Online poker, particularly Texas Holdem, has become a cultural stronghold all over the country and many parts of the world. With the help of the Internet and countless enterprising offshore poker sites, wagers are no longer being made by the seasoned poker pro, but rather people from all walks of life from the comfort of their own homes.
“Professional poker player” has become one of the most sought after job titles out there. With the amount of popularity it attracts, this isn’t the least bit surprising. If you could sit around in your bathrobe all day and take peoples money while playing a game (between naps and eating of course) why wouldn’t you? You don’t even have a boss, no commute, and anyone can buy their way into the job.
The mass popularity of poker has even extended to the TV airwaves through the airing of poker tournaments and poker room advertising campaigns. Players in these tournaments are often shown playing modest hands rather aggressively, even going “all-in” to scare their opponents off the pot.
So what has this cultural shift meant for online poker?
Every day, hundreds of thousands of people come to play online. Many simply view it as a means of entertainment and want to experience the thrill they see on TV and hear about from friends. Many see the edited tournament footage on TV and believe that bluffing is a necessary component to winning big. These same people are usually the ones consistently making heavy wagers and quickly draining their deposits.
The truth about winning at poker is that patience is king – the most successful players are not those who make the cavalier ‘all-in’ call. Rather, those with the state of mind to recognize when their opponent is getting restless and wants to play (at any cost). Most of the time, these impatient players will actually end up winning the hand. What happens next is very interesting from a psychological standpoint. The confidence of these players will inflate (kind of like a bubble). They begin to think that ‘it actually is this easy to win at online poker’ and this only highlights their oblivious view of the game.
Before long, their tactic meets a roadblock – someone actually calls them on their bluff. Usually this is a relatively quiet player who has observed how loose this individual has been playing and was just waiting for the opportunity to accept the challenge. Of course, this smart player only plays premium hands; the same cannot be said for our oblivious player. So the hand, more often than not, goes to the patient and experienced player.
The newly bankrupt player tries to rationalize the loss. After all, he had just won the past 10 hands he played – how could this single hand have wiped him out? Just a run of bad luck, he tells himself. So, in goes another deposit from the wide array of banking options provided by the impartial poker room. The cycle continues.
It has been noted by several poker pros that over the long term, only 10% of players are actually turning a profit. Interesting how that highly touted work from home position is one that you are now paying to have, rather than the other way around. It is also the profession with the highest turnover. Luckily for the real pros, though, there are more than enough players taking up the game every day to maintain the status quo.
So how can you overcome this dangerous and costly cycle that is making those professional players rich? Here are a few simple tips to not only improve your game, but also to put you in the correct state of mind next time to go to a table.
Play Premium Hands Only
The impatience of most novice player is what eventually cost them their stack. Selectively viewing flops will allow you to win a greater percentage of the hands you play and will save you a fortune on calls where you stand little chance of winning. This is especially true for high stakes poker players.
An interesting phenomenon that has emerged as a result of online poker is that many people choose to play unconsciously, choosing to do other things (watch TV, surf the web, or talk on the phone). This is a huge advantage to those who are paying attention to what is happening at the table.
Even though it seems obvious, many people forfeit the opportunity to read the tendencies of other players at the table. You may not be able to see the other guy scratching his eyebrow every time he’s got something good, but how and when bets are made is just as revealing. This takes a little practice but you will never learn if your mind is elsewhere.
Play at Your Level
Play at limits where you find people at the same skill and experience level as yourself. Many make the critical mistake of moving up the ranks far quicker than their skill level dictates. Just because you were able to double your money at a low limit table, don’t think that is enough to move up.
Also, make sure you’ve got enough at the table so you can capitalize on quality hands when they do come around. Nothing is more painful than getting the nuts with just a few dollars available to bet.
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