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Beating Online Poker 2.0

by Ed Miller |  Published: Jun 12, 2013


Ed MillerWhen Ultimate Poker ( dealt its first real money hand on April 30, 2013, it launched the new era of online poker in the USA.

For those who don’t know, Nevada has legalized online poker within its borders, and Ultimate Poker is the first site to launch under the new regulations. The site is available for play to anyone currently in the state of Nevada. You don’t have to be a Nevada resident. You can be a temporary resident or on vacation. You can create an account and play on your next trip to Las Vegas.

If you don’t live in Nevada, fear not, as a few other states have also legalized online poker. Even more states are presently considering legalization. I think it’s likely that online poker will be legally available to the majority of Americans within a few years.

This wave of new American online poker I’ve been calling Online Poker 2.0. Since these changes first appeared to be forthcoming, I’ve been very optimistic about Online Poker 2.0.

Prior to the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006, online poker was an incredible opportunity for the skilled player. I knew a significant number of players who had made over a million dollars playing online poker both in 2004 and 2005. Not-so-skilled players of my acquaintance were clearing six-figure years. For a few heady years, money rained from the heavens.

After the law passed, online poker became progressively tougher year over year. Casual Americans stopped playing, and few new players replaced them. Hand databases and heads-up displays increased the efficiency of the good players, and the regulars took over whole sites like a cancer. While I knew a number of people in 2006 who had made high six figures grinding mid-level cash game poker the year before, by 2012 I didn’t know any such players.

But now it’s time for Online Poker 2.0. The clock has been turned back ten years. The player pool is shrunk. The stakes are small. (As of this writing, the biggest game on Ultimate Poker is a $3-$6 no-limit game with a $300 maximum buy-in.) There are no massive hand databases or HUDs.

More importantly, there are billboards all over Las Vegas encouraging poker enthusiasts to deposit money and start playing. Getting money on Ultimate Poker is trivial. Withdrawing from your account is as simple as stopping by the cashier cage of any Stations casino. Instant cash withdrawals beat any withdrawal option offered by the old online poker. The security of deposits is much stronger than it ever has been before.

And the games are nearly as soft as they were ten years ago. Having seen online poker evolve over the years from cash cow to a relative shark tank, it’s exciting for me to see online games playing like they did long ago.

Now I’m sure online poker here in Nevada will get tougher over time, just like it did the first time around. But the beauty of all this is that new sites and new markets will be opening one by one over the next decade. If Ultimate Poker is relatively tough in five years, fear not, as a brand new site with fresh players will be opening in Arizona or California or Florida.

If you’ve ever fancied yourself a part-time or full-time poker pro, the time to start your journey is now. Over the coming years, the opportunities will be there. And the upside could possibly be huge.

What Works Today

Let’s get back to what exists today. I’ve been playing the $3-$6 six-max no-limit game at Ultimate Poker. It’s beatable for a nice winrate. So far, I’ve seen two characteristic classes of opponents: casual opponents and “regs.” First are the casual players. These guys make two big errors. First, they are too willing to play for stacks preflop (even though they are just 50 big blind stacks). The action will go like this:

Someone opens to $12, and there’s a caller. Casual player in the big blind shoves for $250. The original raiser calls with A-Q, and the casual player shows J-9 suited.

In a vacuum, this play is not necessarily horrible. But these casual players do this way too frequently. If you were to track the number of preflop shoves from these players over time, you’d see far too high a percentage of junk hands. Furthermore, these shoves usually appear as a response to something that happened in the game. Maybe BigDaddy123 lost a pot recently. Or maybe he’s been running over the table. Either way, if you’re paying attention to the game flow, you can often make an educated guess about whether a casual player has gone off the deep end or just picked up a hand.

Even worse, these guys will also call all-in with hands like this. For instance, someone open-raises to $18, the casual player three-bets to $52, and the original raiser shoves for $300. Then the casual player calls it off with J-9 suited or A-7 or the like.

The second big error the casuals make is that they tend to call shoves far too often on the turn or river.

Therefore, my basic strategy against these players is to try to play for stacks preflop with a premium hand. Without a premium hand, I see a flop and try to keep the hand going through the river. If I’m a big favorite over my opponent’s range by the river, I’ll just shove rather than try a smaller bet. You can even shove “thin” against these guys, because they simply don’t adjust their calling range enough for the bet size.

The regs in these games (such that anyone can thus far have established themselves as a regular) have been a cautious lot. There hasn’t been a lot of light three-betting, nor a lot of multi-barrel bluffing. I’ve made a few calldowns against these players in situations where I’d feel compelled to pay off an aggressive player. I’ve been losing them, often shown the (unlikely from a raw probability perspective) good hand the aggression represents.

My conclusion from these limited data points, combined with their approach in other less dramatic hands, is that these guys are sitting tight and waiting for hands more than a typically aggressive online six-max player would.

This is, of course, a good thing. Tight, less aggressive regs make for easier games.

My strategy against the regs going forward will be to give their aggression more credit, but also to try to steal pots from them with multi-barrel bluffing at the first sign of weakness.

The Time Is Now

Online Poker 2.0 presents a terrific opportunity for American players over the coming years. New sites will open, new players will deposit money and try their luck, and skilled players will have opportunity after opportunity to attack games and generate profits. Start working on your game today. Join a training site. Buy some books (mine come with my highest recommendation). Practice, practice, practice. Investments made today will likely pay off for you in Online Poker 2.0. ♠

Ed’s newest book, Playing The Player: Moving Beyond ABC Poker To Dominate Your Opponents, is on sale at Find Ed on Facebook at and on Twitter @EdMillerPoker.