Toasty's Beginner's Guide 2 - Easing Into Online Poker
So, you have signed up and are now playing for real money online.
First things first, try to save the details of every single hand you play.
Almost all of the poker sites give the option of emailing you hand histories.
These give all the details of hands you have played from stack sizes to position.
If you don’t keep these you will never be able to tell what hands you are winning with and what hands you are losing with.
You can even paste these hand histories into a re-player for
Follow this link to paste and replay your hand history.
You can now replay your whole session, monitoring how you play in the third person really helps your game. You can also spot hands that you had difficulty with,
and post them in the forums for advice.
After a few sessions you should find yourself in one of three positions:
1. Slowly Losing Money
If this is the case, it’s time to take a good look at your game for leaks. Leaks are a weakness in your game that could be costing you a few bucks here and there that you don’t even know about. I’ll list a few here that you can check using the re-player and forum I mentioned above.
Calling too much in the Small Blind
- A trash hand is still a trash hand. Although it’s cheap to see what could be a miracle flop, at best you are going to make a weak pair that is only going to cost you money in the long run. Once you have built up your experience, you will know when you can go for plays like this and also know when that weak pair is good/bad.
Over protecting your Big Blind
- “I’m already half in right?”. Wrong!, once that money is in the pot, it’s no longer your money. Similar problems arise as “calling too much in the small blind”. With both these situations, you are also going to be out of position for the rest of the round (one of the first to act).
Not raising enough pre-flop
- When you are losing money, the tendency is to play weak with regards to raising. You don’t want to put money in until you know you have the best hand. Sounds good, but this will only cost you more money. The fact is pre-flop there is a good chance you already have the best hand! For example you hold AKo, rather than make a decent size raise you decide to call and see if you hit the flop first. Well Mr Axs gets to come in for cheap and while you make an Ace on the flop for TPTK (top pair top kicker),
he makes 2 pair or picks up a flush draw to bust you with later. If you had raised you might have forced him to fold pre-flop.
Inability to get away from a hand
If you have QQ, and the board has AK3 - and it’s a multi-way pot (more than 2 people) and there is action, it doesn’t matter that you have a pair of Queens, it's time to move out of the way.
As you build experience you will get to
know when your strong hands are no good and when your weak hands are the best.
Until then, examine your play and post hands in the forum you are unsure about.
Under betting your good hands
- You can’t win every hand, to make money is simple, win more money than the cost of the blinds and your losing hands. You might be losing the minimum on your losing hands, but winning the maximum on your winning hands. The two most common problems are:
1. Over betting – if you flop a full house don’t push all in, most of the time every will fold and you will win a small pot. Occasionally someone will think you are bluffing and call but why win a small pot with a very strong hand.
2. Under betting – You make two pair and rather than make a pot sized bet (a bet equal to the current amount of money in the pot), you make a weak bet and people call along to outdraw you for cheap, or you discover someone made 2nd best hand and would have been willing to pay more to see a showdown.
Invest in PokerTracker!
is a software program that you use to analyze your poker game and help identify the leaks you have.
You load your hand histories into Poker Tracker, and then analyze your statistics. Not only
can you learn about your own game, Poker Tracker allows you to analyze your opponents' games, for
those whom you have hand histories for.
Read more about Poker Tracker here.
These are just a few, but there are many more types of leaks. With experience, you will be able to spot them quicker and every leak fixed is extra $$ in your pocket.
2. Breaking Even
This isn’t too bad, you are very close to becoming a winning player, go over the steps outlined above, you could find small leaks here and there that once fixed, turn things around for you. You can also look into collecting
bonuses from the various poker sites
affiliated with FTR. This way, while you are breaking even, every bonus you collect is profit. I once collected $800 in bonuses in one month!
You can also visit the FTR
for feedback or
ideas. And, again,
is a useful tool here to help get you over the hump and become a winning player.
3. Winning Money
Now this is a critical time, it’s very easy to become over confident. Examine your play and ensure you are not getting lucky. When you are making money you need to know why you are making money. Even though you are winning, you should still be examining your hand histories and posting hands in the forum. You might think you have made a great play that you were actually a 4:1 shot to win. You could start winning money with luck going your way (you remember the lucky players who turned $50 into $3000 from part 1 right?). Make sure you know that when you have won a hand, you still played it correctly. You can win poorly played hands and lose hands played perfectly. That’s why poker is such a puzzle.
Once you are routinely doing all this, and are making money consistently (making money is fun!), you have two choices:
Start making small cash outs (Is there something you want to buy that special someone?).
There is a rumour around the net called “the cash out curse”. That is when people win at online poker, make a cash out, and
then go on a losing streak. These people think that because they have taken money out of a site,
the site has saw fit to punish them. The reality is DingoDave deposited $200, played good poker, and made $600.
He’s now moved up in limits with his new and improved bankroll. He then takes out $400. He’s left with $200 now,
and thinks to himself, "wow that looks small, I had $600 a minute ago."
Sub-consciously he knows he doesn’t have as much money, and starts playing differently.
He won’t bet as much to protect his hands, etc. As a result his play has changed from that of a winning player into a
Also, it’s quite common in poker to have up-swings and down-swings. You may win for 3 days and then,
through no fault of your own, lose on day four. As long as your upswings are stronger and more frequent
than your downswings, you have nothing to worry about.
If you are going to make a cashout, make it a small one - an amount small enough that will not affect your play
when you see your smaller bankroll. Keep repeating this cycle, make small cashouts, slowly let your bankroll
grow, and make small cash outs. i.e. - for each $100 you make, cash out $50 and leave the rest in your bankroll.
Build Your Bankroll
This is the option I suggest you take, especially if you started with a smaller bankroll.
Building your bankroll will give you more confidence in your play, you know that you can push all in with that AA,
and it’s not going to break the bank if you lose. Also, eventually, you will have enough to move up to the next limit.
To move up, you want at least twenty buy-ins for the next level. If you are new to playing poker online,
I suggest 30 just to be on the safe side. Some level changes are easier than others.
If you started at the $5 buy-in tables, the $10 buy in tables won’t have a big diff in skill.
However, if you are playing the $25 buy-in tables, the $50 buy-in tables are harder, with more sharks and less fish.
Whichever you decide to do don’t rush ever rush in to moving up in limits. The last thing you want is
to have a good run, move up, and have a bad run. Remember, there are a lot of swings in poker.
Also - as important as it is to recognise when to move up, it’s equally important to know when to move down.
If your bankroll drops down to a level leaving you only 10 buy-ins, it would be a lot safer to drop down
to a level that afforded you 20 buy-ins.
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