There’s something many people don’t know about me. I’m a huge poker fan, with a massive girl crush on Jennifer Tilly. I’ve played Texas Hold’em poker, both at the tables and online, for about 8 years. During that time, I have won a fair bit of cash, but when you factor in the hours spent at the tables, it probably works out as pennies per hour, certainly not anything I could claim to make a living from earning.
There is no better lesson learnt in life than that of experience. I’ve experienced it all at the online poker tables, (including 2 royal flushes in the same week, no idea what the odds are on that happening?) but I do win often, by sticking to the following set of guidelines that I wrote for myself after a year or two of playing. They’ve made me a better online poker player, not a rich one, but a better one.
#1 Don’t bet what you can’t afford
This has to be the number one rule for any type of gambling, not just online poker. Never, ever bet with what you can’t afford to lose. You may feel like you’re on a good run but playing at tables above your usual blinds/limit is not advisable until you have the bankroll to run with the punches. Moving up a blind before you are ready will almost always result in a loss. I once turned £20 into just under £1000 in a little over a week. After stupidly deciding it was time to really gamble – I moved up 2 blind levels and lost it all in an hour. Ouch.
It is critical for you to be playing your best game at all times, playing above your usual limit will naturally make you more nervous than usual. You should always stick with limits appropriate to your bankroll.
#2 Take note…
The more you learn about an individual poker players game, the more chance you will read their moves or cards and beat them. You can sit back at the poker tables in Palm Beach casino sipping cocktails and knowingly grinning when your favourite fish sits down at your table, but when playing online the familiarity is lost. Many players will usually have an unmemorable username like “fish79536”, so how can you remember who plays looser than a thrift store turtleneck? Most online poker software offers you the opportunity to create notes on other players at the table. It took me a little while to realise the true potential of the notes feature, but I encourage all serious poker players to use them. The more you play against certain individuals, the more valuable your notes will become.
#3 Stop drinking
When playing poker for cash, it is of great importance that you keep a clear head. Drink naturally loosens our inhibitions, which leads to bad calls and bad bluffs. Another lesson learnt the hard way when, after drinking copious amounts of vodka, I decided to mix-up my play and check raise everything. This worked for a while as I’m usually a really tight player so I wasn’t getting many calls. However the other players obviously clued on after a while and needless to say it ended badly. I hit a bad run of cards – being dealt QQ against AA preflop several times, causing me to lose my cool – and my bankroll. Which brings me on to the next tip.
#4 Don’t slow play big pairs
When playing online poker you will find that you meet with more calls to your bets than you would playing live. These “calling-stations” usually consist of amateurs that are still learning how to play, and more experienced “fish” who would usually never make that call if they were playing live. Because of this, you want to avoid letting other players at the table see the flop whenever possible. If you are dealt a big pair, get your cash in preflop because unless they are holding a bigger pair, the only way they will win is by hitting an out, the odds are in your favour. This doesn’t mean you should call all-in with every big pair, but if you feel that your KK or QQ is beating their hand preflop, then don’t be afraid to push them. Thats generally when good players fold and bad players lose.
#5 Don’t play too many online tables
Most serious online poker players usually “sit” at multiple tables at once, effectively increasing their profit margin. However, for every table that you play, it becomes harder to remain focused on the game and other players which can lead to mistakes. You absolutely must be able to focus on every hand that you are playing to avoid leaking chips, dont be tempted to open-up too many tables.
#6 Take short breaks
Poker is a game of skill and luck with your success depending on the choices that you make. If you are too tired, or become emotional or hungry, then the chances are this will affect your decision making abilities, which will in turn affect your game and cause you to make bad choices which cost money. By taking short breaks, such as 5 mins every hour, you are effectively allowing yourself to regain your composure and bring your A game back to the table.
#7 If you are losing, stop playing
Sometimes, it seems as though every donk in the history of poker is calling you with their s**t hands and hitting their outs. There have been times when I’ve had to refrain myself from becoming abusive as my emotions got the better of me. We all have stories of when this has happened to us right? Those times when even though you’re getting your chips in ahead, you keep getting sucked out on runner, runner flushes and such. It really does suck. The worst mistake you can make in a situation like this, is to stick around at the same table and attempt to win the money back. You are already overly emotional due to the losses, dont try and chase the money. Set yourself a “loss limit” and when you hit it, leave the game.
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