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Part II: Adjusting to the Online Poker Environment

Author's Note: This article is part of a larger Introductory Poker Course for new players. Links are provided at the bottom of this page.

The advantages of online poker play over real casino play are obvious:

  • you can play from the comfort of your own home, no gas costs
  • increased privacy and not having to worry about physical tells
  • the number and variety of games
  • the ease of moving from one table to another with a few mouse clicks, as opposed to having to ask the pit boss for a transfer.
  • no dealer to tip every time that you win a hand(serious perk)
  • the wide range of tournament and sit-and-go games with relatively small house fees

Its all relatively better online except for one crucial point: at a live casino if you win money during the course of your play time there, you get to walk out the door with money in your hands. Online poker sites have processing and delivery times and fees, no matter which method of cash-out that you use. Online sites will pay dutifully according to their own schedule, but they don't like to see money walk out the door, that's for certain. Most sites will allow you to reverse your decision to cash-out while they are verifying and processing your transfer. So if you leave yourself some money to play with after a winning stretch, and happen to lose it while they are processing your request for a cash-out, and then you just happen to get that itch to put your cash-out money back into play-well-the online poker site owners would like nothing better. That whole scenario is a serious issue for the poker player and is something that you should be aware of. Again, on this point, it comes down to self mastery.

I've been playing online since about 2002, and generally speaking my own experience has been that the atmosphere and level of respect among competing players has greatly improved since then. In general, people seem to treat each other better, and there is a lot less maliciousness and nasty chat going on. That's not to say that it has completely fallen off the face of the Earth, not by any means. But there is less of it. Its easier for people to say mean things from behind the safety of a computer screen, and easier for them to act out on their angry feelings if they feel that you beat them by making a play which is statistically incorrect, a poor strategy. That is almost always how it starts.

Every online poker room has an option available to block a particular player's chat from coming through to you, either by right clicking on their seat or through another set of controls. I suggest that you take advantage of that option before getting into it with some jerk. You will make more of the correct decisions if you are in a calm frame of mind. In fact being very angry during the course of play is toxic to your bankroll.

One more thing that I want to mention before we move on to playing strategy is your considerations for the blind level and type of Texas Hold Em game that you want to play, Limit or No Limit.

A Limit game is just that, the betting is structured into set amounts which you can't exceed, and No Limit affords you the opportunity to bet and raise the amount of money that you have at the table with you at a given point in time.

The idea of being able to lose everything in one hand is enough to make most beginning players shy away from No Limit at first. However, you should realize that due to the fact that the players can't lose everything in one hand at a Limit game, the play tends to be a lot more aggressive than in No Limit. Players in Limit games play more hands and they play them more aggressively. Ultimately many players get disgusted with this kind of play and give up Limit for No Limit for that reason. If you are completely new to Texas Hold Em and don't know what I am talking about here, it will make more sense to you after the next part on in-game strategy.

At any rate you have to make a choice between Limit and No Limit play. My recommendation is to try them both before too long and see which one that you tend to gravitate towards more. Most players have a dominant game, which may change over time.

Your next consideration will be betting and blind size. We have already discussed appropriate ratios of bankroll to big blind in the previous sections. Almost all online sites offer micro-play if you don't have a lot of cash to start with. Micro-games include blind levels smaller than .25/.50. You can play at blind levels as small as 2/4 cents on some sites. 200x the big blind at that level would be 8$, with 20$ you'd be really well staked indeed….

So no, you don't need a lot of money to enjoy a game of real money poker online. However playing at blinds and betting limits at micro levels may not ultimately help to improve your game. The reason for that is when players have so little to lose, they tend not to care about the outcome of the hand, and so stray away from correct play regularly. You have too many people playing hands and the whole thing can deteriorate into a game of bingo. Being in that kind of environment won't help your skills in the higher stakes games, where the course of play hinges on the fact that what is in your bankroll is worth keeping, and what is in the pot is worth winning. But if all that you are looking to do is get a sense of what online play is like, to get your feet wet, get used to the controls and so on, then a micro room is a decent place to start.

What you play is ultimately up to you. I've given you the pertinent considerations to make, except for discussing how the skill level of players differs at the various blind levels. That will be covered in its own little section later on, called Moving Up in the Blinds, so do read that before making a decision for yourself. Personally, I started with 1/2$ limit, and then changed to small stakes no limit games, then higher stakes no limit, before I finally moved back over to higher stakes limit. Now I usually play 5/10 or 10/20 limit. 5/10 limit is considered to be the entry point for higher stakes limit games. (FYI):)

That wraps it up for Part II. Here's a little review:

  • Online play has all the advantages but the cash-out process. Be prepared to let your cash-outs hit the bank or your mailbox once you have made them-don't reverse your cash-outs.
  • Use online controls to block foul-mouth players before getting angry.
  • Limit play includes structured limited betting but is a more aggressive game than No Limit. Experimenting with both types of play is recommended.
  • You can play at micro levels but it may not feel like real poker or help you to improve your skills.
  • If you're like me and most players, you will switch around a lot before settling into the game that right for you.

The following links for this poker course are listed sequentially. Beginners may want to go through in the order in which they are listed to get the whole rundown. More advanced players may want to skip around to the parts which hold interest for them.

Poker


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