Introduction to Internet Poker
Planet Poker first introduced real money action to the Internet in 1999. Since then, Internet poker has grown to degrees few could imagine. On any given night, you can find thousands of players from all over the world playing poker for real money on the Internet.
The dimension of the Internet is bringing the game to thousands of players who never had access to the game before. Many beginning players are able to play online for play money or at micro limits that are not offered in live casinos. Of course, many players do not live in areas that have a live casino, so the Internet now gives them a way to find a game.
Many of these new players born on the Internet are finding their way to the live casino. The tremendous growth of live tournaments around the world is an excellent example. Many of the players going to these tournaments are honing their skills on the Internet. For example, the 2003 World Series of Poker main event featured over 30 entrants who won their $10K entry at Internet poker sites. The winner, Chris Moneymaker, had never played a live tournament before and was able to outplay over 800 of the best players in the world to take home the $2.5 million top prize at the World Series of Poker!
Online vs. Live Play
Many poker players now prefer online play compared to live play. Some of the benefits to playing online include:
» No commute
» No tipping
» Quicker action/More hands per hour
» Deposit bonuses and other promotions
» 24-hour action
» Tremendous selection of games
» No second-hand smoke
» Ability to play multiple tables at the same time
A common theme throughout this book is strategy differences between online and live play. Most of the strategies described in this book could be used successfully whether you play live poker or on the Internet; however subtle strategy differences between the Internet and live games are important to understand. These strategy differences arise from several characteristics unique to the Internet:
» Short playing sessions: Players move in and out of games a lot more than they do in a live game, so you are rarely playing the same opponents for a very long time.
» A virtual environment: Players tend to be more deceptive and tricky on the Internet where there is no face-to-face interaction, and betting or raising is just a mouse click away.
» Internet distractions: Opponents are not as observant playing on the Internet as they are in live games since they sometimes play two tables, read e-mail, watch television, talk on the phone, and many other things that might distract them from the game.
Let’s discuss these unique characteristics in a little more detail and the impact they may have on your strategy.
Short Playing Sessions
One big difference between the Internet and live play is that players are constantly moving in and out of games. The accessibility of the Internet allows players to sit down and play just a few hands, a few minutes, or maybe only an hour.
In a live game, you generally are playing with the same opponents for at least a few hours and maybe even up to seven or eight hours. Most people don’t bother to drive to a casino unless they plan on staying for at least a few hours. Once there, it even takes a little effort to switch tables. You must notify the floor person to list your name and then you must physically get up and move yourself along with all of your belongings. Some poker rooms even manage the tables to keep an even number of players at each table, so you might have to wait a long time before you are even able to move.
Compare this to the Internet where games are running 24 hours a day in your home or office. Switching poker sites or switching tables is just a mouse click away, so it is very easy to move in and out of games.
The end result is that in a live game you might be playing with the same opponents for several hours. This rarely occurs on the Internet. How does this affect strategy?
Your opponents will not have a very long time to evaluate your play. This means that you should play more straightforward and less deceptively than you would in a live game. One of the benefits of playing deceptively or trying a bluff is the advertising value you receive on future hands when your opponents think you are a loose wild player. A loose table image can help you earn more chips later when you hold strong hands that your opponents call because they think you might be bluffing. On the Internet, you may not be sitting with the same opponents long enough to benefit from this image.
Against regular opponents, you need to mix up your play even on the Internet, as you cannot be too predictable. But overall, you should mix it up less than you would in a live game. Against new opponents, the best strategy is to simply play a straightforward tight game without worrying too much about how your table image might affect future hands.
A Virtual Environment
On the Internet, you are dealing with names, not faces. You cannot stare your
opponents in the eyes to see what they tell you. This psychological part of poker
makes for a different type of game on the Internet versus live games. For example,
although I don’t advise it, there seems to be more bluffing and tricky play on the
Internet compared to live games. I suspect this to be the case because players
don’t have to “show” their face when making terrible plays or terrible bluffs. They
can simply will away at home in front of their computer screens. In live play, many
players find it difficult to make crazy bluffs when they have to look their opponents
in the eye.
Another reason why players may tend to bluff more online than in a casino is the ease in which you can bluff. Online you just have to click your mouse. In a live game, you have to physically move your chips into the center of the table. I believe that some players on the Internet forget that they are dealing with “real” money and may tend to get careless at times by simply hitting the bet or raise button for that slim chance at a win.
Of course, these are generalizations, but players tend to be more deceptive and tricky on the Internet than in a live game. This impacts strategies in two ways. First, you can’t assume your opponents are bluffing all the time, but you will need to call and raise a little more often against those opponents who are trying to win every pot. On the other hand, you should probably bluff a little less often than in a live game since your opponents will tend to call you a little more. They also realize that player’s online bluff a lot, so they will tend to call more even with weak hands. They will also find it easier to just click the mouse to call compared to physically moving their chips in a live game.
Many players play two tables, read e-mail, watch television, talk on the telephone, and many other things that might distract them from the game. Since there are so many distractions, some of your opponents may not be aware of all the action that is taking place. This is yet another reason to use less deception in your game, since some of your opponents will not even see some of your plays so that you can gain some future value out of them.
One final point about play on the Internet. Since players move in and out of games a lot, can’t see your face, and are distracted by many other things, they tend to notice less that you are playing a tight game. In a live game, if you sit there a couple of hours without playing a hand, don’t expect a lot of action when yon decide to bet or raise. On the Internet, you can play a straightforward tight game for a long time and still get good action when you bet since opponents either do not notice or have not had enough time to realize that you are such a tight player.
On the other hand, if you don’t play many hands in a live game, your chances for pulling off a successful bluff are high, while on the Internet I doubt this gives you much of an advantage. A bluff on the Internet is usually only profitable by the merits of the play of the particular hand, not by table image.
Advanced Concept: Table image is not as important online as in a live poker game since players are easily distracted and move in and out of games a lot; therefore, generally play a more straightforward tight game online than you would in a live game.
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