poker clients, which look slightly different from instant play poker. Familiarise yourself with the lobby, game selection, betting features, the banking or cashier area, and other features so you feel confident using them when it’s time to get playing.
Taking the time to figure out how the poker software works is particularly useful for one subset of players - those who have made the transition from playing poker in a live venue to playing online poker.
Perhaps the biggest difference between these two types of poker is the speed at which hands are dealt and played. Even the fastest dealer in the world cannot compete with the near-instantaneous card distribution performed by online poker software. This means many more hands per hour in the virtual version, a speed which can be daunting to players at first. The chance to try out poker software, especially in demo mode, is invaluable in helping players feel they can handle that speed.
3. Master Single Table Play First
One of the perks of playing poker online is that you can have multiple games going on at the same time. The only real limit is screen space. This is called multi-tabling and watching experienced players do it is exhilarating and impressive.
What those pros probably won’t tell you is that at first, way back when they were first starting out, they practised long and hard on single tables at a time. Poker is not an easy game. It requires laser focus, quick thinking and fast reactions. Now imagine trying to do all that on more than one game at a time!
Novice players should resist the urge to emulate their poker heroes and put in the time on single tables. This helps build confidence, develop a personal strategy, discover strengths and weaknesses, and foster a solid understanding of the software being used. Once you feel completely comfortable playing on one table, you can then consider adding another one and seeing how you do.
Remember, you don’t have to play multiple tables at once if you don’t want to and you can still have a great time at your favourite online casino. But if you do aspire to multi-table domination, it’s a good idea to master one table before expanding your scope.
4. Get In The Zone
Online poker is a convenient, 24/7 way to play poker thanks to the internet. The downside? Everything else on the internet. Players often fall into bad habits when they are playing poker online. More accurately, they do so in between hands. To pass the time, they will fire up YouTube, go online shopping or chat with friends. All these activities can have a real impact on the player’s ability to make the right decisions during the game.
If you want to take online poker and your journey as a player seriously, you should treat it as such. When you sit down to play, be professional about it. No distractions, no letting your mind wander to other things, no looking at cat videos. You are there to play and your complete focus is required if you want a chance at winning.
If you feel comfortable playing at a single table and feel you could take on a more challenging scenario, that’s the perfect opportunity to choose an additional table to play at the same time. Just make sure you are 100% focused on the task at hand!
5. Optimise Your Setup
There are no hard and fast rules about where you should be playing online poker. Many casinos offer mobile-friendly poker games so you can play while relaxing on the couch, commuting to work or sitting out in the garden. The most important thing is that you enjoy yourself. Remember, you don’t need to become a pro to have a good time playing poker.
For players who really want to maximise on their playing time, a good hardware setup is crucial. Mobile play is all well and good for a casual session but for optimum performance, you should be looking at a proper computer setup that meets your needs and can keep up with the technical demands and high-speed play of online poker.
This does not mean that you should drop a load of cash on a high-end setup right from the start. A better strategy would be to slowly upgrade your system as you go along, allowing you to figure out which upgrades would suit you best as you develop your skills.
Cutting down on distractions is a great way to improve your play. While playing on a laptop at the kitchen table may be comfortable, it does mean you have to tune out the various interruptions, noises, smells and other things that demand your attention. If you can, play in a quiet room with a comfortable chair and desk at an appropriate height. Remember, playing for a long time can impact your posture and joints so it’s a good idea to invest in some ergonomic kit to help prevent these issues.
Many pros opt for a setup that includes multiple screens as this makes playing several games simultaneously a lot easier. A multi-screen setup is great but for novice players, we would recommend prioritising a good quality screen rather than the quantity. High-resolution screens will reduce eye strain and let you play comfortably for longer.
In a similar vein, a good mouse is a wise investment. Laptops generally use touchpads and these can be slower and less accurate than a good optical mouse. Aside from reducing potential strain on the wrist, a quality mouse means you can complete pointer actions more quickly.
The final piece of advice in this section is not related to the physical elements of your poker setup but rather good practices that will benefit you over the long term. As fun as poker can be, it’s a good idea to take frequent breaks to stretch your legs, use the bathroom and rest your eyes. Stay hydrated and nourished with healthy food (no junk!) so you can maintain your focus. Take care of your physical needs and your mental aptitude will shine during poker games.
6. Create A Positive Environment
Following on from the previous tip, there are many ways that players can ensure they remain in the right headspace as they play. Poker, much like any competitive game, can be emotional, with highs and lows following each other in quick succession. As human beings, we respond differently to different emotions and sometimes, that response can negatively impact our performance on complex tasks such as a game of poker.
Aside from taking breaks, players can help maintain a positive, pleasant mood throughout their game sessions by creating an ideal playing environment. A well lit and airy room is better than a dark, stuffy one. Other mood lifters include potted plants, personal mementoes around the workspace and the use of bright, friendly colours. While a complete remodel of your space may not be possible, even small changes can help you avoid tilt and poor decision making during play.
7. Consider Poker Software
Software that helps players keep track of poker games and opponents is a controversial issue among the poker community. Some believe that players should not use software at all. After all, you wouldn’t be able to use such tools in a land-base venue, would you? Others feel that as long as it is not explicitly prohibited by the casino site’s terms of service, poker software can be used fairly.
For beginners, the note-taking function is a great place to start exploring the world of poker software. Indeed, most games include this simple but very handy feature. Encounter a player that tends to over-value the strength of the top pair of hands? Instead of making a mental note, which you risk forgetting, make a real note instead and refer to it later. Some games allow the player to choose when a note is displayed so you will be reminded of that player’s habit when you encounter them again.
Another useful feature on some poker sites is the capacity to assign colours to players. For instance, a player can choose to tag very strong opponents in red, equally matched opponents in yellow and weaker opponents in green. Should the player open a game to see a flurry of red, they have the opportunity to walk away from what could prove to be a challenging game. Conversely, a game packed with green tagged players may be easier to beat but not suitable for a player looking for a challenge.
There are different kinds of software specifically designed for use alongside online poker games, with all sorts of features and functionality. We won’t go into detail on all the packages available out there or we’ll be here all day. Suffice to say that players should be open-minded about trying different software as they could miss out on opportunities to significantly improve their game. Always make sure that the use of such software is permitted by the casino site before you use it.
8. Investing In Better Tech
This tip follows on from the previous one about poker software. For beginner players, the features built into many poker clients and game software are more than enough to get started with. Note-taking and colour tagging are a really good way to keep track of your opponents without having to drop cash on expensive software solutions.
As with most things, the more advanced you get, the more gadgets, goodies and upgrades start to look like a must-have. This is where poker-specific computer programs come in. These applications (which are not cheap) can seriously boost your play with their array of functions.
Take industry leaders Poker Tracker and Hold Em Manager as an example. These feature customisable displays that can be tweaked and adjusted to reflect exactly what the player wants to see and finds most useful. They can be used to track all of the previous hands played against specific opponents and present that data in a way that is easy to check at a glance. The customisation capacity of these programs makes them appealing to a broad swathe of the poker community, from the lightning-fast Sit ’n Go tournament players to those who specialise in heads-up cash games.
Players hoping to really troubleshoot their strategy can benefit from the replay feature present in some software packages. Imagine being able to replay a hand or even an entire tournament exactly - if you are looking to study and learn from past mistakes and successes, this is an invaluable tool
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When a player wants to enjoy online poker, they can choose to do so at one of two types of online site. There are online casinos that offer poker as part of a broader range of games, usually including, slots, jackpots, other table games and in some cases, sports betting. There are also casinos that place a greater emphasis on poker and poker variants, often sticking to these at the exclusion of all others or including a small handful of other table games.
First of all, a player should ensure they are playing at a reputable and trustworthy casino, no matter which type they choose. Once that’s sorted, the choice then arises - poker-specific or not?
Both have their pros and cons. For players who are new to online gambling in general, not just online poker, an all-rounder casino might be the better option. A site that provides quality games across a number of categories is a great way to become familiar with the ins and outs of each type, give them a go and decide which ones you like best. These sites will often provide a variety of bonuses and promotions, which are a good opportunity to draw even more value from your gambling experience.
Where this sort of casino falls short, at least from the perspective of the poker player, is the range of poker games available. These sites are designed to appeal to as broad a range of players as possible so they might not offer many poker games. They might instead provide an equal number of poker, roulette, blackjack and baccarat in order to diversify their selection of table games. That said, a lot of these kinds of casinos do supply at least a handful of poker options like table games and live dealer games.
Poker-specific brands can be more appealing to those players who know exactly what they are after and what they are after is poker. These casinos usually host more competitive opportunities such as tournaments and the prizes are also geared towards the poker crowd. We have seen casinos offer entry into exclusive poker events around the world as tournament prizes - an opportunity every poker player would love to win.
Casinos that have a focus on poker only are great for the dedicated poker player but the majority of players today are not these hard-core professionals. These casinos can seem a little intimidating for new or casual poker players, who might find themselves struggling to take on much more experienced opponents.
At the end of the day, players should play at sites where they feel comfortable and that meet their needs in terms of variety of poker games, the availability and calibre of competitive events, and the overall quality of the casino.
10. Practice, Practice, Practice!
The best advice we could possibly give to players, no matter their level of experience, is to practice playing. Poker is skill-based and it stands to reason that those skills can be improved by using them frequently. Even experienced players who take a break from playing poker for a while can benefit from practice sessions that help them get back into the game.
Demo or free play is a great, no-risk way to get your skills to where you want them to be. Not all casinos offer this option in their real money poker software but a number of websites out there offer free simulations that work in much the same way. Dedicate some time each day, even just a half-hour, to practising and you will see the difference very soon.
Intermediate players who are keen to play for cash can practice by playing at tables with low stakes, where they are likely to find less challenging opponents at first. Increase the difficulty by seeking out higher stakes tables until you feel you can use your skills confidently and consistently in any setting.
The one space that is not well suited to practice is the tournament. These competitive events are where you go once your poker skills are up to a certain level and players who use tournaments to practice as often out of cash and out of the game very quickly indeed. Practice in a no- or low-risk setting to make the most of your time and help boost your confidence, critical thinking and reaction times.