Playing the Game

OK! You now understand exactly how the games work, and you’re ready to log on to your site of choice and start making people rue the day you decided to pick up a mouse and do this online poker thing. The online poker environment requires a player to know where and when to click, so we’ve dedicated the first part of this chapter to showing you the screens you’ll be seeing and to describing briefly the functions the various tabs, buttons, and check boxes serve. Then we’ll talk about other online-unique aspects of the game. After reading this chapter, you will know

✦  What an online poker “lobby” is, what it contains, and what information it gives you.

✦  What to do to select a table and “buy in.”

✦  What options will appear on your screen as you play and what they mean.

✦  What happens if you don’t act in time.

✦  What playing multiple tables simultaneously involves.

✦  What is and is not allowed when “chatting” with other players.

The Lobby

To log on to your card room, double-click its icon on your desktop (which will have been created when you installed the host software) and let your and their computer do the connection-establishing thingy they do. Enter your user name and password in the appro- priate places, and you will see something similar to Figure 6.1.

Figure 6.1 Online poker room lobby

The first thing you notice is that the screen has several different sections from which
to choose. The top line, with Real Money, UltimatePoints, and Free Games, allows you
to see the different games and tables available to you at that time in each of those three categories. (Note: UltimatePoints is an UltimateBet-unique promotion; other sites have their own customer rewards programs.) In this example, you are looking at UltimateBet’s real money Hold ’em page. Notice that the table listing the available games is divided by type of game (Hold ’em , then Omaha, Omaha 8/b, etc.), and then in descending order
by stakes ($80–$160 to $4–$8 are pictured, but notice there is ample room to scroll down for smaller stakes and some likely no- and pot-limit games). Beside the Games tab, you see there are also tabs for Scheduled Tournaments and Sit and Go Tournaments. A scheduled tournament is exactly that: At 7 PM, for example, as long as a minimum number of players pay the entry fee, the tournament will begin, with prize money being determined by the total number of players entered. A sit and go tournament, on the other hand, begins as soon as 10 (or however many) players buy in.

Figuring Out Which Tournament or Table to Join

For best results, a poker player aspiring to make a profit over time should be strong at as many games as possible and should also be a strong ring game and tournament player. Over time, you will be able to use the lobby as a tool to put yourself in situations in which you are most likely to succeed. There’s an old saying we’re sure you’ve heard

before: “It’s no good being the tenth-best poker player in the world if you always play against the first-through-ninth-best players at the same time.” This simply means that there will be games in which you are the weakest player or at least an underdog. Because it’s easy to tell a poker player “OK, so just don’t play” when conditions are unfavorable but almost impossible for them to resist playing, the best alternative is to be a strong player in several games and to be able to identify the table with the weakest field against which you would be competing. We’ll tell you in this chapter and elsewhere about what you can do to scout out the best games.

The first thing you want to decide is which games you do or don’t want to play during
the session. A friend of mine who plays higher-limit games is cognizant of when he’s not as alert as he should be. He doesn’t play Stud at those times because he’s not able to “follow the cards” as well as he should (in Stud, it is very important to remember which cards your opponents have had face-up in their hands but have folded, so you have a lot of information as to how many cards will help your and your opponents’ hands). When he’s tired, he sticks to Hold ’em , which still requires a player to be alert but doesn’t tax the memory as badly as Stud. After deciding on games from which to choose, you should then decide how “high” you want to play. As you will see when perusing the lobby, there are Hold ’em games for relatively high limits ($15–$30 and $20–$40 are commonly available) all the way down to what are known as “micro-limits” (25¢–50¢, for example).

After you decide on the range of limits you want to play, check out the information on each table from the lobby. In Figure 6.1, there are several bits of information available to you. First, you will see a listing of the players currently playing and at least some of the players waiting for a seat. Additionally, you will see that the average pot size, the percent- age of hands in which there is a flop (i.e., there are at least two players who remain after the first round of betting), and the number of hands per hour. This data will tell you how desirable this table is for you; because you will see if there are a lot of flops and big pots with players who you know are not as good as you are, this is a prime opportunity for you to increase your bankroll! You will be able to join either the table or the waiting list. When you sit down, you will be asked how much you would like to “buy in” for, meaning how much money you would like to put at risk. There is a minimum buy in, typically five times the big bet, and for certain games there is a maximum buy in. Maximums are for the pot- and no-limit games, and they protect a table from a person deciding to sit down with $2,000 and push everyone out of the pot.

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