Friday, June 11, 2010

Online Poker

HERE is a sidebar to an article I wrote about a recent Asian Poker Tour tournament that I covered for Billionaire magazine, published by the same group that publishes the automotive trade publication, C! magazine.

Since a lot of people seem to be into poker these days, I thought this sidebar itself can stand on its own merits. I am not much of a poker person myself but let's just say that after this assignment, I did learn a thing or two about the game.

And yes, I have been practicing. Read on.


IT’S not just a virtual game.

Yes, the rules are pretty much the same but playing poker online, whether only for fun in Facebook or for real money in online sites like is a different kind of experience altogether.

Since you’re not actually playing in a casino or a specialized venue like the Metro Card Club in Metrowalk, Pasig, there are no poker faces and body language to observe. Among other disadvantages, there is no way of knowing if you are even playing a human opponent or the same human players logging in under different account names in the same table.

But many of the estimated two million players playing online poker daily on over 300 websites (according to swear that the advantages far outweighs its disadvantages, the most obvious of which is that it will make you a sharper poker player, whether you’re playing online or off.

Janice Jade Triste admits to regularly playing poker online from her own home. Her stunning runner-up finish in the recently concluded FPT Anniversary Tour is obvious proof that well, practice makes perfect. A few more reasons why.

Online poker is safe and fair. Most online poker sites are regarded as safe for the simple reason that by ensuring fair games, they stand to benefit and earn more from the rake that allows for bigger bankrolls and higher limits. Sites that do develop a reputation from cheating incidents are not likely to further attract more players and yes, online traffic from thereon.

Play more hands. Because cards needed to be collected, shuffled, and dealt after every hand, the average rate of play in a table is only around thirty hands per hour in traditional poker. Online, dealing and shuffling are instantaneous and thanks to what is called as “auto action” online poker tables average between ninety to one hundred hands per hour.

Play more tables. You can’t be at two places at the same time in the real world. In the virtual world of online poker, you can play in as rooms as you can. Depending on the site and the player's ability to make speedy decisions, a player can play several tables at the same time, viewing them each in a separate window on the computer display. If you’re playing for money, that can also translate to more winnings than real world poker.

Take a break anytime.  Enter and leave a table as you please, cut your losses and take a deep breath and try to catch your second wind, something you can’t do in real world poker. Online, you don’t just live to fight for another day, you also save on the usually expensive food and beverage that you’ll consume in casinos and yes, you don’t need to tip or give balato to the dealer and other employees on a winning day.

Players have similar habits. While you can’t see the eyes of your opponents or how he or she reacts to his starting hand and subsequent flop, you can still observe their hand selection tendencies as well as betting and raising patterns. For example, a player who raises instantly may not necessarily have a strong hand but may be only trying to bluff you while one who takes time to call your bet is likely to have a strong hand.

Get to know fellow players. Most online poker sites include forums and virtual communities where both novices and expert players alike can share their playing experiences as well as those all-important tips on how to become better players. Even when not playing, anyone who’s serious about the game stands to benefit from simply hanging out at these virtual communities.

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