Now is the Time to Level Up Your Online Poker Game

9 months ago
Now is the Time to Level Up Your Online Poker Game
24 Jul

If you’re seriously about playing poker, the best time to level up your game was yesterday. The next best time is right now. 

None of us play perfect poker and whether you’re just starting to become profitable or are a seasoned professional, there are bound to be some aspects of your game that need work. In the following article, we look at a few ways to improve your game. Some of them are perfect for relative newcomers, others for players of all abilities. 

Take Notes

Playing poker is all about information. The more information we have on a player, the more likely we are to be able to deduce patterns in their play and make expert reads against them. Better decisions versus players inevitably leads to bigger profits in the long-term. 

Many players pay a bit of attention to their opponents’ play but, ultimately, think about their own cards more. They worry more about forming hands to beat the opposition, rather than focusing on ways to actively exploit it. 

The problem is, we humans aren’t the best at remembering small details. We might remember that a certain player got very lucky with the questionable hand they played from a given position at the table, but we’re unlikely to remember just how much they oversized their bet by on the river when they slow-played the turn with the nuts 500 hands ago. 

Making notes is vital to playing online poker successfully. Some players will routinely try to slow-play you whilst jamming big money in when drawing. Others might always limp re-raise QQ or better. When dealing with tens, if not hundreds, of new players daily playing in online games, it would be unreasonable to expect a player to remember all this data. 

You should be making your notes as detailed as possible. Use all the information available (pre-flop and post-flop action, position at the table, if they might have been tilting, and the number of times you have observed the same style of play. This latter point is very important because a single instance of the kind of moves you can make these seemingly clairvoyant reads is never enough to make one. 

However, if after 2,000 hands, you notice that a player has limp-raised pre-flop with KK or better only, you may well be able to make that epic fold with A, 10 on the 10, 2, 6 board. Long-term, such reads, if accurate, will allow you to make highly profitable plays that would be foolish had you not taken extensive notes. 

Select Your Seat Wisely

Once you understand the way different players play, you can incorporate this into many aspects of your game. Obviously, you can exploit them at the table. However, you can also use it to make important pre-game decisions. 

Position is very important in poker. The player to act last has the most information of any player at the table and can make the most informed decisions. At the poker table, you will act after the player to your direct right a lot more often than you act before them. Similarly, you will act before the player to your direct left more often than you act after them. 

Knowing this and knowing spots that it’s easier to play in against certain opponents, you can choose your seat at the poker table to maximise your expected value. Let’s use a fictional full-ring poker game with five players already sat at it to illustrate this point. We’ll call the seat to the left of the button seat one and the button seat nine. 

At this fictional table, seats one, three, five, and seven are free. We know all the other players from previous games and have enough notes on them to be confident in their playing styles. 

In seat two, there is a shark, in four a very tight player, in six is a maniac, and in seats eight and nine are both overly tight players. Now, the seat you choose on this particular table is very important to the profitability of your session, there are seats that you are unlikely to come out a winner and what many people would consider great seats. 

Let’s consider each free seat in turn. Seat one is poor. The players you will be acting directly after are very tight. Playing good hands only, you won’t be able to isolate them with a wide range. You also have a shark acting after you most of the time. This means you’ll be getting three-bet a lot and have to play out of position against strong opposition. Meanwhile, you won’t make much from the players that you do have position on. 

Seat three is much better because the shark no longer has position on you. You’ll get to play with the advantage versus them a lot. It also has a tight player following you, which is good because you won’t get three-bet out of position much. However, it’s not the most profitable seat on the table. 

Seat five has basically the same issues as seat one. The player acting after you is weaker than the shark but they’re so aggressive that playing out of position versus them will be massively high variance and they’ll have the advantage of position a lot. 

Finally, is seat seven – the best seat at this table. You get to act after the maniac on almost every hand of the orbit. This is a powerful position since they’ll build massive pots in which you usually play with the advantage. The two tight players following you are also now an advantage. They’ll not try to three-bet you much and you’ll end up in heads-up pots with position against the maniac often – which is high variance but very profitable. 

Learn When to Walk Away

Just because you know how to play profitable poker doesn’t mean you always do. Many factors can impact on your metal state when playing but most common is tilt

Skilled poker players don’t just have a deep understanding of odds and probability. They also have masterful control of their emotions and are very honest with themselves about when they’re no longer playing their A-game.

It doesn’t matter if you’re sat in a dream seat acting behind the worst players you’ve ever encountered. If you’re not playing well, you’re hurting your own profits. This can mean you win less than you would have done playing your best or even outright losses. 

Poor decisions usually compound themselves because they often result in losses, which can make a player play even worse poker. Learning when your head is no longer in the game and you need to walk away is a skill that many players, even professionals, need to work on. 

Play Other Casino Games? 

Truth be told, there really isn’t much overlap between poker and other casino games. Sure, you can learn about basic odds with games like blackjack or roulette but you’re definitely gambling at a disadvantage versus the casino and are likely to lose in the long run. 

The kind of education on odds that you can get playing roulette can also be learned from a dedicated poker book. Time spent studying poker specifically will be much better spent than trying to hit a lucky streak at the roulette table. 

So, playing online casino games may not necessarily help you much when honing your poker skills, but for many poker players, they serve as a convenient distraction from the grind of playing online poker. If you intend to play with bonuses, there are certain aspects to keep in mind so you don't mess with your poker bankroll.

Improve Your Lifestyle 

Finally, it’s important to always to prepare for your poker sessions away from the table. We don’t mean by studying (that should go without saying). We mean by making improvements to your lifestyle that will increase cognitive function overall. 

Regular exercise, improving your diet, sleeping well at night, and spending quality time with people you care about in your life will all have a direct impact on your poker game. The sharper your mind is at the felt, the more profitable your game will be. 

This is seriously overlooked by many, many professional players. Of course, it’s important to understand the game well and to spend most of your time working on improvements to how you approach playing. However, it’s vital that your body and brain are also healthy, so as to increase your ability to analyse different situations and always draw upon the most relevant experience to guide your decisions.

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Writer and semi-retired poker pro from Edinburgh (UK).Read more


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