From a psychological point of view, the biggest differences between online play and the brick-and-mortar world include the radical increase in the speed of play.
In the online world, you have a chance to play between two and three times as many hands per hour as you get in the normal brick-and-mortar environment. Online Poker rooms do everything in their power to accelerate play, resulting in some interesting (and sometimes odd) ramifications in the way a player perceives the game.
Coming to grips with quick-hitting bad draws
Probably the biggest psychological hardship for any Poker player is the bad beat, a situation where you have a better hand than another player during the first couple betting rounds, but your opponent draws a long-shot card and beats you toward the end of the hand. A lesser hand outdrawing you is a hard thing to take under any circumstance.
As you play online, it may seem like you see more bad beats than you do in the real world, and guess what? You do. Because you see two or three times as many hands, you also see two to three times as many bad beats. You see all types of hands more often. You need to keep a realistic perspective because if you focus solely on the bad beats, you slowly drive yourself crazy. But if you can balance the bad-beat blues with the realization of how many more winning hands you see and have, you can hang on to your sanity.
If you ever encounter a streak of bad beats (and if you play long enough, a streak will come), our advice is to keep your wits about you and don’t let the statistical weirdness of the past affect your play in the present. Take time off because you need to adjust and recoup. And make certain that you just ran into bad luck and didn’t expose some fundamental flaw in your Poker strategy. Think back to what you thought before your plays, the time you took betting, and your betting strategy to search for a pattern.
Celebrating the micro-second win
Along with moving past the increase in bad beats of the Net (see the previous section for advice), you have to psychologically adjust to the wins also coming far more quickly. If you catch a really big hand or have a very unusual sequence of cards hit the board, baddabing, baddaboom: The screen displays the hands still in play, the site pays out the pot, and the play continues with new cards. You may have played your entire life waiting for a royal flush and then, when it finally hits your Seven-Card Stud hand in the online world, the site treats it with exactly the same dignity and respect as a king-high hand full of junk. Be warned: Online Poker is a place where you have to provide your own celebrations. Best get the party poppers out before you log on.
DEALING WITH BAD BEAT WHINERS
You can’t find an Internet Poker room where players don’t type a phrase like, “This never happens in the real world!” every second. The fact of the matter is, yes, bad beats do happen in the real world. When the randomness comes out of a computer rather than a dealer’s ring- laden hand, the whole process just seems more suspicious.
And the online world seems to have a disproportionate number of people who complain, and then keep complaining, about their bad beats. Part of it, no doubt, is due to the anonymity of the Internet; people can whine without really losing face. Some of it probably has to do with the number of bad beats that any given person sees. And a few whiners may be people who don’t have much raw playing experience, so they taste the bitter end of the bargain for the first time.
In any event, it pays to be psychologically braced for opponents who take a bad beat and suddenly lose it.
As a player you have a couple of choices. One is to ignore your table’s version of Mount Vesuvius and wait for the eruption to cease. If you need help focusing, always remember that you can turn off player or observer chat.
If the whiners get threatening or abusive, you can also report them to your site’s support personnel for corrective action. Nobody needs to hear that kind of stuff, so you do all players a favor.
The one thing you shouldn’t do is engage the hothead in baiting conversation, no matter how tempting it may be. If the site does decide to levy ramifications on the jerk, you don’t want to be associated as an instigator or accomplice.