Online poker subtleties.
Online Texas Holdem is a game of small edges. If you’re playing the game for the money and not for the fun element, you need to be on the lookout at all times to discover such tiny-little edges and to effectively put them to use. You also have to be careful not to make any mistakes that might provide your opponents with such small edges.
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Other tiny edges become apparent during play: you can make reads on your opponents, discover some type of mistake they tend to make all the time, home in on their anti-skills and so on.
The problem is, that no mater how careful you are, and no matter how well online anonymity conceals you, there are small tells you might be giving your opponents without ever being aware of it.
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In every online poker room, there are a whole range of different buttons which you use to convey your decisions to the client software in real time. Most poker rooms try to make their interface as user-friendly as possible, so they provide you with a set of buttons that facilitate easier interaction between you, the player and the software. Most of these buttons are also meant to make the game flow faster, cutting down on the time spent by each player manipulating their interface. Making games as fast as possible is not only in the interest of the other players around the table who may be irritated by stalling, but it’s also in the interest of the poker room: the more raked hands there are played in a poker room/ unit of time, the more profit they make from the rake.
One such button is the check/fold button.
In case you were unfamiliar with the inside of an online poker room, this "button” is basically a checkbox which you can tick in advance if you figure the hand you were dealt is not worth taking any further unless it is for free.
If you have that checkbox ticked, as soon as your turn comes, the computer will either check for you (if no one raised before you) or muck your hand (if someone raised).
As funny as it may seem, I often used that button myself and it’s never really crossed my mind that by doing so, I was letting my opponents read me.
When you use the fold button, your cards are mucked directly and they are not shown to your opponents. When you use the check-fold button, the hand is either folded or checked instantly. Give it a try and you’ll see that it’s quite obvious when someone uses that button.
What does that tell your opponents? It says, "hell, I have a crap hand, but I’d like to see the flop on it, if you guys allowed me to…”. Obviously, such messages are among the last things you want to send to your opponents. If you do it, and you’re in the big blind you can rest assured someone’s going to bet into it just to make you fold.
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Some say that at lower stakes/limits, where the opposition isn’t so stiff, it’s ok to use it. Ignore it when playing higher stakes/limits though…those players are probably much better at poker than them low-stakes rookies, so they’ll use it against you.
I’d advise you not to use that button at all, and when you do use it, only do it to mislead your opponents.
After all, good counter-intelligence is what a winning player needs to deploy, in order to beat the game.