I have been playing way more poker than I care to admit, albeit online and completely free of any sort of money. I am pretty sure that I am getting a hell of a lot better at the game. I still don’t think that I am really any good, yet, I am pretty confident in my ability to win against any of the other players, who are NOOBs every bit as much as me.
I have still not ventured back into any of the real money games, not even the nickel and dime ones I was playing before (which I did not actually lose any money in), but I am fairly confident that if and when I do venture back into them I will do a hell of a lot better than I did previously.
People seem to place way too much stock in the eyes of their opponents when playing poker. I can tell you right now that I could look you straight in the eyes, tell you that I am a princess on a pony, and not blink or shift my eyes as I do it. I am sure that there are other mannerisms that change while I am telling you that, but the eyes will remain constant, staring into yours. That is what I am finding so baffling about the online poker games; All the digital opponents have tells.
I spent about two hours today playing in a fake money room on PokerStars. I started with 500 tokens and left with 8,437. I know that I personally knocked out at least a dozen players (three of them on a single hand), and it feels good to know that I am getting better. Still, without the benefit of being able to look at someone as they are making a decision you can’t really tell what they are thinking/holding, can you? Turns out you can.
When I entered the room that I played in there was one guy that had over 3,000, everyone else had under 1,000. I had exactly 500. The guy who had over 3,000 had a really weird tell: When he actually had a good hand he would bet an amount that would leave his chip count at an even number if he were to lose it (betting 137 when he had 3,137, for example. Perhaps he was thinking that others would view this as rounding out his winnings before he left?), yet when he was bluffing/unsure he would just bet in increments of 10. That was a simple pattern to figure out and the guy went out quickly.
There was another guy in the room that told his hand by checking/betting the minimum when he had a good hand, then betting 30, exactly 30, when he didn’t have a good hand. That guy would fold if anyone checked his 30, but would raise if the little bet made it all the way back to him: He would bet 30 on a shit hand, but bet the minimum on a good hand hoping he could raise it. He went out pretty quickly as well.
Most of the other players just put way too much stock into their own cards (me for instance). The hand where I busted out three people was when I was holding a lowly 6-9 diamonds. The flop brought an ace of diamonds, seven of clubs and eight of hearts. The two people facing me both had the ace (which I found out only after the hand), but I had an open-ended straight. If the betting would have been a bit more aggressive I would surely have folded. When the turn gave me a ten (don’t remember the suit), I checked, so did everyone else. The river came up an ace. Both of the ace holders thought they had the hand all but won, what are the odds that someone is still in the game with a 6 and 9 at this point. The third guy mucked his cards so I don’t know what he was holding. I went all in. All three of the active players called me. Quick double-up. It must really suck to lose with 3 aces though.
Sadly, the trend continued. One guy would get a pair of aces and assume that he was invincible. Only to lose to a low level straight or flush. I logged into that game with 500 tokens, logged out with almost 9,000, and never made a really stupid call. I did catch a flush on the river once, but that was the only reason I was still in the hand at all. I made solid decisions based on the best possible hand, took a couple of risks (which totally paid off), and am now confident that I can parlay the fake money game talent into a real game. Whether I actually do that or not is probably going to be up in the air though.
PokerStars.net sponsors Greg Raymer, Chris Moneymaker, and many other people I would not want to get into a showdown with. When you are just cutting your teeth at a game you certainly don’t want to play against the best ever (at least I don’t). Yet, I hope I could hold my own if I did. Luck is as important as skill in this game, I have luck in droves. Unfortunately my luck is all bad.