It’s hard enough to keep it in mind when you’re playing with chips in a casino, but in an online poker room it’s even easier to forget that you’re wagering actual money. When all you’ve got to do to stay in the game is click a button, you can get yourself into loads of trouble, if you’re not careful.
To keep your head (and your trigger finger) “in the game” and under control in the online poker room, follow these simple but vital guidelines:
In a land-based casino, distractions come in the form of cocktail waitresses, bright colors, loud music, flashing lights. In an online poker room, they come in the form of the TV, the phone, the kids (or the parents), the refrigerator, the dog, other websites…
Before entering the online poker room, minimize all distractions as best you can, because in the end distractions will do worse by you than even your opponents. Don’t start playing when you’re in the middle of cooking or homework or doing laundry. Don’t sit down to play right before you have to leave the house for an appointment. Don’t play when you’re so exhausted, you can barely keep your eyes open.
Staying focused also involves playing only when you’re in the right headspace. If you’re thinking about a fight you just had with a parent or a lover; if you’re worried about money, bills, your job, school, or your health; if your head is not in the game, get out of the game until you are ready.
There’s a big difference between being bold and being careless. Playing bold is calmly and rationally considering all the facts of the hand at that moment in time before making any aggressive moves, whereas playing carelessly is basing your moves on emotions. Boredom, hopelessness and frustration, insecurity and self-doubt, arrogance, superstition, impulsiveness, laissez faire — all of these lead to careless play. Observation, careful analysis, patience, discipline — all these lead to intelligent play, which is sometimes bold, sometimes reserved.
People don’t like to lose — you don’t, we don’t — it’s a fact of human psychology. The very act of losing then, especially when one expects to win, can easily put even the most hardened player on tilt.
To be on tilt is to be off your game, to be distracted by your emotions (frustration, remorse/regret, fear, anger) from making sound decisions. In an online poker room, coming from an emotional place rather than a rational one is the equivalent of playing with impaired judgment.
To subvert your opponents’ abilities to put you on tilt, simply turn off the chat feature. Any online poker room with a chat feature will give you the option to turn it off — usually right from the table itself. You can still view the real-time betting sequence of each hand but without all the distracting and potentially off-putting chatter.
Of course if you do this, you also forfeit your ability to put other players on tilt. Here, it’s a choice. If you feel steely-nerved and aggressive, go for it. Just don’t cross the line from the controlled and deliberate method of putting another player on tilt to bullying and spouting hostility. There is a difference, and we bet you already know it.
It’s a sickness — becoming so obsessed with the game that you forget to eat, drink water, or sleep. Don’t laugh — it’s easy to do. You’re in a tournament and one hour turns into seven and suddenly it’s nighttime and you haven’t had breakfast yet, or it’s morning already and you’ve been sitting in that one position all night. Yikes! Fun is fun, but please don’t make yourself ill having it.
Which brings up one final point…
Really — if you’re going to get wasted before you enter the online poker room, will give you give us a heads up so we can join you at the table? Seriously, if you’re going to throw your money away like that, you might as well throw it in our direction.