7 tips for playing poker online
By Sean Chaffin
As the coronavirus pandemic had many American indoors throughout March, many poker players rediscovered the legal online market in the U.S. Operators reported larger player pools and events like WSOP.com Online Super Series saw major payouts not seen in months.
Those looking to play for some real money online, even if only for small stakes, should still be ready to play their best games.
Whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced player, it’s always a possibility to learn and improve. Here’s a look at some ideas to re- member when playing online.
- Bet Those Big Hands
Many players often try to get too cute with strong hands. Even if you’re in early position, when picking up something like A-A, K-K, Q- Q, or A-K, it can be a bad idea to simply call – especially at tables with more players. Don’t wait for someone else to raise pre-flop and then plan a three-bet of your own afterward. If several players call and there isn’t a raise, there’s a good chance you will get those pocket aces cracked.
For example, imagine you simply call with A♠ A♦ under the gun (the first player to act) with two players also calling in middle position and both the small and big blinds come along. Five players are now in the pot and there’s a good chance one of those hands will out-flop you. What do you do with a flop of 7♥ 8♥ 9♣?
There will now be opportunities for an already-completed straight with J-10 or at least a player with a straight draw. Another player with two hearts now has equity to chase a flush. If you make a bet and then receive a big raise, you’re left in a really tough spot. It’s a better idea to bet those big hands and narrow the field, so that you’re not in as many situations like this.
- Don’t Trap Yourself
Players often try and set post-flop traps and wind up in the trap themselves. It’s important to bet strong hands on the flop so this doesn’t happen. For example, imagine you make a call from early position with a hand like 4♠ 4♦ and get a flop of 2♠ 4♣ 9♠. There’s a pretty good chance your trip 4s are good and you decide to set a trap. You check and hope for a bet with plans for a nice check-raise to get more chips in the pot.
Instead, the other two players also check and the turn brings an A♠. That is a scary card and your hand could now be in trouble if another player holds two spades or even a big spade like K♠ or Q♠ – he may now chase another spade to complete a flush. Be careful with those traps on double-suited boards or those with straight opportunities. It’s better to bet and make your opponents make a decision, which will also give you some information on the strength of their hands.
- Suited Connectors
Hands like J♦ 9♦, K♥ Q♥, 7♠ 8♠, those that are suited and can connect to make a straight or flush, are a good way to loosen up your game with hopes of hitting a nice hand. Simply sitting back and playing premium hands is a good way to get run over by other players at the table. Seeing some flops with hands like this gives a player a shot at winning some pots here and there rather than seeing blinds and antes siphoned away over and over. But be willing to fold if those hands don’t work out.
- Know When to Fold’em
Simply put, don’t be a “calling station” at the table. Being a caller over and over will siphon away chips in the long run. Calling with value is a different story. But part of being successful in poker is knowing when to send a hand to the muck and living to fight another day.
- Raise it Up
Along the lines of avoiding having a trap go wrong, it’s also important to raise with a big hand. Make other callers fold so that they don’t hit a bigger hand than yours on the flop, river, or turn. Any calls should also give you information about what they’re calling with. Raising is a powerful statement to the table. Also, consider raises on big flush draws or open-end straight draws. Players with weaker hands may fold and if that straight or flush hits, your hand may be camouflaged well and rake in even more chips from those who called and didn’t sense your semi-bluff.
- Play Position
Position may be one of the most important aspects of poker. Players who excel know how to play in this spot well. The closer you are to the button, the better your position. A player on the button acts last after the flop and has the opportunity to bet if everyone checks – and hopefully pick up the pot. Positions near the button are also good spots to open with a bet with the opportunity to act last with a continuation bet after the flop or maybe take down the pot preflop with folds from other callers and the blinds.
Position also allows a player to take stabs at “orphan pots,” those flops where players just check around on the flop and then maybe even again on the turn. If you’re on the button, it might be a good idea to put in a bet in these pots and ship those chips to your stack.
- Poker is a fluid game.
Those above are good suggestions, but it’s also important to read your opponents and figure out ways to extract more chips out of them. Also, it’s a good idea to alter styles once in a while after your table image is established. Keep those opponents guessing.
So whether you have experience at online tables or this is your first go around on the virtual felt, keep these important tips in the front of your mind as you play. And one last thing to keep in mind during your online adventure: the anonymity provided by online poker will often bring out players who play poorly and hyper aggressively because they can hide behind the screen. Take advantage of that when you can, but expect to lose from time to time to a player that bets foolishly or shouldn’t have even stayed in the hand.
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and senior writer for Casino Player and Strictly Slots magazines. He is also the writer and host of the True Gambling Stories podcast. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for story assignments.