How to Beat Online Poker – For Live Poker Players
Many poker players get their start in the game in the live setting. This could be a kitchen table game or a trip to a local casino. Learning about the online game, people naturally want to check out the action. There are plenty of legal poker sites that host games – your location is the main determinant of which sites you can play at.
This guide covers the strategy differences between a typical low stakes live casino poker game and the smaller buy-in online games. I have highlighted several aspects of this including the lack of personal tells, strength of your average opponent and the use of 3rd party tracking tools.
Online Poker is Harder to Beat
One major factor to cover before getting into the details of the strategy, is that your average opponent is going to be much tougher online. If you play $200 buy-in live games, don’t even think about joining a $200NL table online. This is the realm of poker pros, with very few inexperienced players – even at the easiest poker sites.
What happens online is that the strong players sit at many tables at once, while the recreational or new players join just one or two. At the $100 to $200 buy-ins, there are a lot of so called ‘grinders’ that maximize their hourly rates by playing 8+ games at once. These players often have a ton of experience, millions of hands in some cases. The kind of mistakes you’ll find in a $1 / $2 live game simply do not happen in the equivalent stakes online.
This might sound harsh, though many a winning live poker player has found their bankroll disappearing very fast online! Online poker games are beatable, what I recommend is that you step down in level to start off with, and learn the strategy differences before moving on up.
Passive vs Aggressive Poker
Live casino poker involves a lot of multi-way hands. 4 players seeing a flop is normal, and more is not uncommon – even when there is a pre-flop raise.
Online you’ll find fewer players seeing flops, and on average better hands shown down. Open limping is very unusual, and will often be a sign that a player is inexperienced – especially when this happens in late position. With it being so much easier to fold trashy hands and move on to the next hand quickly, people are not so inclined to hang around with junk. You’ll need to adjust your opening and calling ranges to compensate for this.
While many players do slowplay, the go-to method of disguising stronger hands online is to bet more often with draws and mid-strength holdings. Overall, you will find online poker more aggressive, and – on average – weakness / passive play will be exploited a lot faster.
Bet Sizing Tells Not Physical Ones
Good live poker players are adept as sensing strength and weakness in their opponents. This is not usually the only or main reason for calling a bet – though it is an important strategy consideration.
With no physical information available online, you’ll need to use bet sizing, hand ranges and math a lot more often. Knowing what percentage of hands an individual opponent 3-bets or continuation bets with takes on a new significance. Many of your opponents will be using 3rd party software that keeps track of exactly this information. They’ll have a big edge against players not using these tools. Some sites – for example Ignition Poker in the US and Party Poker worldwide – ban these tools. In the case of Ignition Poker, the games are anonymous to prevent long term tracking services learning about player tendencies.
If you do not use software, then taking notes on the sizes of your opponent’s bets and what they mean is important.
Bets are Smaller on Average
In a live game, you’ll see that open raises for 4x the big blind are common. Online these same raises are more likely to be 2x or just over. 3-bets are also smaller. Good players like to keep these early bets small as their strategy edge comes after the flop. If you sit in an online poker game and start using 4x the blind as your opening raise, you’ll instantly become the target of experienced pros.
Bets after the flop online keep to the same half to full pot range as live poker games.
Table Sizes – 6 Max More Common
Live casinos tend to have 9 handed poker games. This makes good sense, as fewer dealers are needed compared to 6 handed.
Online the ‘full ring’ games are in the minority. 6 max is the most common, though you will also find 4 handed and heads-up tables. These games make it difficult to sit and wait for super-strong hands, as the blinds come around too often. Instead you’ll need to play a wider range, and your opponents will too. This makes hand reading and adjusting to the tendencies of individual opponents all the more important.