The number of players playing poker online constantly grows, as does the number of card rooms. But strategy for online poker is still only in its adolescence. This Guide was the first of its kind when put online. It is my attempt to fill a void in poker literature. This Guide offers tips to both for players who have never played a hand online as well as those with experience who want to learn to play better — to win, or win more. Experienced users can skip some of the basics, but even in discussions of the basics I hope experienced users find some valuable ideas. Also, many of the linked pages below offer other information that should contribute to helping you win.
Since little has been written specifically on how to beat online games, why am I? Why give away “secrets”? First, I want to encourage more and more people to enjoy poker in all its forms. Some new players, too far away or too intimidated to walk into a conventional card room, will be glad to start out in a relatively unthreatening online environment. Online free games represent the best opportunity ever for new players to learn the game. Many of these players will naturally go on to also play in casinos, so this Guide should benefit brick & mortar clubs as well as online card rooms.
Second, this site has online poker card rooms as paid advertisers, making it in my interest to create more customers for them, which in turn attracts more ad dollars. Readers should understand that I do get a benefit from writing this Guide. I’m not paid by publishers or by readers but I get compensation indirectly via advertising. So, if you find these tips helpful or thought provoking, I hope you will consider patronizing my advertisers. If they get customers, they’ll pay me, and thus the online-focused pages on this website will continue to be revised and grow over time — grow with the new technology, new card rooms and influx of new players.
Online card rooms differ in small ways, but are similar in big ways. Players should easily be able to recognize small differences between the sites when they encounter them, so almost all the concepts apply to any online poker room.
The first thing to understand is that poker online is not the same as brick & mortar casino poker (hereafter I’ll call this “casino poker”). While the rules are generally the same, the way the games play are very different. The primary reason for this is that there is a complete lack of visual tells online. This means that online players must bet to gain information about their hand, whereas the same information is available to casino players from visual clues. This means that there are many more probe bets made online, which in turn leads to probe raises. The end result is that there is generally more action online than you will find in a brick and mortar casino. I’m not saying one is better than the other, or necessarily more or less profitable. They are just different in fundamental ways. Many of the abilities needed to win in casino poker of course also exist in online poker. You still need good starting cards… you still shouldn’t tilt… you still shouldn’t play at a level you can’t afford, and so on. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel on that stuff. Check out the rest of this website, the poker magazines and books to study those things that are the same online as in a casino. A flush beats a straight online. We don’t need to go over that.
Joining an online site is simple. You can fund your online poker account in many ways, and different card rooms may have various deposit options. In order to comply with current regulations, some online poker rooms may restrict play or deposit options based upon the state or country in which you reside. If you are facing such a restriction, the poker site will inform you of your options during the deposit process. In most cases, even if you are facing a deposit/withdrawal restriction, you will still have several different methods available to you for depositing or withdrawing funds. You may be able to deposit in any one of the following ways:
1. Directly from your checking account.
2. With a credit card.
3. Through a courier like Moneygram.
4. With a Bank Wire
5. With a personal check through the regular mail.
6. By receiving a funds transfer from another online player.
7. With a money order.
8. With an online payer like Neteller (citizens of some countries may be prohibited from using this option).
When you sign up, you don’t even need to deposit at first. You can play free games without giving any credit card or bank information. In fact, you should play the free games for at least an hour or so to get the hang of how fast the action goes, what buttons to click, what happens when you click a button if you aren’t sure of what it does: all the bells and whistles of how the site works. The drawback of the free games is that they have virtually no instructional value as to the correct method of play. This is because “free” players do not pay for their chips and therefore do not place much value on correct or winning play. This pretty much eliminates the “game within the game,” which is the heart and soul of poker. The free games are, however, excellent for a total novice. They offer newbies a way to practice calculating basic odds on the fly, and discover the relative strengths of hands. Still, you should get off free games as soon as you can. Even playing the .5/.10 games will offer you far more useful learning opportunities than the free games.
Give some thought to your login or “screen” name. Some people want to be distinctive, memorable. Others want to be as anonymous as possible. Your screen name is the first bit of “table image” you present to the other players. Choose one that presents the personality you want to convey to your opponents. Keep in mind that you may be restricted from making multiple changes to your screen name or picture.
Building an Online Poker Bankroll
The first enormous difference you confront between playing poker online and in a casino is when you go to buy chips. Online card rooms may limit how much you can deposit each day, depending upon the deposit method that you choose. This means that your daily deposit limit is your de facto bankroll even if you have more funds readily available. You can start to build your online bankroll either through winning play, or by making additional deposits on subsequent days. If you are a high limit player, you should contact the support staff at the poker site about easing deposit restrictions.
Deposit limits can affect both the way that you play and the limit you are able to play at. Even if you are a winning player, if you play very aggressively, or too high for your online bankroll, you can end up broke and out of action with no way to rebuy. Don’t let this happen. Putting yourself out of action is a critical mistake.
If your online bankroll is limited, you should make sure that you are playing at a level where your bankroll can withstand the daily swings. This usually means starting lower or medium limits, and playing higher as your bankroll grows. Keep in mind that your short term swings will normally be greater online than they will be in casino poker, because the games tend to be more aggressive online. If you are trying to acquire a large online bankroll without facing deposit restrictions, consider getting funds transfer from another player. Many sites do not restrict how much players can transfer between themselves.
Cashing Out and Your Internet Bankroll
Cashing out from internet card rooms is not a problem, but you should be aware that there are some common cash out rules. First of all, you may be restricted from cashing out for 48-72 hours since your last deposit or funds transfer. This is because the poker site may have expenses associated with your deposit, and they do not want people continually depositing and cashing out. Also keep in mind that some sites require that cash outs be credited back to their original deposit method first before a check can be cut. For example, if you initially deposited $500 with your credit card, and you wanted to cash out $1,000, they site may require that you accept a $500 credit to your card and a $500 check. If you have made several deposits over time, the site may require fulfilling credits on all of these before they will honor any other method of withdrawal. Regardless of how they process cash outs, if you play at a major site, you should not run into any problems getting your money. (See also Cash Out Curse Myth)
If you want to get around this restriction, there are basically two ways to do it. The first is to make your initial deposit through a funds transfer from another player. If you deposit funds this way, all cash out options should be available to you. The second thing that you can do is to keep a large enough bankroll online, so that you are able to avoid making deposits in the first place. If you do this, then your initial deposit will be credited back, but all further withdrawals are open to the method of your choosing. Obviously, in order for this method to work, you need to be a winning player, and you need to be able to leave a substantial bankroll in your account at all times (it is a good idea to do this anyway).