Welcome online poker lovers! For anyone who has played a few hands or who would love to learn a few tips, this is the place to be. Here’s how one devoted fan from Miami, FL got involved and stays involved. Carlos recently spent time with us by phone to give us a little background on how and why he got involved, and why he loves to play.
Here’s Carlos’ story:
[Tell us how you got involved with online poker]
“I’ve always loved to gamble, but poker has always been my passion. When I lived in Boston I would head to either Vegas or even Connecticut almost every weekend just to hit the casinos. When I moved to Miami, though, it got to be pretty difficult because here in Florida, even though they have casinos, they’re nothing like Vegas. I knew online poker existed so I found some good sites, started making a little money, and I was hooked.”
[Why do you like playing online poker?]
“It’s great because I can do it anytime, anywhere I am near a computer. It’s almost too convenient. My wife keeps telling my I’m addicted because if I’m in the middle of a game when dinner is ready I will take my laptop to the dinner table with me. She sees this as a game, yet I see this as an opportunity to make money. And I do make money, which I have to keep reminding her of.”
[Tell us your opinion of the online poker world overall.]
“Everything has its pros and cons. I was a little hesitant at first because I’m playing with a computer, which really takes a little getting used to. If you’re used to playing face to face with people, even if it’s in someone’s house, it’s an entirely different feel. You can hear the people, talk to them, see their faces when they bet, and all that. Online, however, there’s dead silence and you have no idea who you’re playing with. All you see is a bunch of screen names. You have to get used to this virtual world. For the most part, though, it’s all legit. When I win, I do get paid. I talk to some of my online poker buddies off line sometimes and they say the same thing – they win, they get paid. So you don’t need to worry about anything like that.”
[What poker websites do you currently play on? What ones have you enjoyed in the past?]
“Right now I’m pretty loyal to PurePlay.com and one reason is because of the laws here in Florida – we are only allowed to play for points and win prize money in return. We can’t bet with real money. Pure Play is, I personally believe, the best “free” site around. By free I mean you can actually play without buying a membership, and you can still win money.
PurePlay has a lot of tournaments almost around the clock. Some other sites are fairly limited. Depending on the type of membership you have will depend on how many tournaments you can register for and what the prize money is.
I’ve also tried a site called Ultimate Bet. You need to download software. The play was great. Their graphics are superior to some of the other sites and they have round the clock support. The only problem I had was that I frequently got error messages saying I didn’t have a certain module installed and no one could figure out what the problem was, so I gave up. I was getting disconnected too often.
A few years ago I played a lot at Players Only Poker and Ultimate Bet. I did win some good money but when I moved here to Florida I couldn’t play any more because they are sites that only allow “real” money play. How do they know? They go by the billing address of the credit card you use. If I ever leave Florida I’d sign up with them again right away. What I liked was if you won you can get your money in a variety of ways, and get it quickly.”
[Can people really win at online poker?]
“Absolutely! You won’t get rich. I want to make that very clear. But it really depends on where you live, too. Here in Florida it’s illegal to actually place bets online with real money. In other words, you can buy a membership to a poker site but you are really playing with “play money”. And instead of winning the pot like you would in a real casino poker game, you are winning a predetermined amount of prize money. There are, however, many many other places where you are allowed to use real money to place real bets and you win much larger prizes. In these cases, yes, you could easily have a significant income if you play well. I believe the U.S. has about five states with the same restrictive laws as Florida, but as far as I know Canada has no restrictions, and most of Europe is regulated, but it’s legal. How much can you win? Here in Florida I’ve won as little as $10 and on a good day I can win $500 or a few thousand dollars. Back in Boston I won over $15,000 a few times in various tournaments.”
[Tell us one of your favorite stories regarding a time where you won at online poker? Did you win any money?]
“Every time my wife accuses me of being addicted, I remind her of this story. She had planned a nice birthday party for me a few years ago. Guests were due to start to arrive at 3:00 PM I remember, and I was looking for something to do in the meantime. So I logged into my poker site and found out a tournament was just starting, so I signed up. Usually I can finish in the top 100 or so, and I figured time-wise I’d be kicked out just about the time people started to arrive. Well, as luck would have it, I was doing great! 3:00 came and the guests started arriving. My wife told me to put the computer away and join the party. I kept saying, “Just one more hand”, figuring I’d be eliminated any minute now. Nope. Finally my brothers and some neighbors joined me in the living room where I was sitting with my laptop, and I had my own cheering section! I made it to the final table. At this point my wife wasn’t talking to me and gave me one of those looks that said it no longer mattered if I won. I was in trouble no matter what. But – I did win! And I won $2,000! And when I won I had almost everyone at the party clapping and cheering me on. Of course, when the check came I had to run to the local jewelry store to get my wife something to try to appease her. She didn’t get over that one too fast.”
[Is Poker all luck, or can you really share some poker strategies that you think can help people win at online poker?]
“There’s really no magic strategies anyone can use at online poker. Luck does have a lot to do with it. Remember, when you’re playing online you have completely lost the ability to see the other players and learn what their “tells” are. In a casino you might find out that one guy scratches his nose each time he has a good hand and someone else might tap his foot. But it takes a while to figure this out. In online poker, you don’t get this opportunity to learn about your opponents. You’re flying blind – or playing blind, really. It’s tough to really formulate a strategy for playing overall, in this type of environment. When you think about it, each time you play and bet on a hand it’s really not much different than playing a slot machine.
A good rule of thumb is to: Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. If you aren’t getting good cards, and the other players at the table are making just plain stupid bets (especially if they are playing with fake money as opposed to their own money), you need to quit. Walk away. Sign out. Find another game. Don’t play like it means nothing. Too many people play like they know its fake money and they make bets no one would ever make if they were using real cash.
Here’s something I do see a lot of players doing although I don’t necessarily recommend this and I rarely pull this stunt myself. But, it’s one strategy that seems to be pretty common, and here goes: once you get your cards, go “all in” on the first round. The logic here is supposed to make the other players think you have maybe four of a kind or even better, so the other players get scared and usually break into two groups. They either fold right away, or they stay until they get a better feel for the action. Most of the time, from what I’ve seen, if that player is called at the end of the game, he has nothing. A really experienced player typically will never do this because there’s no reason to. You don’t want people leaving the table if you do have a good hand, and if you’re just bluffing, betting everything right away serves little purpose in the long run.
In one sentence, a good strategy is play like it’s your money (and it might be!), think before you bet, and don’t be afraid to quit while you’re ahead.”