Playing poker online has a lot in common with playing poker in real life, but there are actually major differences between the two. In particular, real-world poker is played against other human beings and most of the strategy involved revolves around reading the other players while keeping your own feelings under wraps. On the other hand, online poker is played against a machine and any strategy that remains has to do with a) the game itself and b) how a virtual game will behave in contrast to humans.
Here are the top five key tips to keep in mind when playing online poker:
- Know the game. This one is always crucial when playing any sort of game but before spending a cent on an online poker machine, make sure you understand exactly how the game is played, which hands beat which and how to bet.
- Play for free first. If you’re new to poker, it’s a great idea to start off playing one of the myriad free online poker games that are played for fun, not actual money. They work the same way but you bet with fake money. In fact, even if you’re an old hand at real-world poker, perhaps play a few rounds on a free online game to get the hang of how different virtual poker is to the real thing.
- You’re playing a machine! This one’s obvious, but it cannot be stressed enough. Online poker is nothing like real poker despite all its surface similarities and the artificial dealer will not play like a real person. Also, cards aren’t actually “drawn” but are the result of a random number generator – and if you play online at a less than fully reputable online casino on a reputable virtual machine, you’re all but guaranteed that the game is rigged. Even fully legal online poker games are designed with a much higher house advantage than those at a casino.
- Play it safe. Online poker games will constantly throw you hands that are just one short of a full house, straight or royal flush in the hope that you will discard a pair or even two pairs to try and get the higher hand. If it does this, do not fall for it. Playing for 3 of a kind is often your safest bet.
- Look for patterns. The more trustworthy online poker developers may not be quite as duplicitous as to actually do what I described in tip 4, but there will undoubtedly be patterns and behaviors that can be predicted over time. Game AI is much more advanced than it once was but it seldom comes close to capturing the creativity of human opponents, so watch out for any repeated patterns by your virtual dealer and try to exploit those patterns as much as possible.
Worth noting, though, is that this only applies to online poker games where you play against a machine. You can also play real players live online and the way to win at that is the same as the way you win at any normal real-world poker game – just without the advantage of actually seeing the other players.
Which is why the main tip for this form of online poker is that without being able to see one another, players are far better off refraining from bluffing or trying to psych out your opponents. And, because cards are randomly generated here, don’t even attempt to count cards as you might when playing with a regular pack of cards.