On playing the player
Hi folks I've lurked on your forums for a couple of months and found them very useful so I thought I'd do my bit for the community.
Some personal history.
I would call myself a pretty average player. I learned to play poker at University where we used to play half pack, otherwise known as stripped deck, draw poker. When you are playing with 7s and up it is quite common to have four of a kind beaten by another four of a kind so you learn to deal with having a second best hand which happens to be very good and reading the player is very important.
Twenty years pass in the blink of an eye, I didn't play poker in this time. A friend mentions that he plays poker online, something called hold-em, I remember that I used to do alright at poker.
I do a little reading then put $50 into Party Poker and play at the lowest level in limit to clear the $25 bonus. I lose my money and put another $50 in and maintain equilibrium put in $500 for a $50 bonus, clear the bonus and remove the $600 I had put in originally. I switch to no limit, play loose with the bonus money and lose it.
Switch to Poker Room but continue playing no limit, put in $250 for a $150 bonus, clear the bonus, remove $350 to cover costs and play tight with the remaining money. Jump up a couple of levels remove $1000 of pure profit leaving myself with $69 to start at the bottom.
Bring the $69 up to $1000, playing mostly at the 0.50/1.00 blind 100NL tables which Poker Room calls 1/2 for some odd reason. I will now aim to move up a level. However, I am not skilled enough to do that yet because I can't read the players well enough at the level above mine.
Playing poker for a living
It is quite possible to play tight aggressive ABC poker on four tables and make a good living at it. I have notes on several players who do just that and from my estimation are making $200 to $500 per day, just multitabling at the level I am at now. There is at least one player who multitables at the 5/10 level and is making well over 1k per day.
Playing the players.
No limit poker is primarily about psychology and reading your opposition. It's easy enough to learn the basics of starting hand selection, position and probability. You make, or lose, the big money after the flop. Poker tracker can tell you about a persons playing style but it won't tell you when they are bluffing.
So how do you read players online? The answer is observation, watch, watch, watch. Watch what they do, take notes on their betting patterns, watch to see what happens when they lose big, when they win big, when they get a long series of pathetic cards. Take notes on what they do when they get tired. Watch to see on what nights they customarily go to pub and then come online, I kid you not, some otherwise excellent players will do this.
Update your notes, be aware that players will play differently at different levels. At the very least become aware of the names of the successful players at the level above yours. Spend time watching games as a lurker at higher levels and trying to guess what hands the protagonists have. Do not think that just because you have an excellent read when you are not involved that you will be able to do the same thing when it's your money on the line. You also need to do it because occasionally they will come down a level and generally they are much better than you are.
Many players are just plain weak, they are to loose and they call to much, beating these players is no great feat. Beating the loose aggressive players takes more skill and usually involves a little, operational word little, intentionally poor play on your part. "You have to feed the rats a bit before you poison them".
A much harder skill than watching the other players is watching yourself. This is where forums like this one become very useful. Other people can criticise your play much better than you can. Fnord for example, who is a much better player than I am, puts up a wide range of hands some where he plays brilliantly and some where his play is dubious to say the least.
The good players who are multitabling are much more susceptible to bluffs when they are already playing a big hand elsewhere, of course this means you need to have those windows open too and generally that's not something you want to do. I just tried it out for my own amusement. The multitablers tend to be much less susceptible to tilt, after all they are usually up at their other tables. As an example last night I lost my stack with a set of kings versus a set of tens that became quads at the same time as stacking someone else with a pair of kings against their bluff.
Many moderate players will raise at the start and then bet a near pot sized bet on the flop every time. Once you establish this as a pattern they can usually be moved off by betting back at them. Good players when bluffing are usually semi bluffing so that even if they get caught they have some outs. In consequence you have to be aware of all the possibilities and if you currently have the best hand make sure they have -EV to stay in the hand.
I'm out of time more at a later date