My recent poker game

In the last 2 and a half years I have had a love hate relationship with online poker. The first time I played poker was with my friends though it wouldn’t be right to say that’s where I learned the game. After playing a few times with my friends I was hooked and made the progression to online poker. Which for someone who has worked on websites for several years was a natural progression.

In my first 6-9 months of playing poker I thought I was a really solid good player. Reading low limit poker and super system had installed the basics of the game of poker in me. Also during this time I turned about $50 into about $700-$800. The majority of this was playing limit poker and clearing bonuses via numerous sites and whilst it isn’t a lot of money but I’m still pleased of what I made in under 3 months.

Looking back though I wasn’t that good a poker player. I played pretty tight but I was not aggressive enough to make as much as I should have. My understanding of the game was pretty limited too….although I understood the importance of position I didn’t know about the gap concept or implied odds etc. I rarely play online now. I probably play about 2-3 sit and gos a week online. I do play live a lot more though. I usually play Sundays, Mondays and Fridays at a local pub and occasionally the odd home game as well. It’s a great setup – its run well, they have great poker tables and the majority of people are good people.

At these live games of 50+ or 100+ people I am nearly always at the final table or close to it (particularly when there are 50+ players). I am a much better player than I was 2 years ago. So why is it that I can’t transfer this to online play? Why is it that the best I can seem to do just now is break even online whilst two years ago I was consistently making a profit week in week out. I don’t believe I am alone in this. There are many players down at the poker club who, like myself, are always close to the money. They are solid players and they know the game well. However, I have heard many of them stating how badly they have done online and how they wouldn’t play online again.

The most common and I guess the easiest explanation that most people give is that players online are all fish and that they make terrible players. Though why is it some of these supposed fish are making money online whilst other solid players arent?

Brick & Mortar VS The Internet

The fact that 2 years ago when I was a poorer player I was making more money really got me thinking. Below are some of what I know to be my major problems with playing online

Too many Distractions. I just cant seem to sit and just play the game. I am posting at poker forums, I am listening to music, I am reading the BBC or CNN. So why can’t I just sit at peace and pay attention to the game I am playing online. Why? Truth be told I get very bored by doing just that. I don’t think I could sit for hours on end paying such attention and not browsing the web or whatever. I’d rather just go to the poker club.

I know this is a major problem and if I have this state of mind I probably shouldn’t be playing but I love poker and I love playing it. I just struggle to commit 100% of my brain to it when im sitting at my pc and have music, the web and what not at my disposal. When I play live I am always paying attention to what everyone does – who raises, by how much, with what hands etc. I lose a lot of vital information and a lot of my game by not watching every hand.

It’s too easy to click call. I think it’s safe to assume most people play looser when they play online. Why should this be? Surely by playing tighter you could make more money? If it was only this easy. Perhaps it’s easier to click call or raise on the internet than it is to pick up your chips and physically move them over the line.

Tiredness & Alcohol. One of the games I usually play is the 10pm ET $10+$1 game at pokerstars. 10pm in New York but to us in the UK it starts at 3 AM. Tiredness always makes me play much much poorer. Regular players in that game will admit to that. On occasions I play pretty good in these games but the killer for me is patience. The games sometimes last til 5 AM for me. If I get a good chip lead I don’t think I should be able to finish in the money I actually think I need to start taking players out!. Why…because I want my bed!

It goes without saying that alcohol has the same or worst effect on players though for me it’s always been starting a game at a time I really should be catching some zees.

Human Interaction. I have read a lot of articles suggesting that the lack of human interaction, and therefore not being able to read players tells etc, can take a lot away from a players arsenal. Whilst this is certainly true and whilst it would clearly hurt good players more than bad players, on the whole I don’t think this is valid since everyone has the same problem and therefore the playing field should be leveled. Well on average anyways. At the very least I don’t think it’s something that anyone can do something about as playing online will always be like this. (I know this isn’t relevant to my game but I thought I would mention it anyway)

It is clear that there are other factors as to why my game, and other players games, suffer when they make the jump from playing live to playing online. However the above points are definitely things I need to address if I ever want to make any decent money playing poker online.

The Full Tilt fiasco

If you want an example of how to destroy a great brand in a few months, look no further than Full Tilt Poker. Indeed they took a bad beat, but there was no bad beat jackpot to save them.

Indeed five months ago Full Tilt was considered like a top brand in online poker. Ranked number two by traffic behind pokerstars, these two mammoths of igaming had been dominating online poker for a few years. For example these two rooms probably employed 90% of all top pros sponsored by an online poker room. Each room has dozens of them if not over one hundred. Except these two, Party Poker, Titan Poker and a few other rooms had a bunch of them, but the vast majority was playing either at stars or at FT.

In fact it could be argued that regarding high stakes poker, Full Tilt was the number one. Pokerstars surpassed Full Tilt by most measures, except maybe the traffic of its high stakes nose bleed ring games. At Full Tilt hundreds of rail birds were accustomed to observe these matches day in, day out, and this had created a unique buzz. Players such as Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan or Patrik Antonius were the stars of these matches that could get started at any moment, on an impromptu basis. In fact this is how Tom Dwan rose to the top of online poker, thanks to his prowess at these games.

They were other famous rising stars at these high stakes games. Isildulr1 for instance was a player coming out of nowhere who got involved in some of the largest pots in online poker history, at times surpassing one million dollars. Pokerstars snapped him before Black Friday, and this was a great move for him not to be tied up with Full Tilt Poker anymore, unless numerous of his clolleagues who are still waiting to get their bankroll back.

Now it seems Full Tilt will have a hard time to ever come back online after the Feds accused them to run a Ponzi scheme. This is certainly an exaggerated accusation designed to put the pressure on the company. Full Tilt did not need to get involved intentionally in financial embezzlement, it is just the result of greed, mismanagement and bad timing. Nevertheless it is sad to see such a unique product disappear from the igaming landscape all of a sudden.

Bluffing tips

For many people playing poker online is possibly the first time you have tried your hand at the sport. With the reach of the Internet enabling more and more people to get involved in this great sport of skill, it opens the doors to a new breed of poker player, the online poker player!

The ability to bluff in land based games of poker is an integral part of the game and if you have a good knack at pulling it off, you can turn a bad hand into a winning hand. When a proper poker strategy is being played, bluffing is actually the one factor that turns poker into a true game of skill. It allows you to win hands even when you’re not dealt a ‘winning’ hand. It allows you to win bigger pots when you are dealt a winning hand.

There can and are times when the players around the poker table don’t have much of a hand either and would rather fold and cut their losses than go for the win. Of course, you don’t have to have an awful hand to bluff – you’re just assuming that you don’t have the best hand at the table (if you think you have the best hand, you’re not bluffing now are you? ).

You will find that you will need to bluff occasionally to get bigger pots out of the table. It’s simple actually, if you only raise when you’ve got a good hand – it doesn’t take long for other players to notice and act accordingly. Sure, your good hands will still win the pot, but if everyone folds on your first raise you won’t be winning much – so players need to believe you’re at least capable of bluffing. This is why you need to alter your play when playing poker online.

No single bluffing technique will work at any given time, it depends on who you’re playing with and whether they’ve caught on! Try to mix up your strategy before people get wise to you. How do you bluff when your ‘poker face’ is digital?

There are more intricacies to bluffing when you’re playing with people face to face, as your gestures, general attitude and what you say will all play a part in your bluffing technique and your determination of other people’s bluffing habits.

When playing online poker you don’t see people, so bluffing is reduced to your actions on bets and raises throughout multiple hands. Still – it plays an essential part of any poker game, so be sure to make it part of your game, online or off, if you want to be a winning player.

Some poker sessions

In my vast experience during my 3 weeks of playing at pokerstars, I met some of the absolute worst 7 Card Stud players I have ever seen.

Others have commented likewise in their in poker blogs. I have had to adjust my playing strategy to account for just how bad they are. I lost a bundle at first because I was TAG, kept firing on all streets, and one of the four calling stations would fill their draw on 6th or 7th to beat my aces up, etc. My AF on 3rd is now down around 0.4, with AF >3 on 5th street on. Seems to be working.

It is absolutely astonishing how many players call on 5th and fold on 6th. Must be allergic to money. I only play the 1/2 7 Card Stud at pokerstars while clearing the bonus. The Full Tilt bonus does not clear fast enough at that limit, and I made what is probably a tactical error by signing up for a 100% to $300 signup bonus at Interpoker, and I need 3000 MPP to clear it. I have been clearing 100 points per day for the last week at 2/4 Texas Hold’em, during noon nap time which is prime time in Europe, with mixed results at the tables. This morning I was stuck $130 before a miracle comeback where I posted a $6 profit and cleared 125 points. Only 2100 points to go.

I heard that the low limit 7 Card Stud players at Paradise are even worse. And there is no ante in the .5/1 game. The same passive/aggressive game strategy applies, but hand selection can be even tighter.

Off to the park and then come home by 3 to work on the Absolute Poker bonus and start dinner. My daughter is such a flirt. She let a 22 month old boy kiss her at the park yesterday, then she giggled and cooed at him the rest of the time. Punk. I came home and cleaned my shotgun. Just getting ready. My worst fears are already being realized – the apple just does not fall far from the tree.

Pokerstars rakeback

I won a Pokerstars $7 MTT yesterday consisting of 1250 people and paying $2,250.

There were many hands I played well, and some I did not. Fortunately on a very key hand a couple of levels before the money, I got pretty lucky. I don’t think you can win such a large field tourney unless you are lucky a few times. It does not mean that you do not need skill, but you also need luck.

I raised from under the cutoff with KQ off suit, and got called by the big blind.

The Flop came AQ7 rainbow and he led the whole pot right out into me. I thought for a minute, and I just couldn’t bring myself to believe he would play an Ace like this, definitely not a big ace like big slick.

For one thing the stacks were of a reasonable size and he was a pretty aggressive player, so I thought he would have reraised me pre-flop with a big ace.

I also thought he would elect to check raise me with a smaller ace, because at that level on that flop he was probably going to get a continuation bet from me on the flop.

I raised him all in, and he called in about 2 seconds and flips over an ace jack. Luckily I spiked a queen on the turn to win the hand and eventually went on to win this tournament.

I guess I need to work on my hand reading abilities. The tournament is a great value. I think there were only about 500 people left after the first break, a great overlay.

You can play these tournament too at Pokerstars. If you have not yet signed up, note that there is not such a thing as PokerStars rakeback. But instead they have an internal VIP program that more than compensate for this.

I’m actually pretty good, but luck doesn’t hurt once in a while. Overall luck evens out, and it is skill that will determine your bankroll. Study the game and practice, and the money will follow.

Vanessa Rousso

Do you know Vanessa Rousso?

Vanessa is really a rare woman, as she is both a talented poker pro and a gorgeous young lady. Pretty much one of a kind. Yes there are other beautiful women, but none is making money playing poker like Vanessa does.

Vanessa is a poker pro at PokerStars and you can play against her online if you register. Use the PokerStars marketing code to be entitled to a 100% bonus.

Vanessa thinks that she is good at poker because she has a very strong capacity for analysis. This is from her university experience in economics and game theory. She can think logically and this is one of her greatest asset and the difference with other players. And she has also recently improved her emotional control in a big way, which is something she had to work since the start.

Even though Vanessa Rousso has not yet won a major title, she thinks that she will. Her recent win in May at the Monaco’s 79-entrant €25,000 EPT High Roller Championship (a high buy-in tournament where she pocketed 750,000 dollars) puts her in a good position. She thinks her first bracelet at the WSOP should not take much longer for her to get.

Is it an advantage to be such a beautiful woman when playing poker at the highest level? Yes it is. She remember that many times she was able to push a man to take big bets. Paradoxically some men are afraid of being fooled by a woman and this is precisely why they call big bets, as they are terrified at the thought of suffering a huge bluff from a lady. This happened several times and she enjoyed winning monstrous pot with the nuts.

At the WSOP 2010, Vanessa Rousso did quite well. She finished 5th in event 35, the heads up no-limit Hold’em championship where she earned $94,956. She had another small cash in. She has cashed in 12 times at the WSOP since 2005.

Women are finally taken seriously in the poker world today. This is especially true these days as young female players have performed well during major tournament. The new generation of fearless young women who are not intimidated by a mass of older men is rising.

Tight-Passive Opponents

Tight-passive players include anyone with scores of 1-3 on both dimensions of tightness-aggression (scale 1-10). Many of these principles and examples refer primarily to rocks (1,1). The lower a player’s scores, the more likely he is to act, think, and feel like a rock.

Most rocks are heavily influenced by their inherent conservatism, but they are not as dominated by their emotions as maniacs and calling stations. Those loose players’ emotions make them choose a self-defeating style, while the tight-passive style can often lead to success, especially in smaller limit games which have many weak players. This is not true in higher stakes games where such players have predictable and transparent betting patterns for observant players who will exploit their style without mercy.

Like the maniacs and calling stations (in fact more than them), rocks are rigid and predictable. You know that they are going to fold hand after hand, call with only premium cards, and raise only with excellent ones.

Less extreme tight passive players have more self-control and flexibility. When dealing with a 3,3, you must be more cautious in applying these principles. You still have to make the same sorts of adjustments, but you must use more judgment and expect a more effective and unpredictable opponent. You must constantly look for variations in his style and adjust to how he is playing now.

Rocks have half of a winning style, and, if they choose their games carefully, it is enough to win a little. If they do not choose well, they will lose, but they may not lose much. Less extreme tight-passive players will win more, and they can beat more games.

If either score is 4 or more, a player is outside of the corner labeled “tight-passive,” and some of these principles may not apply to him. Since tight passive players share passivity and tightness with the adjacent “corners,” some parts of this section will overlap with the sections on loose-passive and tight-aggressive players.

In summary spot these tight-passive players early and know how to read them like books. And make sure to not play this way, this is not the way to make money playing poker.

Online poker is tough

For some people, online poker seems easy. For other people, it seems hard. Where do you belong?

When I started to play online poker, I found it hard to be profitable. Then I studied the game more, I read more and I tried to discover why I was losing in order to remedy that.

If you are losing at online poker but would like to win, one key thought that can help you dramatically is the following. All players are human beings, and intelligence is not the main reason to lose or win. The main reason is our psychological tendencies. So if we have leaks, and we correct them, then we will improve our results.

Online poker is a lot about automatic actions and the first step it to at least play correctly and avoid obvious “mistakes”. If some players can be profitable, so why not you?

After a few months of playing online poker, I noticed that I had a tendency not to fold when facing huge bets in an already large pot. Somehow I was in denial, wondering and doubting why my opponent would be making such large bets is he really had such a great hand. It turned out that often he had a great hand. My inability to fold in big pot led to big lost pots, and this is probably why I was a losing player while I could have been a winning player otherwise.

I learned to fold. I learned to almost never feel committed whatever the amount of chips already in the pot. Feeling committed is a leak as it leads to adding to your loss. I learned to focus on who was the player making the big bets, and depending on my profiling of him, I would decide to fold or not. For example it was quite obvious when a solid shark-rock type player was attacking the pot aggressively that he had a monster hand, so why feed his children?

Another important element is to not turn out to become predictable. If you start to systematically fold against large bets, then some observant players will notice and use that against you and bluff you. So mixing up your game is the second key.

Learn to fold and to it mix up, and you will shine at the poker table.

Online poker tells

One of the key for online poker success is to be able to spot and exploit online poker tells.

This is a true online poker skill, as most players are somehow aware of these strong clues betraying their opponents’ hand strength. but few players succeed in really making it a strategy to use this information systematically.

The main online poker tells are as follow. These are regular tells used by average players, and you will see a lot of them at most online poker rooms such as PokerStars. But skilled players know how to conceal their tells and use them deceptively.

The quick check shows strength, while a delayed check tend to indicate some weakness. Basically a player who does not check immediately wants to pretend that he is thinking if he should bet or not, implying that he has a somehow strong hand, when in reality he has a weak hand. Conversely the player who seeks to trap with a strong hand will check fast to pretend to have a weak hand.

Another online poker tell is the delayed bet which normally corresponds with strength. If a player has a very strong hand, he does not want to bet instantly, as this usually means a monster and his wise opponents will fold. But he does not want to check either, and this is the way to go: bet your strong hands. So he bets but pretends to think about it, representing a hand somehow strong but not that strong, and hoping to get one caller with a medium strength hand.

This is why this next tell is kind of the opposite of the previous one: the quick bet may represent weakness. Here a distinction is in order. The total newbie will make a fast bet with strong hands. But the somehow tricky player with a tendency for loose play and some bluffing will make a quick bet when he has a weak hand in order to discourage callers. So know who you are playing against before you make a judgment.

Finally and this is one of the strongest online poker tells, the insta-call shows a lot of strength (in online poker lingo, “insta” means instantaneous). Strength because the caller knew and was ready to act given his strong hand; but he knew that he would not raise given that he hopes to increase the pot at the next street (with another call or a raise this time).

Use these online poker tells wisely and you bankroll will rise.