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Strategy & Tips 1
Strategy & Tips 2
Strategy & Tips 3

Online Poker Tells

The in-turn buttons lead to the most obvious tell unique to online poker. If the blinking light representing a player acts immediately, it's likely this person has clicked the box of an in-turn action. It is very often easy to determine when a player has a no-brainer hand. The immediate "check" can often incredibly revealing. If you are first to act, and for some reason take a moment before checking, and your three opponents immediately check behind you like rifle fire, this is a tell as big as Texas. They ain't got nuthin'.

Another common situation... the first player takes a moment, then finally checks. You have the "bet/raise in turn" button checked, so your bet appears, but instantly the player next to you raises. Uh-oh, he had the bet/raise button checked too, and didn’t care what you or the first player did. That tells a lot more than a just normal raise would -- an awful lot more.

Besides the speed of action resulting from using the buttons, other online tells can be discerned from how slow a player commonly acts on their hand. Players who are consistently super-slow (rude human speedbumps) are likely not paying attention to the game, either because they are playing two games and are not competent at it, or because they are doing other work at home. Either way, if all of a sudden this person plays a hand crisply and promptly and aggressively... well, they got somethin’.

"The Stall" is a common tell among average or slightly below average players. When the last card in Holdem or Omaha makes a coordinated board (making a nut hand like a flush), the mediocre player pauses as if thinking, and then finally bets. This pause usually means "powerhouse" or at least that the bettor thinks he has a powerhouse. It's a comically inept tell in its obviousness. (Some people also use The Stall as a reverse tell.)

The largest group of online poker tells can be found in opponent's betting patterns. People who think there are no tells online simply can't be paying attention (and often they aren't because they are playing multiple games and thus are genuinely "missing" much of the game). Betting patterns also reveal a lot in casinos, but online they are more critical to observe for a simple reason: people bet more often. In particular, people playing multiple games make an awful lot of bets in an hour, or a career. Such a volume of anything leads to repetition, as any assembly line worker can attest. Watch an opponent long enough and you should have solid clues to their holdings, and especially their interest level in the current pot.

Player Notes: The Good, the Bad, and the Idiots

When playing casino poker, we see our opponents. I seldom forget a truly good or a truly horrible player. Online, all we see are little icons, many with similar or extremely non-descript names. Plus, we play against thousands of players from literally all over the world, playing at all different hours of the day or night -- all at the same time! Player notes offer a way to remember notable players. For me "notable" means the best players -- and the worst goofballs. For the most part, the vast majority of players are interchangeable weak-tight lemmings. You don't really need to keep track of them. But strong players and terrible players come in much smaller numbers. Also, since I play mostly Omaha8, I keep track of super-tight players. These players aren’t "strong" players, and may not even win, but when one bets an 876 flop, I know to put my A3 in the muck. Depending on the game you play, you might also want to keep track of other player categories, but I definitely suggest you track the best and the worst. Most cardrooms now make this easy by including a "Notes" feature where just by clicking on a player's icon you are able to then make notes about that player that are permanently stored on your computer.

Hand Histories
By clicking the dealer tray, you can have your "hand histories" sent you, the records for the individual hands of the games you played in. Novice players can find these valuable learning tools, and even experienced players can use them to study the play of specific opponents. Commercial programs are even available that can analyze tens of thousands of hand histories in a flash and spit out a wide variety of statistics on you and your opponents.

Net Stats and All-Ins

The Network Status page is your friend that you should regularly check when you play. The NetStats tell you how the cardroom server is performing. Beware of playing whenever the status is below "Good." Not only do you risk being disconnected in critical situations, your game will be painfully slow and naughty players will use the server problems to illegitimately go "all-in" in situations where they merely don’t want to call any more bets.

When legitimate, an all-in occurs (besides the obvious when a player has no more chips) when a player loses his or her connection to the game, either because of being bumped offline by a flaky Internet connection or because the cardroom is having server problems. Sometimes you'll lose pots due to legitimate disconnects, and other times you'll win, so you shouldn’t worry about them that way. But if you suspect someone illegitimately times out because they don’t want to call a bet (or two or three), contact Support. Such a person may get away with it once or twice, but eventually they will be stopped.

How To Deal With Support

Online Support is generally good -- prompt, knowledgeable, helpful. However, you must understand that they are not floor supervisors. They don't directly see problems; they don't have a chance to ask multiple players or dealers about problems; and, they have literally hundreds of hands swirling around them. Some problem that is plain as day to you, might not be clear to a Support person who didn’t see what happened. Before contacting Support about a hand or situation, be sure to request your hand history. You will almost certainly get a better resolution (and make more sense) if Support has the number of the hand history to refer to.

Don't be shy to bring matters to Support's attention. If you actually are "right" about some problem, very often they will correct it how they can, including returning a courtesy bet. But don't be an annoying pest. Support has records of everything. If you are constantly whining and trying to weasel a few bucks out of them for compensation for mistakes you made, you will wear out your welcome quickly.

Support is the closest equivalent to a floorman. If some player is being belligerent, if you think some collusion might be going on, if you think some player is playing consistently slow just to be annoying... tell Support. It is their job to make our online poker experience pleasant and fair. They can't do their job without our help.

Paranoia Strikes Deep

Online poker has one truly fundamental thing in common with casino poker: most players lose. But the way players lose online inevitably leads to some delusional paranoia. For instance, in casino poker, most players can effectively fool themselves about how they are doing. The money they buy-in or cash out mixes in their pockets. They win some days and lose others. It's easy to say: "I break even, or win a little." Online the bookkeeping is in black and white. Your losses are documented; your wins are sent to you in a very deliberate way. You know if you are winning or losing.

Rather than admit the legitimacy of their losses, some of those players who delude themselves about their poker ability in a casino end up charging the online cardrooms with some truly amazing practices. Most of these charges are hopelessly illogical paranoia. The fact of the matter is, the amount of money a semi-successful online cardroom can make is staggering. The idea that a hugely profitable multi-million dollar enterprise with relatively small overhead would jeopardize its goose that laid the golden egg for a few more Dollarss by punishing people for cashing out... ideas like this are just ludicrous. (At least one rogue online cardroom used bots and did not declare that fact, but this was easy to discover and they are out of business as of this writing.

Online players should install firewalls on their computers. (If you have DSL, you should have one anyway.) Check out this page for links and information on Firewalls, Spyware & Internet Security. If you are the type of person who worries about the grassy knoll a lot, a firewall should ease some concerns.

But firewalls end up causing some paranoia too. Sometimes your computer briefly loses its connection to the cardroom, even if your Internet connection stays up. When this happens, the cardroom's software tries to reconnect to your computer, which alerts your firewall (unless you configure a rule to always allow a connection from that particular site.) This is not evidence of your computer being hacked by somebody who wants to see your cards! Configure your firewall sensibly and you can play without hacking worries.

Cheating

Some people cheat while playing online. Some cheating goes on in casino poker too. When money is put up for grabs, some people will behave criminally to get a piece. While the "Paranoia" category mostly dismisses the idea of the established cardrooms robbing their customers, individual and small groups of players will inevitably cheat.

In all walks of life, cheaters are drawn disproportionately from the pool of losers -- people unable to win legitimately, and too lazy to do the work to become winners. To oversimplify it, most cheats aren't very bright. Most poker cheats, online or casino, are hopelessly inept. They cheat and they still can't win. From a purely mercenary standpoint, we should welcome most cheaters because they lose!

Joking aside, I don't mean to diminish the dangers of cheating, but just because something is morally bad doesn't mean it is financially bad. Besides the issue that most cheats probably lose, it's important to consider how "bad" the most common form of cheating is -- two pals talking on the phone while playing, telling each other what they folded. This is an edge, but not a particularly big one. These two pals, who are not playing together on a common bankroll, are not in the league of colluding cheats -- players playing from the same bankroll. Even here, this sort of effective collusion is rare. It requires trust, and cheaters are by definition not trustable. Such arrangements have trouble lasting.

And that brings us to the cheater to really fear... a single individual playing in one game using two computers and two identities. These people only have to trust themselves.

We have two principal defenses against effective cheating -- our own vigilance, and the might of the cardroom, which sees cheats as a mortal enemy. You suspect cheating, tell Support immediately. But don’t be the boy who cried "wolf." If you accuse endless numbers of innocent people of cheating, you will be ignored, which may lead to letting a real cheat get away with it for awhile longer.

Once alerted to suspicious behavior, the cardrooms have an excellent ability to monitor potential cheaters. They can see the cards after all. So, the most sensible way to combat cheating is: if you suspect it, stop playing, and tell support exactly why you stopped playing. When you stop playing, you stop contributing to the rake. The rake is the primary motivation of a cardroom. It’s the thing they take most seriously.

Effective cheating should seldom be a problem below the $10/20 level, so the majority of players needn't give it too much thought. Still, report anything suspicious.

The Rake

While the amount of money the house takes from each pot is pretty reasonable, because of the speed on online games the gross amount raked is pretty incredible. Fortunately, there is a whole world of players to contribute. Even though some of the worst players get chewed up too quickly, never to return, overall the rake is very favorable for winning players, especially since there is no tipping.

Apple/Macintosh and Linux users:
PokerRoom runs natively on these platforms.
You can play at other online cardrooms by using an emulator program like VirtualPC.

Some Conclusions

In casino poker, showing down the best hand is only one way a winning player makes money. The same holds true online, but the logistical ways a thoughtful player increases his or her win rate are mostly quite different. When playing AK against your opponent's J9, you aren't just sending one hand value against another. Players who only earn the value of the hand strength of the AK over the J9 will fall well behind the much more successful players who do the logistical groundwork of lobby monitoring, player notes and the rest. Hand value profit is only the tip of the iceberg.

Playing winning online poker is the science, craft and art of mastering things most players don't even think about.

So now that you know how to play online Poker , why not give it a try Party Poker now !

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