If you've been playing online poker for a few years, you're likely going to the hand histories and the sharkscope stats and debating, you know, stuff like the EV of pushing KJo for 25bbs against a 3xbb raise from a loose-aggressive player the hand after moving in with A-T for 30 big blinds from the button.
Or something like that. I'm not a math guy.
But if you're pretty new to online poker, or a pretty average player like most of us, there are a few much, much easier things you can do to virtually guarantee your online poker hours become more profitable.
Paying more attention when playing instead of drawing inappropriate animal graffiti on someone's facebook wall might be a good place to start. Just for a random example.
Whatever. But there are definitely a few simple things you can do immediately to improve your ROI - and plenty of tools to help you do it.
1) Don't Sleep on Table Selection
Opening up any available table at your preferred stakes isn't going to maximize your take. If you want the easiest route to the easiest money, you need to find the tables with the worst players. Always.
A good place to start: the PL.com stat tracker.
Joe Sebok: Also not a math guy. But very profitable nonetheless.
What it is: A virtual snapshot of what's happening in the world of online poker as of the latest hour. Where the juiciest games are. Viewed-flop percentages, average pot size. Frequency of the word "noob" being used in the chat room.
Not that last part really. But it's a good, wide-angle look at where the softest games are across the Web and at what rooms the fish tend to school at.
Check it out here.
Another good source: the PL.com Real-Time Table Finder. Search across all active tables by room, game, limit, stakes and seated players and click directly through to the one with the most appealing stats.
A little bit more specific than the industry overview of the stat tracker, and it'll get you exactly where you need to go: A shockingly soft table.
2) Play at Profitable Times
Sounds like a bit of a stretch, but it really does make a difference what time you play. Again, check the PL.com stat tracker. Here, for example, is a graph that maps aggression at Shorthanded No-Limit Holdem tables at various times of day.
Extrapolate that graph to all kinds of games, limits and stakes across the globe, and it's easy to see there are clear cut times when the action is softer than usual.
You want to make easy money, make it a habit of arranging your playing hours around those times.
If it just so happens to coincide with the hour or two after the bars let out in Australia, so be it. It's worth your while.
3) Invest in a Good Odds Calculator
So you know you have about a 221-1 chance of getting pocket aces dealt to you and a 33% chance of getting there with four to the flush after the flop.
How are you with pot odds? Implied odds? And how fast can you generate them when put to a critical decision in a big hand?
Easy way out: An advanced odds calculator, like Holdem Genius or CalculatemPro. You can get them free if you open up a new account at several poker rooms or you can buy them outright, but they give you a considered edge while you're playing.
You get immediate real-time odds and advice at every step in a hand so you always know your best mathematical play. They won't play for you, but they'll certainly make your decisions easier and quicker.
At worst, it'll level the playing field with everyone who's using one against you.
4) Do Some Basic Research on Your Table
Once you've picked out a nice soft table, take a few orbits and get a read on your table. If it's sufficiently soft, as it should be, it won't take you long to figure out where, and against whom, your pots should be played.
If you want to go one step further, as you get better, and really get a read on all your opponents, invest in a program like Poker Edge or Poker Crusher. You get real-time information on every player - all their strengths, weaknesses, betting patterns, recent showdowns and how they played them - displayed right on the table as you play, so you'll always have a good read on their next move.
Again, it might cost you a little, but in the long run, it'll pay back in spades.
5) Learn to play Omaha
Remember online poker in 2003, when no one knew anything about Texas Hold'em? That's kinda what it's like playing Omaha now.
Good luck in '08.