When I first got into poker, playing online was still relatively new. Veteran players that I met would laugh when I told them that not only was my first hand played online, but that my entire poker infancy was spent on the virtual felt. In fact, it wasn't until I had spent hundreds of hours playing poker online that I felt comfortable enough to make my way to a brick and mortar casino and sit with other human beings, totally vulnerable to their intimidating stares and table talk. Although I found live poker intriguing, the convenience of playing online while struggling to keep up with my college schedule and day job kept me glued to my laptop every night.
Now looking back at those first few months of playing online, I realize that they were hours very well spent. It's no secret these days that the new generation of poker players are typically born and bred on the internet, sometimes never even stepping inside a live card room until they are more experienced than players 20 years their senior. The modern pro usually has an impressive online poker resume, and for good reason. Because of the speed at which hands are dealt and completed, combined with being able to play more than one table at once (called “multi-tabling”), playing online poker is a great way to learn and improve your game. There are a wide variety of stakes offered, including micro-limit cash games (often as low as 1 cent/2 cent) and tournaments with tiny buy-ins that are perfect for the poker novice. When you add in the appeal of a smaller rake and not having to tip the dealer when you win a pot (not to mention being able to acceptably play in your pajamas), playing online poker is a pretty sweet deal.
So how do you make money while playing poker online? And how do some players manage to play online poker for a living? Good questions. Setting up your account and joining a table is a piece of cake, but actually turning a profit is another story altogether. Of course knowing the poker basics and understanding some strategy will help, but here are some tips I can offer on how to make money playing poker online:
Find a Game That You Can Beat
I know a lot of online pros, and while many of them make their living in different games, they have each found one or more specific avenues of poker that make them the most money. Some players focus on multi-table cash games, while others play sit-n-goes for hours on end. There are lots of pros who have found that tournaments are the best way to make their cash, and in recent years many have turned to playing heads-up. No matter what their specialty is, any serious pro knows that your best game is your bread and butter and is where you should put most of your focus (and your bankroll). Finding your niche will take some time and experimentation, but if you keep good records of your sessions, it will eventually become clear where your strengths lie.
Take Advantage of Online Tools
We have already discussed some of the benefits of playing online instead of heading to your local casino, but there are several more advantages that you should keep in mind. Mark my words: effectively utilizing online poker tools will make you more money.
If cash games are your thing, having good table selection is key. Keeping your eye on the lobby and watching for tables with large average pots and a high percentage of players seeing the flop is sure to increase your win rate. Once you get into an action game, make sure to take note of who the worst players are because this information will surely come in handy later. Most online poker rooms offer a "find a player" feature which can be used to hunt for your favorite fish when they are playing online. Conversely, you usually will have the option to hide yourself from search (surprisingly most fish never seem to get the hint that they should probably be utilizing this option themselves).
In recent years, it has become the norm to use tracking software while playing online. Programs like PokerTracker will collect statistics on every hand you play and regurgitate the data, allowing you to accurately analyze your opponents and your own game. If you are trying to win money online, it is a good investment to purchase this type of software because, well, everyone else who is trying to win already has it. When used correctly and efficiently, players will have an easier time making the split-second decisions that multi-tabling demands. These programs also aid in record keeping, improving your game, and finding which games are most profitable. In other words, this type of software is essential to making a decent wage online.
Online poker allows you to be lazy; you can sit in your pajamas in the comfort of your home without a thought to your own hygiene or appearance. You can relax about proper table etiquette or dealing with an obnoxious guy to your right showing you pictures of his unfortunate looking baby. These are definitely perks of playing from home, but it can easy to go overboard with your laziness. Online poker takes discipline and focus, and it's not always easy with the distractions that are sure to be all around you. It is important to know what you can handle and what you can't, because everyone has a difference tolerance level for distractions. While it's usually a bad idea to watch television or read while playing online, lots of serious players occasionally surf the net and many listen to music. After playing professionally online for several years, I personally know that anything too distracting will affect my game (and therefore affects my profit) and I always have to be strict about not answering the phone while I am playing and limiting my web surfing.
The above mentioned tips are meant to be used in conjunction with a solid poker foundation. There is no substitute for experience, and if you are trying to make money playing online when you have never played poker before, then good luck. Although you are bound to win now and then, consistent money is not going to fall into your lap. If you want to learn how to make money playing poker online, you need to start playing small stakes, gather data, and gain experience. If you are honest with yourself and work hard on your game, the money will follow soon enough, and who knows - one day, you might even find yourself playing online poker for a living.
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