Back in December, we compiled the Top-10 mistakes made by Texas Hold'em players, but that list was heavily based on a live-poker atmosphere. So, as a natural follow-up, we have put together a list of no-nos that beginning online poker players should do anything and everything to avoid.
And like that previous article, we reached out to a couple of our poker-professional player friends to help us out with the list. Hevad Khan is one of the most recognizable and successful players in the game today. The Team PokerStars pro is the perfect player to help us out with this list since he came straight out of the online poker generation to take the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event by storm with a sixth-place finish.
Also helping us out with the list is Grant Hinkle, who turned pro just this past summer after he won a $1,500 No Limit Hold'em event and $831,462 at the World Series of Poker in May.
Hevad Khan says that outside distractions can cause the online poker player many problems. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)
So, if you're just starting to get into the online game – or even if you've been playing for a few years now – pay attention to these common mistakes.
10. Getting distracted
Although you aren't sitting at a table with nine other people, it's still a heck of a lot easier to get distracted when your playing online poker, simply because you are typically at home and in your "element."
"Don't try and play poker and text and e-mail your friends at the same time," Khan warns. "Do everything you can to make the atmosphere you're playing in one that doesn't have a lot of distractions. Shut off the music, shut off your phone, and don't let the dog come into the room and ask for attention. If you're serious about winning, you can't get distracted."
9. Forgetting to read your opponents
Sure, it's much more difficult to read a player if you can't see him or her, but just because you're playing online, it doesn't mean you should give up trying to nail down an opponent's tendencies.
"It only takes me about five or six minutes to get a grip on the entire table," he says. "If you pay attention and do it enough, it's something that will eventually come natural to you."
This warning may sound strange coming from Kahn, a man who s renowned for his ability to multi-table 43 games at once on PokerStars using his screen name, "RaiNKhaN." But if you are a novice online player, Kahn says you should let the pros do the multi-tabling while you concentrate on one game at a time.
"Think about it. For every table you are playing on, that's more people you have to try and get a read on," he says. "If you're playing one game at one table, you've only got nine people to worry about. If you're playing on three tables, that number goes up to 27. That's a big difference, especially if you're an amateur."
7. Bet-size tells
Hinkle says that many players will give away their hands based on the size of their bets on given streets.
"Some people bet strong hands strongly and some bet weak hands weakly and vice versa," he says. "You have to just be observant to figure out which way your opponent's tendancies lean and then make a note on them. If the opponent bets the same size on the turn as they did on the flop it usually means they have some type of hand with showdown value, but don't necessarily want to put that much money in. A lot of times this is a top pair with a weak kicker type hand. So depending on what you have you can act accordingly."
6. Chatting too much
This goes back to No. 10, because chatting can be a distraction.
"It's one thing if you're at a live table and you're making conversation with people in between hands," Khan says. "But when you're chatting you have to type your words and it just takes away from your concentration. There's really no benefit."
5. Using an avatar
Khan suggests that you should take advantage of the fact that in online poker, nobody can see you.
"If you're playing at a table and you make a move that kind of typifies what kind of player you are, and then a few weeks later you run up against a player that was at that table, he's going to be able to remember you more easily if you have some kind of distinctive avatar," Khan explains. "Keep your avatar simple or don't use one at all. It won't make you as noticeable."
Grant Hinkle, shown here after his big win at the 2008 WSOP, says bet sizing tells are a common mistake among online players.
4. Using auto fold
This is one tell that comes with the territory in online poker. Try to avoid it.
"If a player is auto folding a lot from the same position it implies to me that he's only going to play a certain amount of hands from that position," Khan says. "It makes you predictable."
3. Quick call on the flop
Hinkle says that when an opponent is quick to call on the flop he can use it as a way to help determine if he is going to double barrel the turn or not. He says that typically a quick call means the player has some type of mid pair weak hand or a draw.
"Say I am the pre-flop raiser with a hand like KQ and the flop comes J84 rainbow," Hinkle says when asked to break it down. "When they check to me I'll make my normal continuation bet and if they quick call, I am going to be much more likely to bet the turn no matter what card comes out. Obviously if it pairs the board I'm not as happy since we think they have some type of weak pair hand."
"I am more cautious if they take a bit of time on the flop and then call because when people flop a big hand like a set or two pair they have to take a few seconds to decide if they want to raise now on the flop or just call and check raise the turn."
2. Not using auto muck
Khan says that "back in the day" it was acceptable to show your cards once in a while. But, he says, the game has evolved. Players are keener to each other's moves and for that reason there really is never a good time to not muck your cards. So take the risk away and click the auto muck option.
"Sometimes guys like to show the table that they just suffered a bad beat or that they just bluffed and it worked," he says. "But in my mind you are just giving away free information about yourself and the type of player you are. Why give anybody that kind of advantage?"
1. Forgetting the amount of the stakes
Khan brings up the point that some players are more focused on "big money" tournaments because they are risking more money up front and that they tend to be more carefree when playing in a smaller buy-in event. But because of the quick pace of online poker tournaments, you could end up playing in about two, three or even more tournaments in one night in the same amount of time it would take you to play in one big money tournament at a land-based game.
"The buy-ins can add up pretty quickly and before you know it you've risked a lot of money in one session," he says. "You've got to keep in mind that the online game goes a lot faster, and so could your bankroll if you're not careful."