With the past 18 months keeping us indoors, screen time at home has shot up, both for business and pleasure. If the early 2000s heralded a boom in live poker with folks eager to take up the game that now seemed to be on every channel on the TV, then the pandemic has cemented online as players’ preferred choice.
Prior to the 2019 winter lockdowns there were an estimated 40m people playing poker online globally. Fast forward to April 2020 and online play had increased by 43%, with first-time poker players increasing by over 250% across the same timespan. Newswire.net notes that poker sites had a 118% increase in revenue from New Jersey in that month as compared to 12 months prior in April 2019. For those who’re looking to get in on the action, here are a few insights:
REMEMBER IT’S A GAME
The reasons for online poker going through a resurgence of interest are myriad. For instance, it’s accessible everywhere, you can play for fun as well as for money and, its possibly noteworthy that during the lockdown periods of the pandemic it did provide a social outlet for folks. While with anything new, it’s tempting to devote long swathes of time to it, our post on Newzhunters noted the term ‘hikikomori‘ is becoming increasingly recognized in the West. A more generic term might be a ‘shut-in’ but hikikomori refers to specifically to those who spend their time playing games to the detriment of everyone else. Take regular breaks. Get fresh air. Poker is a mental game, and to be successful, the ability to rationalize is key.
TAKE YOUR TIME
Online poker is a much faster paced game than live poker. Online poker tables average around 100 hands per hour as compared to around 30 at live tables. Before you start, it’s good to have the basics clear in your mind – not the specific odds of every hand, but a good grasp on hand rankings and the impact of your position in the betting order. Poker.org’s guide for beginners outlines the basic rules of Texas Hold’em and it’s a reasonable idea to keep that open on a separate browser window to flick to when needed. It’s tempting if one is playing for very low cash, or even virtual stakes, to want to see every flop, but if you wouldn’t play a 2 – 9 unsuited in a card room then don’t do it online. Plenty other folks will, which gives you an instant advantage over them. Poker’s a long haul game and while anyone can get a bad beat, the length of tournaments and amount of hands will always separate winning players from lucky ones.
FOCUS ON WHAT’S IN FRONT OF YOU
One thing that often trips up new online players – particularly if they’ve played poker in a live environment previously – is they’ll try to read the room as if it were a physical space and try to ascribe characteristics on to other players. Like the classic New Yorker cartoon – ‘On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog’. While not being able to see physical tells makes the game ‘purer’, you can work that to your advantage. Put some headphones in, listen to the music that helps you focus. Concentrate on what range of hands you may be able to make from your two dealt ‘hole cards’ and the subsequent ‘community cards’ as they come out, rather than trying to make an unlikely straight flush, say. It’ll soon become apparent when to raise and when to fold.
Mastering poker is difficult. And it’s time-consuming, by necessity. The best way to begin playing online Texas Hold’em poker is by learning the basics and putting them into action, learning as you go. If Rome wasn’t built in a day then neither was Vegas. And while you might fall prey to the odd big fish along the way, there’s a lot of new players in that same boat as you.