The number of players playing at online poker rooms constantly grows, as does the number of cardrooms. Yet online poker is still at best an adolescent in terms of the number of players playing and cardroom technology. More important to us though, poker strategy for online poker is still in its childhood. This Guide is the first of its kind, an attempt to fill a gaping void in poker literature. This Guide is geared 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, the linked pages here offer other information that should contribute to helping you win.
Since little has ever 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 cardroom, will be glad to start out in a relatively unthreatening online environment. The 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 cardrooms.
Online Poker Card Rooms
Online cardrooms differ in small ways, but are generally similar in big ways. This Guide uses the practices and workings of Party Poker in its illustrations, but players should easily be able to recognize small differences between the sites when they encounter them, so almost all the concepts here apply to any online cardroom. Party Poker is just the example -- as well as the online cardroom where most players got their introduction to the game before the dawn of televised poker.
The first thing to understand is that online poker is not the same as brick & mortar casino poker (hereafter I'll call this "casino poker"). They are different games. 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 such as Party Poker is simple. You use an online payment service like Neteller (see below) or give them your credit card to buy chips just like you would buy a book at Amazon or a ticket at Ticketmaster. You don't even have to do that at first. You can play free games without giving any credit card information. 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 that you aren't sure what it does, all the bells and whistles of how the site works. The free games have little value in learning to play to win though. They are excellent for a total novice, offering newbies a way to practice calculating basic odds on the fly and discovering the relative strengths of hands, but you still should get off free games as soon as you can. Even playing the low value games will offer you far more useful learning opportunities than the free games.
Give thought to your login name. Some people want to be distinctive, memorable. Some want to be as anonymous as possible. Your login name is the first piece of "table image" you present to the other players. Choose one that presents the personality you want to convey to your opponents.
Building an Internet Poker Bankroll
The first enormous difference you confront between playing online and in a casino is when you go to buy chips
In casino poker, you can just reach into your pocket and grab more cash (for good or ill). Not so online. The first thing you need to do is build an online bankroll. No matter if you are properly bankrolled to play $40/80 in a casino, when you first join, you should avoid playing anything higher than $5/10 for 48 hours. (This also makes sense just to get used to the technology.) If you want to play bigger than $5/10, charge up $600 the first day, then $600 twenty-four hours later (even if you don't play), then $300 the next day. Now with a $1500 bankroll you can carefully play $10/20 -- at least as long as you stay above $500. If you sink that low, it is important to again play smaller, even $3/6 or $2/4, until a week passes and you can again add another $1500 to your bankroll. Basically, you can't play correctly online until you have accumulated a correct bankroll.
The online cardrooms have their reasons for limiting buy-ins, from protecting players from blowing their brains out in one session to not wanting to deal with substantial contested credit card charges. While these are legitimate concerns on the cardrooms' part, the restricted buy-in is an artificial obstacle to winning that has to be overcome by new players. It's not commonly known, but after establishing a record of play over a period of time, players can Email customer support for an increase in the different bankroll restrictions.
The current best deposit and withdrawal choice available for online players is through Neteller. Its website details convenient ways to get paid, including direct deposit into your checking account. Even though it might seem complicated at first, Neteller is an easy way to promptly and securely move money around online, and into your pocket. Players unfamiliar with Neteller (and Firepay) should click to read an overview of the how-to of Using Neteller for Online Poker Transactions.
Cashing Out and Your Bankroll
Another artificial problem the online cardrooms create out of necessity involves cashing out. Suppose you have carefully charged up a $1500 bankroll, and you have won $800 in a week. Not bad. You want that $800 in your pocket and you want to make another similar amount the next week. Well, you can't do it using a credit card. The cash out rules require you to first pay back your original deposit method, and then get sent your profit. So, to get your $800, you have to pay off that $1500 you sensibly charged up, leaving you with a zero bankroll. It's a bit complicated, but in essence, cardrooms require winning players to play on their profits, not on their credit cards.
So, the process you need to do is: play carefully at a moderate limit until you have been able to charge up an adequate bankroll, play at your chosen limit, pay off your original deposit as you win amounts above that adequate bankroll figure, then finally cash out your profits that exceed your chosen bankroll. For example, you want to play $20/40. You buy $1500 your first week, and win a few hundred Dollars playing $5/10, $8/16 and $10/20. The second week you charge an additional $500, ($2000 monthly maximum) so now you bankroll stands at $2400, and you begin playing $15/30. As you continue to win, you pay off your credit card (or Neteller) to the level that you always have a $3000 bankroll (or perhaps a $2000 bankroll with your entire weekly $1500 worth of charges available to you). Finally, on a weekly basis you cash out your winnings that exceed your $3000 bankroll.
I don't mean this to be taken exactly literally, but it should be clear that much more so than in casino poker, you need to manage your bankroll online. Leaving some liquid cash on Neteller is a good idea too so you can be sure to take advantage of any deposit bonus a cardroom might be offering. You have to adapt and work around the cardroom restrictions. Being in action every day at the limit you want to play at is how you maximize profits, and online it takes some strategic planning to accomplish this.