Beating online poker - part 1

This article was posted on December 14, 2007

Have you ever wondered why sometimes it seems so difficult to beat online poker? Even people who are good live poker players often feel the same way.
The reason is probably the fact that online poker presents some pretty peculiar challenges for players. We'll try to take a closer look at those challenges in this article.

To begin with, online poker provides something that is generally regarded as an advantage for the players: anonymity. Is anonymity really an advantage though? It might well be for beginners and weak players, but for a person who understands the game of poker and is good at it, it's much more of a pain in the neck.

People who are successful live poker players find it even more frustrating. The problem stems from the fact that good poker players (watch some videos featuring pros) play the player and not the hand. How can someone play his/her opponents when online poker makes it all but impossible to get to know them?

This is where most good live poker players go wrong. They assume that all they have to do is bring their usual play to the table. Only when they're well into the game do they realize that they're caught up in an extremely frustrating affair. They're robbed of the most important thing that used to be the driving force behind their game, the one thing that made it possible for them to become winners. What can somebody do to counteract this online poker drawback? There's no easy way really to create an accurate image on a guy sitting half a world away, concealed by some ambiguous user-nick. Taking notes on players and their actions in given circumstances is about the only way to handle the situation.

Worry not though, you don't have to resort to the good old-fashioned paper and pencil anymore. Most online poker rooms feature tools which you can use to take notes on players, and check those notes out later, anytime. In theory, these notes look like a handy solution to the problem, in practice though, players come and go relatively fast at online poker tables, so it all only makes real sense at high-limit tables where the customer-base is relatively constant.

Another problem ' which is a direct consequence of the above discussed one ' is that good players will 'overplay' against weak players, not knowing what to expect of them. Playing out intricate strategy against someone who has no idea what's going on is not only frustrating, it can be annoyingly counter-productive as well. It's a lot like telling a joke to some dumb guy who never understands a word of what you're saying. Bluffing one of these guys equals failure, because he'll never catch on to the fact that you're showing strength. Against these guys, playing a good old fashioned, straightforward tight-aggressive game is the way to go. At higher limits/stakes though, player skills will also show dramatic improvement, so that becomes an entirely different affair.

Against strong players it makes perfect sense to reach deep into your bag of tricks and throw everything except the kitchen sink at them.
Calling stations represent excellent value, but they don't require any fancy plays either. Until you recognize a player for what he is though, you'll be exposed to all the crazy variations and frustrations online poker is famous for.

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