
So you want to play online poker?
By odano in Culture Sat May 07, 2005 at 01:53:30 PM EST Tags: Internet (all tags)



In the last 2 years, online poker has exploded to a multimillion dollar industry with tens of thousands of players on at all times, day or night. According to PokerPulse, a site which keeps track of the number of users on most major poker sites, the largest online cardroom had a peak of in excess of 40,000 real money players in the last 24 hours
Well I've got a little secret for you. Half of them are idiots.






Now that i've got your attention, lets get into some specifics. The ratio of winning to losing players online is around 4:6, with the 40% being a somewhat constant population of winners, and the 60% a revolving door of gamblers, drunken college students and other poor players hopelessly trying to come out ahead.
If you can get yourself into the 40%, you will find a new world where there are thousands of people just waiting to sit at a table with you and give away their money. But here is where the infomercial ends. Poker is a game of knowledge and skill, where in order to beat your opponents you need to learn tricks they dont know, study the game more than them and then make the right decisions while you are playing.
This particular article is going to focus on the most popular poker game at the moment, Texas Hold'Em, and more specificy Limit Texas Hold'em, the most popular cash game online poker rooms and b&m poker rooms. First you need to learn the basic rules and poker hand rankings.
Now you know the rules, but you still have no idea what you are doing. Luckily Limit Texas Hold'em is a game where at any moment you only have 3 possible actions, so even if you were guessing at random, you would still make the right one 33% of the time. But obviously we aren't going to settle for random choice when we have all sorts of information at our disposal to help make the choice. Although Texas Hold'em and all poker games are games of imperfect information, we will use what we have. In Texas Hold'em there are always 2 cards dealt to you (called "hole cards"), if we choose to play these cards, we can see the community cards and of course the other player's betting patterns.
The first (and most important for a beginning player) decision is what two cards should I play? By looking at this expected value chart for hands preflop, you can see if any particular hand is positive expected value (+EV), which means that by playing this hand there is some sort of positive expected return or profit, or negative expected value (EV), which means that by playing this particular hand you are losing money. However due to the incredible variance of a single hand, or even a hundred hands, it is very possible for bad starting cards to win and good ones to lose, which is why these expected value statistics were calculated over hundreds of thousands of hands at real money tables.
Now that i've enticed you with enough information to get started, the rest you are going to have to learn on your own. Preflop play is often almost robotics, so it is easy to convey here what the optimal strategy is, but play after the flop is where money is made or lost. This is where you need to learn the situations where you want to be getting your money in the middle, and situations where you are better off mucking (folding) your cards. Since you are a beginner, I will tell you a few things you need to learn in order to learn how to learn to develop a poker strategy.
The first skill you need to develop is how to read your hand and the possible hands that can be created from the board. You should know at all times exactly what you hold, know exactly how many cards will help you and how many will hurt you. This poker beginner site has a good section on reading the board and many other topics. After you have mastered this concept, your next lesson is in pot odds. Pot odds is a way to turn Texas Hold'em into a math problem. By calculating how likely one of your "outs" (a certain card or group of cards that if they come out on the board, you believe you will have the winning hand), and then comparing that to how much money you have to put into the pot to see the next card, you can figure out whether a particular play is +EV or EV.
Im not going into more detail because I dont need to reinvent the wheel. There are hundreds of sites out there that will teach you basic poker strategy and pot odds. If you are interested in learning more, just google poker strategy and you will find them.
One reason for this article is that the skills that are involved in computer science and engineering are the same ones that are involved in poker. It is no surprise that many of the world's best poker players either have a computer science background or only left the field to play poker.
If you are interested in learning more, here are some links which may help you:
Two plus Two  They not only publish the best poker books, but they have a the best poker forum online and a great free online magazine
CardPlayer magazine  Has good articles and a helpful forum
Low Limit Hold'em  A nice guide for low limit hold'em (probably the best online)


