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When you play Texas hold ‘em in a casino, you can expect to play about 25 hands per hour. It takes time to wait for everyone to tip the cocktail waitress, count out the chips for a bet, and of course, for the dealer to shuffle and deal the cards.
When you play on a free online poker site, you can expect to play many more – sometimes 70 hands or more per hour. When you add in the ability to play more than one table, you can see why the action junkies of the so-called MTV generation don't have the patience for a live game.
In almost every online poker site, if you want to join in a Texas hold ‘em game that's already in progress, you have two choices: you can either wait until it's your big blind, or you can post a big blind and play in the next hand. Lots of impatient players will post a big blind right away, leaving an extra blind out there for you steal.
In a no limit game, if someone else posts out of turn, it's often worth trying to steal the blinds on these kinds of hands. The one time you should consider posting your blind out of turn is if you are near the button in a game with ten or nearly ten players. Then you'll get to play a lot of free hands before it's time for you to pay your blind again.
The most annoying person in poker is the “table coach.” The coach tells every player how they should have played their hand, constantly giving unwanted advice. The one benefit of having a coach at your table is that you can very easily learn how these players play – they're saving you the trouble of paying attention by telling you out loud!
The best thing to do with these guys is to say ridiculous things. Say you've made two pair with a six and five in your hand, and the table coach is criticizing you for having played the hand at all. Look him (yes, it's always a guy) in the eye and say, “There had been a lot of sixes and fives on the flop lately,” and wait for him to explode. If you're playing internet poker, you have an easier (but more boring) solution – you can just turn off the chat.
Playing poker live carries one more hazard than playing on an online poker site. For some people, the thrill of poker spills over into other casino games, or as poker players call them, “games for suckers.” There are always plenty of stories of well-known professionals who clean up at the poker tables, but squander it all away on craps or roulette.
If you want to be a serious poker player, do yourself a favor and stay away from the rest of the casino. If you must play, learn optimal blackjack strategy where you're only giving up a small edge to the house (or better yet, learn to count cards and reverse that edge).
If you play online poker and you're about to start playing live poker, or even if you've never played online, it's good to know something about tells. In your first live games, don't worry too much about trying to read tells from other people. Just concentrate on following the betting action, making good betting decisions, and avoiding spilling your beer on the table – and finally, on avoiding giving away the strength of your hand with any tells.
You want to be consistent whether you have a good hand or a horrible one. Try to take the same amount of time with your decisions. Pick a place that you're going to look at while you're making decisions. If you're not comfortable talking when you're bluffing, it's best to have a personal policy of keeping quiet whenever you're in a hand. Good luck!
It's a bad mistake to give away what you're going to do before it's your turn to act; poker players call this telegraphing. When it's your turn to act, take a glance over to your left to see if anyone's giving you hints on what they're going to do.
Is some one holding their cards in their hand, ready to throw them in the muck? Are they holding chips, getting ready to call? When they do, thank them kindly for filling you in (silently, of course) and plan accordingly. People who usually play online poker should keep this in mind – don't telegraph your actions and look for other people who do.
If you are looking to learn the rules of poker, a great way to learn is to play free poker online. Playing on online poker sites is an excellent way to get a feel for poker. There are a lot of sites that let you play for play money or for actual cash. The quality of play on the play money tables is generally terrible. Why would Joe Horrible fold to a huge bet drawing to an inside straight?
Unfortunately, without a method for encouraging discipline (cash does nicely), poker tends to turn into a call-fest. A nice solution is to play on the super low-stakes real-money tables. At the lowest stakes, you would need quite a downswing to lose more than two or three dollars in an evening.
If you're looking for the thrill of a tournament without a 4-hour investment, check out the one-table tournaments available at almost every online poker site. Playing on an online poker site has many advantages. These tournaments are played with up to ten players, and some sites even offer heads up tournaments!
They are available in a wide range of games, from pot limit Omaha high-low to limit 7-card stud to the Cadillac of poker, no limit Texas hold ‘em. Nine- and 10-handed one-table tournaments, or sit ‘n go's, as they're often called, usually pay out 50% of the prize pool to 1st, 30% to 2nd, and 20% to 3rd. And like the name implies, you can just sit down and they'll go as soon as the table fills up. Good luck!
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|