With online poker making its return in a big way lately, we are here to give you five tips on how to win on the online felt. This article is less about bet sizing, and hand selection, and more about the disciplines that you need to master and the habits that you need to create, to make money consistently playing online poker. Whether you prefer tournaments or cash games, these tips are for you. Let’s get started!
#1 Keep Records
Keeping meticulous records are key to any consistent long-term online poker winner. And I am not just talking about whether you win or lose, while that information is certainly very important. I like to know when I play, what I play, and for how long I played it. Did I win? Lose? Break even?
Was it a Texas Hold ‘Em cash game? Or maybe a multi-table tournament or a single table Sit ‘N Go? The reason you want to keep detailed records of your play is so that you can go back later and look for trends, good or bad.
Are you winning at a much higher rate playing Omaha than at Hold “em? Do you tend to hit and run during your winning sessions and then play marathon sessions trying to get unstuck other times? Understanding your games strengths and weaknesses, is very important to long term winning.
There is software available out there that can help you track your play in a very detailed manner, and you should look into that right away. Our brains tend to over-exaggerate the good things and forget about the bad, and you want to make sure that you are completely honest about your poker abilities. In poker, we can lie to our opponents on the table, but we never want to lie to ourselves about results. Keep track of your play and review it often.
#2 Study Often
This second tip goes right along with the first one, study! A Lot! Whether you are studying your own results, or specific poker strategy, you always want to make sure that you are learning about poker away from the table. For some people, this means pouring over hand histories, alone, or with trusted peers. For others, this is reading up on the latest GTO (game theory optimal) theories or reviewing starting hand charts.
There are endless resources out there, and to be a winner, you need to take advantage of all of them. Read books, watch YouTube hand reviews, or sign up for online training sites. Some people even go as far as to hire a poker coach.
The key here is to find a type of learning that appeals to you and stick with it. If you are only learning about the game while at the table, you are electing to give other players ,that are willing to do their homework, an advantage. In a game that is all about gaining an advantage on your competition, that is something that you just can’t afford to do.
Personally, I love to read poker books. I have been a winning poker player since before the original online poker boom, and it has been fascinating to see how much poker strategy has evolved. There was a time, not long ago, when Super System by Doyle Brunson was the most detailed strategy ever written on poker. For people that are beating the game nowadays, that go back and read Super System today, it would seem like going back to elementary school.
You always want to make sure you are following the new trends of poker, because your opponents are. In order to be a winner, your game always needs to be evolving. The best way to stay ahead of the curve is to stay up on the most current training. I promise you, the strategies that Fedor Holt uses aren’t the same ones that Stu Unger used decades ago to win. Study, study, and study some more!
#3 Play Within Your Bankroll
You hear poker pros talk about this one all of the time, yet very few players out there follow it. You MUST play within your bankroll. Now, there are a million different definitions of when it is appropriate to jump up in limits or to higher buy-in tournaments. And while there are a lot of differing opinions out there, very few of them are ever going to tell you that you should base what stakes you are playing, on how much money is currently in your online poker account.
Personally, I think that the most appropriate time to move up in limits or buy-in levels is when you can show that you are a consistent winner at your current stakes. Here we are right back to that record-keeping we talked about earlier…
If you are a winner at one level, you should consider moving up to the next highest level available. But be very careful, that you give yourself an ample sample size of results to base that decision on. That doesn’t mean if you play a 1-2 no-limit game for three hours and win a hundred bucks, you are ready to jump up to 2-5!
The best way to track your progress is by baselining your results to an established sample size. This can be done in many ways, but I use the below formulas for cash games and tournaments.
#4 Pay Attention
I know, I know, this one sounds too simple to even mention, but not paying full attention is one of the biggest leaks of today’s online poker players. Whether it is because they are distracted by whatever else is going on in their home, their phone, or they are just cruising Reddit or YouTube, poker players are notoriously an easily distracted bunch.
And while that is the case with brick and mortar poker players as well, it is much easier to get distracted while playing online. The fact of the matter is that playing high-level poker can be boring at times. Poker pro Phil Galfond once famously said, “the best way to win every hand of poker, is to not try and win at every hand of poker.” Sometimes the play is to fold, as unsatisfying as that might feel at the time.
And when you hit a patch of action where you are doing a lot of folding, it can be hard to stay laser-like focused on the table. But you must find a way to do it. If you aren’t in the hand, you should be focusing on the other players at the table. Try to read hands and follow betting lines, so when you are in a hand, you understand how the other players are playing.
I see situations all the time where a player will be playing like an absolute maniac, and other players make big laydowns against them because they were too busy playing on their phone to notice. Don’t play poker because you are bored and want something to do. Play poker because you want to eviscerate your enemies on the felt. And to do that, you need to pay attention, all of the time.
#5 Don’t Play Too Many Tables
This last tip is very unique to online poker players. When you are playing in brick and mortar poker rooms, you only get to play at one table. One hand at a time is all you ever have to worry about. But online, you can play as many tables as you want simultaneously. And that can get mighty tempting as the desire for action is so easy to satisfy.
But playing too many tables at once can seriously hurt your ROI. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you can handle more than one table at a time, multi-tabling can be a great way to smooth out your variance, and maximize your wins. But as tends to be the case with a lot of things in poker, poker players aren’t always telling the truth to themselves about how many tables they can handle at once.
If you find yourself rushing from table to table, and making decisions quicker than you might like, tone it down some, and drop a table or two. At the end of the day, we play poker to make money, and while it is ok to give up a little bit of your ROI at one table to add another table, thus making more money overall, there is no bigger tragedy in online poker than playing more games than you should be, and turning yourself from a winning player, to a loser, because of it. We aren’t here to impress people with how many tables we can play, we are here to make money, and finding your optimum numbers of tables is very important to your long-term success.
Nothing I have said in this article is hard to do. And I assure you that if you do each of these things religiously, you will eventually find a way to beat any poker game in the long run. Poker is a wonderful game, in that, anyone can be great at it. Poker doesn’t discriminate. If you put in the work, you can be a winner. Thanks for reading, and good luck on the virtual felt!