The importance of strategy
One of the most beautiful things about online poker is its blend of skill and luck - unlike some other online casino games, a poker player can significantly improve his or her chances of long-term success by adopting the right strategy.
As an increasing number of American online poker players turn their attention to the USA's many poker sites, here is some advice to ensure you don't get left behind.
Never underestimate the value of position in online poker. Playing a hand in position gives you the huge advantage of being able to see what your opponent does before deciding whether to bet, call, raise or fold. Playing too many hands out of position (i.e. being first to act after the flop) is not advisable in the long run.
2. Pot odds
Go to almost any casino in America and you will find a poker player lecturing someone about pot odds, but it's one thing to talk about it and another to understand it. Sometimes it is mathematically the right play to call a bet, even if you're pretty sure you're behind. 'Pot Odds' means the ratio of the size of the pot to the cost of making the call.
For example if you have $100 in the pot and it costs you $50 to call, you divide the cost of the pot after you've called ($100+$50=$150) and divide it by the call amount ($50) to get pot odds of 3-1. That means you theoretically need to win the pot one time for every three times you lose to justify making the call.
3. Hand selection
When you are starting out playing poker at a United States site, one common temptation is to play too many hands, and it pays to know which ones to fold before the flop. A good guideline is to start out just playing the top hands, like pocket pairs and strong hands like ace-king or ace-queen, though you can 'open up', or play more different starting hands, if you have position on your opponent. One common mistake is to play any hand that includes an ace - many USA players have lost money by following that particular route, so we would advise against it.
4. Reading tells
We know what you're thinking, how can you read tells when you can't physically see the opponent? Well there are ways to do so on online poker sites. You can look out for patterns in an opponent's play, maybe they always bet big with a bluff and bet small with a made hand, while there are also what's called 'timing tells', where a player's behavior relates to the time they take to make a bet or a call.
5. Know your opponent
Once you've been playing against the same opponent for a while, you should be able to pick up on a few things. These need not be simple tells - sometimes you'll spot that a player folds a lot to re-raises, or folds too much in general, and if you're sharp you can take advantage of this.
6. Don't carry on with a hand just because you have money invested
Many a poker player has suffered from getting in too deep with a marginal hand, and just because you put some money into the pot doesn't mean you can't fold and move onto the next one when the situation dictates. Of course, sometimes pot odds will mean you should invest more money, but don't be afraid to let someone steal your blinds or reraise your bet now and again.
7. Pocket aces don't always win
Yes, aces are the best starting hand in Texas Hold'Em, but they are not always the best finishing hand. If your opponent's behavior suggests the aces are not winning, then it's okay to fold - of course if you have aces preflop then by all means get your money in the middle.
8. Raising is better than calling
Winning poker players are often famed for their aggressive play, raising and re-raising a lot of the time, and there is a reason for this. Every pot starts with money in the middle of the table in the form of blinds and antes, and raising always gives you a better chance of winning more pots than just calling. On later streets, if you call you need to have the best hand whereas if you raise you can also win by getting the other player to fold
9. Try not to tilt
In the long run, you will play your best poker when you are measured and focused in your play. You might remember that one time when you went on tilt and got lucky the next hand to win a big pot, but that's not a winning strategy generally. Stay calm and play the best you can at all times
10. Talk to people afterwards
Great poker strategy doesn't stop when you step away from the table. It can help to talk through your hands with poker playing friends to discuss what you could have done differently in certain situations: that will prepare you well for the next game and make you a more well-rounded poker player.