Dodging (and Dealing with) Online Pitfalls

Problems unique to the online Poker world have nothing to do with the game of Poker itself and everything to do with the fact that you play on a computer. Here are a few steps you can take to avoid trouble, along with what to do when you find yourself stuck.

Staying sane in a world of distraction

In the brick-and-mortar world, your distractions consist of a few nattering players, televisions silently showing the latest sports analysis, and a cocktail waitress who’s always elsewhere no matter how badly you need her.

Thanks to the wonders of modern computing, your online environment can be about 1,000 times worse. If you let your eyes and mind wander, you may realize that you’re playing under an animated billboard with the computer stereo blasting and an Internet mailman knocking on your door every 10 seconds with new email. And that only covers the happenings on your computer. (It gets more complicated if you’ve got kids, pets, or angry spouses who think you play too much Internet Poker.)

Tie your hands to your sides or wear blinkers like a racehorse if you have to, but when you play, stay focused. Ask yourself the same question you should ask when contemplating whether to play multiple tables (as discussed in the following section): “If my opponent doesn’t have the same distractions as me, does she have an edge?”

Steering clear of multiple-table play

You can’t play multiple tables simultaneously in the brick-and-mortar world, due to both physical and rule restrictions.

In the online world, however, you can play at multiple tables (playing different game types and limits) simultaneously. Some sites restrict the number of tables you can play; others make the sky the limit.

When you first start playing online, especially on the Hold’em tables, you may find the speed a little disconcerting. Just the thought of playing two tables at once may seem a little overwhelming. It doesn’t take long, however, to get into the swing of the action. After you play only one table for some time, you start to picture yourself playing on another table simultaneously. In fact, your inner action monkey may start to crave it.

Think of this situation exactly like you think of repeatedly hitting your hand with a hammer: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

The problem with playing more than one table at a time, as if we even need to

state it, is splitting your attention between multiple games. You have more opponents to keep track of and more hand and chip stack information to be aware of. You take on a lot of responsibility, and it gives your opponents (who may not be playing multiple tables; use the site’s player-finding feature to get a report) an immediate advantage over you.

Avoiding a wrong click

If you run multiple applications on your computer, you naturally click on a window in the background to bring it forward. But if you click on an actionable area and make a betting decision, the program passes, processes, and acts on the click in the application window.

For example, you decide to work on a spreadsheet of your Poker history in the foreground and play at a table in the background. You receive an alert from the game indicating your turn to act, and you click on the Poker window to bring it forward. If you happen to accidentally click the Raise button when you just want to bring the table to the front of the screen, guess what? Yep, you raise the hand accidentally.

To avoid mis-clicking, you should call the application forward by clicking on the icon on your toolbar or grab the Poker window by the top of its windowpane. (If you accidentally click the close box of your Poker table, don’t worry. All sites ask you if you’re sure you want to leave the table.)

Be aware that some sites force your game table to the foreground when your turn arrives. If you want to work on a spreadsheet during your game (which you shouldn’t because you should focus on the game), you may easily make a click that gives you more than you bargained for if the table pops to the forefront when you’re not expecting it.

Coping with disconnection

No matter how bulletproof your computer is or how reliable your Internet service provider may be, sooner or later you find yourself disconnected from an online Poker game. If this happens, nearly all sites fold your hand.

Getting disconnected is only a big deal during tournaments because the site

slowly but surely blinds your chips off. You have to get back on if you want to save your stack. In a ring game, the site simply changes your status to sitting out, and eventually you lose your seat. The site re-credits the chips you had at the table to your account.

Getting disconnected is a jarring experience, but after it happens, you need to put it behind you. Focus harder than you normally do on the game and calm down. You already had to deal with the inconvenience the disconnection handed you — you don’t need to make it worse by playing it over and over in your head.

Resuscitating your game (and computer)

The first hint you get that you’re disconnected is the normal flow of the game suddenly stops. No bets. No cards being dealt. No chat from players. Nothing.

One of two things may be wrong: Your computer or the site dropped its Internet connection.

To find out which is the case, quickly launch a new browser window and do a search for something (anything) you’ve never searched for before (just look across your room and type in the name of the first object you see if you have trouble thinking of something). If you can bring up information from your search, the problem belongs with your Poker site, in which case you should just sit tight and wait. If the Poker application quits while you wait (sites often reset if they have a wide outage), re-launch it.

If your web search doesn’t go through, the connectivity problem is on your side. Perform the following tasks in order:

  1. Quit your Poker application.
  2. Quit your Internet connection and restart.
  3. After you reconnect, launch your Pokerapplication. If you can’t, try to avoid chewing on your arm (which doesn’t help you get your slowly blinding chip stack back).
  4. Log in to your Poker site.
  5. Perform the findaplayer search on yourself and go to your table if the site doesn’t immediately direct you there.
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