There’s no magic bullet guaranteeing online poker success. There are, however, habits and practices that can lead to more consistent online poker wins. So, I thought I’d write this post about how to win online poker cash games and tournaments.
The best online poker players aren’t just the luckiest people in the world. They bring a combination of skill, experience, and strategy to every game, often picking and choosing their ideal competition and putting hours of work into perfecting their mind and body for the game.
Read this post for a wide variety of approaches to your poker game that can lead to big improvements right away. Just like winning at sports betting, winning at poker is a skill you can develop.
How to Win Online Poker: Practice Self-Care
It may seem corny, but you ignore your physical and mental health at the peril of your poker bankroll.
Taking some time to clear your mind or even systematically meditate will have an immediate effect on your mood. If you believe the practitioners, meditation benefits include increased self-awareness, stress-relief, heightened concentration, reduction of anxiety, improved brain function, and increased oxygenation of red blood cells. If those don’t strike you as beneficial to poker play, you haven’t been playing long enough.
Addressing chronic health problems may be an important plank of your poker self-care routine. The US Department of Veterans Affairs have found a threefold increase in mental illness among people with untreated chronic disease. Getting diabetes under control, treating your high blood pressure, and even losing weight can all contribute to more success at poker.
I can’t promise a “money earned per pound lost” equation to encourage you to take care of yourself.
But I can promise you that a well-rested, energized, healthy opponent is a tougher beat than a guy awake for three days on Adderall slouching over his keyboard covered in Cheeto dust.
How to Win Online Poker: Play Low Stakes Cash Games or Tournaments
When I say “low stakes,” I’m talking about $0.25/$0.50 or $0.50/$1 cash games, not necessarily just micro stakes.
You should be playing in low-stakes games for lots of reasons – in fact, choosing to play at this level influences the rest of the tips on this page a good deal.
At this level of play, there’s plenty of easy competition. But you’ll also find enough decent competition to keep things interesting and improve your skills.
Low-stakes poker players tend to be there for entertainment. It’s more of a social experience for them. They chase, they ignore odds, and they play loose to the point where you feel like they want to give their money away.
If your purpose is to consistently win, you’ll have your best chance of that in low-stakes games.
How to Win Online Poker: Use a Tight & Aggressive Style
First, this only applies if you’re following my advice to stick to low-stakes games. Optimal poker strategy changes as you move up the stakes.
But I’ll assume that you’re playing low-stakes poker and suggest a TAG (tight and aggressive) playing style.
Playing tight and aggressive means combining positional awareness with being really selective about which hands you play. Following a TAG style means playing about 15% of hands you’re dealt. That’s the “tight” part – you’re staying out of most hands.
TAG style also calls for playing most hands when you’re in position. TAG means playing tight from early position and blinds but playing loose from the cutoff and the button.
So where does the aggressive part come in? When you do play a hand, you’re going to bet, raise, or re-raise most of the time when you enter preflop. You’ll also make a continuation bet most of the time on the flop. In some cases, you’ll aggressively keep pressuring your opponents on the turn and river.
Here’s why TAG works at low stakes: most players, even the loose social club that is low stakes online poker, know that you’re only playing good hands. They also know that getting to the showdown is going to cost them a lot of money.
TAG at low stakes makes you harder to play against.
How to Win Online Poker: Play Against Bad Poker Players
Does this seem like common sense? You’d be surprised how many poker players have no idea what I’m talking about .You’ll improve your win rate by playing against worse players.
You’re already sticking to low-stakes games. This means you’re already living in the land of the bad poker player. How can you further identify bad players a good table to join and compete against?
The easiest way to find bad poker players is to use software that gives you statistics on your opponents. This lets you identify poker players who put in lots of money preflop — guys who limp to the big blind, and call and raise a lot. You can also identify bad players by their preflop raise percentage. If a player makes a huge percentage of preflop raises or reraises, you can bet he’s not very good.
But you don’t need software to identify bad players. Bad players give themselves away during play, making major mistakes that experienced players can spot a mile away. They may bet the absolute minimum to stay in a hand (known as limping). Or they chronically underbet the pot (look for bets of 1/4 of the pot or less). And they like to raise pre or postflop regardless of their position.
It takes work to find online poker tables with at least one truly bad player, but you’ll win more consistently at online poker if you do.
Poker Bankroll Thoughts: Have a (Relatively) Big Bankroll
I don’t mean that you should have tens of thousands of dollars in your account to win consistently.
But your bankroll does need to be big relative to your buy-ins.
If the buy-in is 100 big blinds, your bankroll needs to be 30 times that amount to sustain itself against the ups and downs of online poker play.
Want to buy in at $50?
Your bankroll should be at least $1,500.
The idea here is to protect your bankroll play from the downswings that in online poker. You could lose for weeks at a time while sticking to your ideal game and getting everything else right. Protecting your money means building a stack that can withstand those long downswings.
Tracking your play is as important as stacking cash. You need to be able to track your progress, identify situations that are costing you money, and accentuate those situations where your expectation is positive.
Adjusting Your Expectations
If you could change what it means to “win” at online poker, you could set yourself up to win as consistently as you want.
You could declare any poker session that ends with you in a good mood as a winning session. All you have to do is be sure you enjoy yourself. Then you’ll always be a winner.
Don’t brush this off as “everybody gets a trophy” nonsense. There’s logic to this way of improving your poker win rate.
For example, if a couple of hours playing poker costs you $15, thinking of that as a $7.50/hour expense can right-size your losses. I spend more than $7.50 an hour eating lunch, playing golf, or even washing my car. If you can recast your losses as an entertainment expense, winning and losing becomes about having a good or a bad time.
You could also consider the variance built into online poker as a natural effect. It’s like the hand of God acting upon you. Poker is a game of ups and downs, and playing the game is nothing less than an invitation to fate. You win and lose based on skill, yes, but also based on the luck of the draw and the skill sets of your opponents. Losing is as natural as winning.
Learning to adjust your expectations will relieve some of your poker-related stress, And even though it might sound like a load of hippie nonsense, changing the way you think about the game will improve its entertainment value.
It’s a win-win situation.
Those of us who play poker know that it is a game of skill. But we can’t overlook the element of luck. You can play a hand perfectly and lose. Your opponent can play a hand sloppily and win. The world’s best poker players lose from time to time just like the average Joe.
Overcoming the variance in poker requires hours at the table, time spent practicing, and other forms of preparation for the mind, body, and spirit. You can’t win by picking the best table alone. But you can use that as one plank of a strategy designed to win consistently at online poker.