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Tom’s Winning Tips for Online Poker — Part III

Final pieces of advice

by Tom McEvoy |  Published: Jan 08, 2010


This is the final column in a three-part series about online poker. I hope that my previous tips and those in this column are helpful to you.

Tip No. 8
Don’t put more money into your online account than you can afford to lose. This tip is ignored or forgotten more often than just about any other piece of advice that I have to offer. Why does this happen so often? I think it’s because in the heat of battle, we often chase our losses. Sometimes we play higher than we should, and other times we start playing bad poker — otherwise known as going on tilt. Once you start chasing your losses and playing bad hands, things can get out of control very quickly. Play in your comfort zone. I have known extremely wealthy people who were not comfortable playing higher than $20-$40 limit or $2-$5 no-limit. Even Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, has been known to step into a Las Vegas cardroom and play $3-$6 limit — much lower than he could afford to play if he so desired.

Remember that once you have booked some wins, the money in your online account is real money, and it is yours to keep or reinvest. Do not give it back, especially if you need it to pay your rent, buy groceries, or pay a doctor bill. Of course, the best way to avoid giving it back is to quit the game when you know that you should. No matter how good you think the game is, it is not a good game for you if you are losing. It’s OK to push your luck a little when you are winning, but if things are not going well, maybe it’s time to call it a day. I never want to lose more in one session than I can reasonably expect to win in the same size game in my next session. In a limit game, I don’t want to lose more than about 20 big bets, so if I am playing $10-$20 limit hold’em, I am going to quit if I am stuck around $400. That is an amount that I can probably recoup in a decent winning session, but if I am stuck around $800, it is very hard to win that much back the next time that I play.

There are other reasons to quit, as well. If you are getting too tired to make good decisions, the weaker players have left the game and been replaced by much tougher opponents, or you don’t think you’re a favorite in the game any longer, it’s time to fold up your tent and leave the game.

Tip No. 9
Online no-limit hold’em games with bigger blinds play much differently than lower-stakes games. This is especially true from $3-$6 blinds on up. There are usually better players in these games, including some professionals, and with more to shoot for in each pot, most hands are raised preflop and there are fewer multiway pots than in the smaller games. This means there are fewer hands out that you have to beat, but the hands that stay in for a raise are usually strong starting hands.

Bluffing becomes more of a factor in these bigger games. With more money in the pot to begin with and fewer players seeing the flop, it usually means that only two or three players are contesting the pot. Since everyone who has not started with a decent pair needs to improve, it’s good to remember that each person fails to help his hand about 70 percent of the time on the flop. Therefore, continuation-bets are more common. A continuation-bet, if you are not familiar with the term, is a bet that’s usually made against one or two opponents no matter what the flop is and regardless of whether it helped your hand or not. It is usually made by the preflop raiser. You’re counting on your opponents to have missed the flop, and therefore be willing to fold to your bet. I would caution against overdoing it, as sooner or later, your opponents will catch on and start raising you with weak hands to resteal the pot.

Tip No. 10
Always be aware of your table image. If you are perceived as a tight player, bluff more. If you have been caught bluffing once or twice, don’t bluff anymore; just wait for a strong hand and milk it for all it’s worth. Think about your opponents’ table images. Try to get inside their heads and put yourself in their place. What do they think of you? What do they think that you think of them? Ego has destroyed more bankrolls than anything else. You’re there to get the money, not show off. Online players are notorious for being oblivious at times. Mike Caro has described FPS. That stands for fancy play syndrome, and it falls into the category of showing off to your opponents. You want them to think you’re a clever player and can outplay them. This does not work against opponents who are unaware of what you are doing, and professional players usually catch on quickly to what you’re up to, so be very careful when you make a tricky play. Make it when you think it will work against somebody. But remember that most online opponents don’t always think in a rational manner.

Tip No. 11
Stay focused and in the moment. This is especially crucial in tournament play. No-limit hold’em is a very unforgiving game. Make one mistake at a crucial time, and you’re out of the tournament. It is of the utmost importance that you pay attention when playing in online events. You can’t be eyeball to eyeball with your opponents, so you need to take notes and be aware of when a new player sits down at the table. Players with a lot of chips either got very lucky or played extremely well to accumulate them. Try to figure out as soon as possible which it is. Sometimes, it is a little of both. Online tournaments have both advantages and disadvantages compared to tournaments in brick-and-mortar casinos. The advantages are that you can play in the comfort of your home, take short breaks every hour, and play more hands per hour. The disadvantages are that you can’t actually see your opponents, and that makes it tougher to accurately evaluate them, and you have less time to act on your hand, so everything goes at a much faster pace. For players who need a little more time to think things through, this is a definite disadvantage. Also, you have shorter periods of time before the blinds and antes increase. Spade Suit

Tom McEvoy is a Team Pro for PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker site. He also is an instructor for DeepStacks University, a new online teaching site, and is available for seminars or private instruction. His website is