Never played poker online before? Maybe you’re new to the game entirely, or perhaps the coronavirus casino closures have hit you hard. Whatever the reason, here’s a quick guide for what to expect your first time playing on the virtual felt.
If you’ve played poker at a casino but not on a computer…
Online poker is faster
As I explain in my book A Girl’s Guide to Poker, the average casino poker table deals 30 hands per hour, while the average online poker table deals 90 hands per hour. (Multiply this by the fact that many people play on three or four digital tables at once!) Since you are making triple the amount of decisions, an online poker tournament will be much more mentally taxing than a live one and requires greater resilience. You may be able to coast through an entire live tournament and play a cash game afterward without a problem, but feel the grind halfway through a computerized one.
Online poker is more aggressive
Digital poker is not for the faint of heart. People will reraise you much more frequently (read: all the time) with a seemingly unorthodox range. At live poker tables, the reraise hands are usually as follows: AA, KK, QQ, AK, AQ, JJ, and sometimes TT. (TT = tens in online poker lingo!) Meaning if you’re reraised at a live poker table, you should almost always fold a hand like AQ because you beat nothing. But if someone reraises you online and you have AQ, you should probably reraise them back all-in. They could very easily be messing around clicking buttons or making a move on you with a worse hand.
Online poker has better players
Put simply, and the skill level online is higher. There are a few reasons for this. For starters, casinos get more passersby and recreational players looking for a night out. People go for the experience rather than poker. But when you play poker online or on an app, people are obviously there for the poker as their #1 priority. Money also tends to be more meaningful online. Many young kids or people from different countries play virtually where $100 to you is $1,000 to them.
Familiarize yourself with the software
The last thing you want to do is go all-in for all your chips when you meant to fold. Mouse-click mistakes do happen, especially if you’re not used to the software. Many programs and apps use sliders to place bets and they can be extremely sensitive (ex. You’re trying to increase a $5 bet to $10, but end up sliding up to $350 in a millisecond). There also are usually boxes where you can type in exact amounts but can be hard to find, or not recognized as clickable.
Even CrushLivePoker owner Bart Hanson said in a recent podcast it took him months to realize the PokerBros software allowed you to type in bets rather than fumbling with the slider. Different programs will also have different time clocks — you might be allotted 90 seconds for your turn on one site, but only 10 seconds on another. Little nuances like these are everywhere. Take some time to practice for play money or at micro stakes before you invest for real.
Watch for timing tells
Just because you’re not staring eye-to-eye with your opponent doesn’t mean they don’t give off tells. When players act with lightning speed, they generally have a medium-strength hand — if they had anything better, they’d at least contemplate raising. Players that take forever to make their decisions likely are not gambling and instead are playing multiple digital tables at once so they can only play the best hands. (for example: If you’re playing ten tables at once, you might fold everything other than aces and kings) Look for games where people are acting quickly and impulsively.
If you’ve never played poker before…
Online is a great place to start. (Psst! So is my poker how-to book!) The stakes are lower — quarters instead of benjamins — so it’s a lower risk environment to practice. Since the pace is so much faster, you’ll see an infinitely greater number of hands and be able to catch-up to casino regulars in no time. A more aggressive poker will be normal for you. If you can beat the tougher online players, then live casino poker will be a piece of cake. Seriously! Practice with the best, and you’ll be the best.