Poker has come a long way from its seedier reputation as a game for degenerates and people of questionable character. Since poker has many variations, people have been able to enjoy more luck-based variants such as Pai Gow and Three Card poker without the need to think too hard about the way they play, or more strategic play in games such as Seven Card Stud and Texas Hold’em. This even translates to the non-table game version of poker, video poker, which is another game you can approach strategically to maximize your chances to win.
Table poker variants, particularly Texas Hold’em, have helped to boost poker into a world-wide phenomenon, a televised sport in its own right, as well as a game where professionals and laymen alike have the capacity to control how much they win or lose. Poker rooms have begun to flourish throughout the world, wherever gambling is allowed and regulated, and a recent addition to this phenomenon is online casino poker.
Poker is fundamentally different from other casino games
Playing a table game version of poker, games such as Stud, Omaha, and Hold’em, present a unique experience when gaming, whether you play in a physical casino or online. For example, with many casino games, you play directly against the casino. If you win, that’s money taken out of the casino’s hands, and if you lose, that’s money added to the casino’s profit.
Texas Hold’em, and its variants, is a game which pits player against player. This offers players an opportunity to earn money without having to worry about the odds stacked against you so that the casino makes its money, too. Instead, casinos take what’s called a rake. Since players go up against each other, whenever a player wins a pot, the casino takes a small percentage of the winnings. This way everybody wins (except the poor schmuck who stayed in with the second best hand).
In this sense, poker is a beatable game. There is still luck and gambling involved, but a player can play and develop skills that limit the role luck plays. The beauty of poker is that it requires two different types of skills. Poker is a mathematical game that involves understanding probability and making the proper play according to how you have figured the odds, and whether that play is a winning one over the long term.
The second set of skills is psychological in nature. You can never know for certain what cards everyone holds, but you can narrow down the possibilities based on your understanding of the players you’re up against. It’s been said that the best poker players aren’t actually playing based on the cards they hold so much as the players they are up against. Play the player, not the cards, so the adage goes.
Now that poker is all the rage, both in physical locales, and on the Internet, a good player does well to adjust play according to the playing environment. Online casino poker requires a slightly different approach to playing than its physical counterpart.
Approach to Online Poker
One of the most importance differences between poker in a brick and mortar casino versus online casino poker is that you cannot see the player you are up against in the case of the latter. Some may argue that this horrendously disrupts your ability to play the more psychological aspect of the game. This argument stems from a reliance on tells.
One important aspect of the game of poker is the possibility of deception. A player can bet in such a way that another player can deduce what the first player has, especially when a betting pattern has been discerned, along with a playing style. However, regardless of what the first player is representing, the possibility remains that this player is lying.
In poker and other forms of lying, a tell is a physical characteristic that has the possibility of contradicting what a player is trying to suggest. For example, in Texas Hold’em, on a flop with two clubs, when a third club comes out on the turn, some players will bet at that board and try to suggest they have made a flush. Poker players with a good knowledge of tells might be able to observe a facial tick or some other physical behavior that suggests the player is lying. Online poker removes that aspect from the game to some degree.
It only removes it to some degree, however. You may not be able to see if a player’s hand is shaking when he or she puts in money after the turn has paired the board (indicating the possibility of that player having three of a kind or, even worse, a full house). However, the time it takes a player to act can tell you something about that player’s hand. Some players even try to use that to their advantage by taking their time with every hand.
Furthermore, the role that tells play in discerning a player’s hand can be overstated. Hand shaking, for example, is a physiological response to a stressful or nerve-wracking situation. It does not tell you if the player has what she or he is representing, however. A player may be nervous because she flopped the nuts and other people are betting. Conversely, a player might have nothing but a dream, but sees the opportunity to bluff the real winner out of a pot when he sees a dangerous board. In the first case, her hand is shaking because she’s excited to have a strong hand. In the second case, his hand is shaking because he’s a liar and nervous about being found out. For a player who looks for tells, the only thing for certain is that an opponent’s hands are shaking. The reason for that remains unclear, unless one chooses to pay to find out, an action often disastrous.
Online play allows you to play against a wide range of players from around the world. Since access to online casinos is easier than getting to a physical casino in most cases, players can approach the game with varying levels of discipline. Consequently, savvy online players can more readily find fish, inexperienced or poor players, online than in an actual casino. When access to a casino is a mouse click away, players can begin playing on a whim. Online casino poker offers the experienced poker player great opportunities to profit over poor players’ whimsy.