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Some of you, you might not be quite ready to make the jump into online poker just yet. You may want a little more information about what to expect, what it’s like, and how you can maximize your potential for winning. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to take things slow and make sure you have all your ducks in a row before diving in.
In the next few sections, we’re going to do our best to help you wrangle those ducks. We’ll talk about how online real money poker compares to playing in person, the top tips you need to know before you get started, and finally, how you can get started today. Stick with us for a few minutes, and we’ll have you primed and ready to jump on the felt in minutes. Kudos to you for wanting to make sure you’re doing it the right way.
How It Compares with Brick and Mortar Poker
If you’re used to playing poker in smoky card rooms and colorful casinos, the thought of playing from your computer or phone might be a new one. You’ve probably heard people talk about online poker, but until now you really haven’t looked into it much. If you’re like most people, though, you’ve got a lot of questions about how the experience is going to compare with playing in person.
In the next few sections, we’re going to dig into some of the major differences between the two formats of real money poker. Hopefully, this will give you the insight you need to know what’s in store for you so you can pull the trigger and get in the game.
Getting a Seat in the Game
If you’ve ever been to a card room on a Friday night or showed up to register for a major tournament, you know the definition of the phrase “wait list.” Sometimes it can take hours to get into the cash game you want or just as long to finally grab a seat in a multi-table tournament, especially one with a big guarantee.
When you play online, the time you wait to get into a game is always going to be much shorter. If all the cash game tables are full, they just open another one. They have no limitations with space, dealers, or floor staff because everything is done digitally. This means that there will always be an open seat for you. Now, you may have to wait if you are trying to get onto a specific table (maybe to chase a fish donating their money), but that’s understandable.
With multi-table tournaments (MTTs), the wait time is going to be minimal as well. As soon as they have enough players signed up on the waitlist, they just open another table and balance everyone around as needed. They can’t rebalance this often in live settings because people would get annoyed having to stand up and physically move tables. Online, you’ll move tables without batting an eye. It’s instant and requires no effort on your part. Because of this, they can get people seated in MTTs fast and without much of a wait, if any at all.
Tells, Reads, and Game Flow
The one thing that’s going to be very different about playing online real money poker is that you’re not going to be able to see your opponents. You’ll see a screen name and an avatar, and that’s it. So, if you’re someone that prides yourself and bases your game around being able to read your opponent’s body language, you might not be a huge fan of online poker.
This doesn’t mean you can’t pick up reads or tells. You can still analyze game flow, look at bet sizing, and take notes on the historical tendencies of each player. You’d be surprised how much information you can gather just based on how someone is playing. From our experience, people are a lot worse at reading physical tells than they think they are, especially against someone who is seasoned or is attempting to throw off fake tells. But, it’s hard to argue with historical play, and betting tells because they really can’t be faked.
The Speed of Play
Online poker goes much faster than any brick and mortar game you’ve ever played. Even the slowest online real money poker game is going to go quicker than the fastest brick and mortar game. This is because you don’t have to wait on the dealer to shuffle or deal the cards out. Everything happens digitally and instantly, which makes for a much faster experience. Additionally, there are time limits that force players to act in a timely manner. No more do you have to wait for the drunk guy or girl at the end of the table to realize it’s their turn every single hand.
If you’re a good player, this is a huge perk for you. Good players want to get in as many hands as possible, as their expected value should get them a higher total return the more hands they play against inferior opponents. This is true for cash games, as well as MTTs. Online poker play is much faster, but not so fast that you can’t keep up. It runs like how you would want an efficient live poker game to run.
The Ability to Multi-Table
Speaking of getting in more hands and more action, when you play real money poker online, you’re able to multi-table. This means you can play more than one game at a time to maximize your action and also your fun. Live poker can be boring sometimes, especially if you’re in a loose game and going card dead. When you’re able to play more than one game at a time, you’ll have some sort of action on one of your tables.
You certainly do not have to multi-table if that’s not something you’re interested in. Either way, the option is there.
The Size of the Games and Prize Pools
When you play real money poker in-person, you are relegated to the games that they have available. Usually, there are only a few cash-game stakes to choose from. The higher limit games are usually only a few tables (or non-existent), and you’re probably not going to find anything below $1-$2.
When it comes to tournaments, you’ll find some nice sized guarantees live, but only if there is a major event going on. This usually happens only a few times a year in a particular location. The only way to get year-round big tournament action live is to travel with one of the circuits, which just isn’t feasible for most people.
When you play online, though, you have access to players from all around the world. This means that the number of cash games you’ll have to choose from and the stakes available will be greater. You’ll have more access to higher-limit games, as well as lower limit games, sometimes as low as .01/.02. The tournament prize pools are also going to be massive. You’ll be able to win unheard of amounts of money for small buy-ins, sometimes under $20 or $10.
The bottom line is the amount of action, and the levels of action offered are going to be a lot bigger when you play real money poker online because you have access to players from around the world.
Top Tips for Playing Real Money Poker Online
While we aren’t going to get into actual hand strategy of playing poker, we do want to give you some tips to make sure that you’re getting started on this journey the right way. These foundational tips will ensure that you step off properly and put yourself in a position to win big without making costly mistakes.
Game Select Because You Can
When you play cash games in person, you are usually forced to sit at whatever game has an open seat for you. You can put in for a table transfer if you want, but you’re going to have to wait to do that until a seat opens up and you really can’t do it as many times as you want unless you want the floor staff to despise you.
When you play cash games online, you get to flip through the lobby and look for your perfect game. You can hunt bad players, changes stakes, or just get away from good players if you need to.
Take advantage of game selection because it’s available. Don’t just pick the first game and hop in. Look for good players you recognize or bad players you recognize. Look at the stack sizes and make sure you’re comfortable with how much money everyone has on the table. Watch the action for a minute if you want, just to make sure you’re comfortable with how the game is going.
If you see things you don’t like, look for a different game! You are not able to hover over games in person and watch the action before you sit. Take advantage of this big perk of playing online. Game selection is one of the keys to becoming a successful online poker player.
Play a Few Practice Hands First
Even if you’re a serious poker player who plays for big money live, we highly recommend you spend at least two minutes at the play money tables before you sit down for real money. Why? You need to make sure you’re comfortable with all of the buttons and features of the poker site before you start playing for real money. Make sure you know how to work everything, that the settings you want are correct, and that you’re comfortable before you switch over to real money.
If you make a mistake, it costs you nothing. You’d be shocked at how easy it is for one little setting to cause a mistake. For example, do you want the table to pop to the foreground of your screen when it’s your turn? If you choose yes, the table is going to take control of your action, and if you’re working on something else, you might accidentally bet or call, which could be costly. If you select no, you might miss your turn if you’re working on something else while you’re playing.
The bigger tip here is not to be working on something else while you’re playing, but we know how people are so we’re just being realistic. Make sure you take a few minutes to experiment with play money and make sure you have a firm grasp on all of the controls, and that the table settings are set exactly how you want them. It should only take you a couple of minutes, and then you can get into the real money poker action you came for.
Choose the Right Game Format
When you play in-person, you’re stuck with whatever game formats the casino or card room are running. The same is true when you play online poker, except that the options available are going to be a lot more. You’ll have options that include how many players are at the table (2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10), options for different types of poker (hold em, limit, Omaha, razz, stud, badugi, etc.), and different formats (MTT, cash games, sit and go’s, heads up, etc.).
Make sure you take the time to understand each format and find the one that is the best fit for you and your skill set. Don’t just log on and jump into the first game you see. Explore the lobby and see what they’re offering. There might not be games running in each format, but at least know what is available.
Take Advantage of Technology
There are A LOT of programs, software, and resources available to enhance your online real money poker experience. Do you have to use them? Certainly not, but you need to be aware that your opponents might be using them. We recommend that you take some time and do some research into what sort of things are out there and which might help you to gain an edge on your opponents.
The most basic forms of tech are the things offered by the site. For example, the ability to take notes on your opponents that will stay with them and show up anytime you’re at their table. This is something you’ll definitely want to take advantage of.
Next, you have tracking software that will tell you not only your results but the results of your opponents. You can look up how successful or terrible they are, which can help you decide how to play against them and whether you want to play against them at all.
Pro players are using top-level technology, but you can use it too, even if you’re an aspiring amateur. First, there are heads-up displays (HUDs). This software displays the hand histories of other players, so you get an idea of how they might act. This information can help you to make decisions and exploit your opponent’s weaknesses.
Next, they have software that helps with game selection. It can rifle through the lobby of a site, identify the weakest players, and recommend games for you.
These are just a few examples of the tech that is out there for real money poker online. Again, you don’t have to use any of these if you don’t want to, but we want you to be aware that your opponents may be using these tools against you. We recommend at least looking into this software, if for no other reason than to negate your opponent’s edge.
Getting Started Today
The last step for you is to get on your horse and get in the game! Okay, you don’t actually have to get on a horse or even own a horse, but you can play horse if you want to. Seriously, though, if you’re ready to get some online real money poker action now, you’re only minutes away from being dealt it. Scroll back to the top of the guide and click on one of the real money poker sites we’ve recommended for you. These sites are going to be your best options and offer some of the best fish-filled action available.
Good luck out there! You are just minutes away from being on the virtual felt.