Aside from having enough money on the table to call all bets and raises for the next bet- ting round, what can you do to get ahead in online cash games? Aside from the play of the hands, which we cover in Chapters 8 through 11, and creating an environment where you’re comfortable, there are a number of things you can do to approach online cash games sensibly.
Playing a Number of Hours Makes Sense
Winning players, especially those winning players whose average profit is more than one big bet an hour, are coming around to the idea that they aren’t playing with a particular monetary target in mind. Instead, these players put in a set number of hours every day and accept the outcome when they’re done. Because they’ve established themselves as a favorite regardless of when or where they play, they aren’t afraid to leave a good game. After all, the game they play in tomorrow, or when they get back from their round of golf this afternoon, will be almost as good.
Even if you don’t quite play at that level (and very, very few players do), you should consider playing a set number of hours per day. Knowing when you will start and stop playing takes a bit of pressure off of you and helps you maintain a healthy attitude toward gambling. Play- ing poker online may be some players’ job, but if you have to do something else to keep food on the table, then you should limit when and for how long you play.
Limiting Losses Makes Sense
Determining how much money you want to risk during any playing session is one of the fundamental decisions you must make whenever you log on to a poker account. Even if you’re a player with a lot of money in the bank, you still need to figure how much of your money you’re willing to risk in general and on a particular day. One handy guideline to use is that if you lose two buy-ins in a session, it’s either time to pack it in for the day or to move to a lower limit table for the remainder of your play. If you’re playing $5–$10, buy in for $250, and lose a total of $500, it’s just not your day. If your bankroll can stand the loss and you believe you can beat the game, don’t hesitate to plop another couple of hundred dollars on the table. If you’re at all suspicious of the game, you’re tired, or you’re playing at a higher limit than you would normally, then you should strongly consider moving down in limit or calling it quits. One of the nice things about online poker is that you can find games at limits as low as $0.05–$0.10 if you want, though games in the $0.50–$1.00 range are routinely available if you’re on a losing streak or you’re waiting for a deposit to go through.
Limiting Wins Does Not Make Sense
Not many players subscribe to the theory that you should put a cap on the amount of money you win in a session, but we hear enough talk about limiting one’s wins, or stop- ping play after you give back 50 percent or more of a win, to make us wonder what folks have been smoking. If the game you’re in is good, why in the world would you want to leave your seat and let someone else come in and make money that is rightfully yours? If your opponents are helpless and can’t defend themselves, as mad genius Mike Caro likes to say, then the only reasons you should sit out a hand during your allotted play period are to put out fires, use the bathroom, get something to eat, and refill your drink. Gotta stay hydrated, after all. If you limit your wins you are, in essence, saying, “You know, I could win $300 off of these rubes, but I’ll stop at $100 today.”
The second half of the theory, that you should stop playing after you’ve given back half of a win, isn’t quite as ludicrous. Your attitude probably won’t be very positive after you’ve given back $100 or $200, so it’s not unreasonable for you to cash out and be happy with the money you did win for the day. On the other hand, if you think you’re a strong favorite in the game, you’re playing well, and your opponents have been catching miracle cards for the past two hours, don’t leave the game. You’re still a favorite!
Don’t believe us? Think of it this way. Suppose you’re playing Hold ’em and your opponents have improved their two-pair hands to a full house five times in a row, overcoming 5:1 odds against each time. Given that your opponents have improved five times in a row, what are the odds that an opponent will improve their two-pair hand to a full house on the next hand? It’s still 5:1 against; what’s happened in the past has no bearing on the current hand.
Caution: Poker hands are independent trials, which means that the distribution of cards on a previous hand has no effect on the distribution of cards on any future hands. When you rely on reasoning like “He’s gotten his miracle card five times in a row, so I’ll fold and break the streak,” you’re committing the gambler’s fallacy. It’s like betting on red at the roulette wheel because the last seven numbers have been black. The wheel has no memory of past events, so it doesn’t know that a red number is “due.” Repeat after us: “Streaks only exist in the past.”