Online Poker Strategy: Same Principles Apply As in Live Games


Many players hold that there are vast differences between playing poker live in a casino and playing online in the comfort of your home.

The faster structure of tournaments, the more hands played online, the blitz of newcomers... the contrasts abound.

Maybe this perception of difference is behind some of the questionable plays often seen online. Don't let yourself get distracted by the meta-differences: at the micro level of hand-by-hand play, the principles of live poker strategy apply equally well online.

One of the major errors I see online is players overvaluing their small pairs. For example, you're under the gun early in a tournament and you have pocket sixes. You put in a standard raise from that position (an aggressive move, to be sure), only to have one player re-raise you in middle position and the cut-off move his stack all-in. The action comes back to you... what do you do?

Most of the time, the pocket sixes will make the call and normally the re-raiser will come along as well, making for a three-way all-in pot. You rarely see this situation in a live tournament setting but commonly occurs online, and it's bad strategy.

In such circumstances, the original raiser with the sixes has to be able to deduce the strength of the hands behind him. A good poker player will figure that if the MP has a re-raising hand, then it could be big slick, big chick (A-Q) or a larger pair in the ranges of eights to jacks. The third raise all-in is the key in this situation.

After seeing two players raise in front of him, the cut-off player who moves all-in will likely have one of three pocket pairs: queens, kings or aces. The cut-off has probably been salivating at the action in front of him and is more than willing to take his chances in this situation. The question is, with your pocket sixes, are you?

Since you are in for only a standard raise, it's best to get out of the way and let the two players who have much more invested in the pot play it out. There will be those occasions where you see those opponents turn up A-K versus A-Q (or worse) but, since you only have an 18% chance to win the pot against a larger pair and an ace-x and a slim favorite (41%-34%-23%, roughly) against two players with big slick and big chick, there are better opportunities to get your chips in the center.

Another error players make in online tournaments is the over-aggressive playing of suited aces. Whether it is ace-rag up to ace-jack or what have you, players seem to play these hands as if they are sitting on pocket rockets. The problem rears its head when the board is somewhat agreeable but still fraught with danger.

If you flop your low card with your ace, you could still be at a significant disadvantage to a player with a larger pocket pair than you have made. If you flop a flush draw, you are only going to make that draw about a third of the time. Even if you pair your ace, you can be facing kicker trouble if someone has a better ace than you do.

In this situation, it is best to see the flop for cheap and, if nothing materializes for you on the flop, to be able to release the hand quickly. Even if you have hit a pair or have a flush draw, you still have to have the ability to calculate the odds on any action after the flop to determine if you have reason to chase it. If there is a raise in front of you pre-flop, then lay those suited aces down and save the chips for a better situation.

Still other online players misstep when holding paint cards (K-Q, K-J, Q-J) and facing a raise. Depending on the context, it is sometimes best to not even try to out-flop your opponent, as you could be behind from the start. How many times have you played your K-J and hit a king on the flop, only to see your raising opponent turn over big slick or K-Q to out-kick you at the river? Knowledge of your opponents is key here and, as stated before, sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.

I'm not suggesting that you fold every hand other than pocket aces, but there has to be some thought before you get involved. There is craziness sometimes in the online game but that's no reason to treat it differently than live play.

The same odds, rules and likelihoods still apply and the goal of the game is to make the optimal decision on every hand. By knowing how to manage problem hands like these, you'll last farther into tournaments, both live and online, and cash more often.

Best Poker Sites - Editor`s Pick

Latest Blogs »