AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 02.09.2021 · last updated 02.09.2021

Anyone new to the world of online poker tournaments is, at least initially, bound to find the experience somewhat daunting. There are so many things to consider and weigh up, stuff to calculate here and there, crucial decisions to be made… and there’s little respite as, hand after hand, we’re being scrutinized and tested and forced into choosing between contrasting but equally feasible options. It’s a veritable mental minefield, and we have to bob and weave as the tournament progresses and the tension rises.

And that’s just when we’re involved in a hand – what about the rest of the time? It would be understandable under these circumstances to sit back and do nothing when we’ve folded our trash hands or have for whatever reason stepped out of the hunt for chips. Take a mini breather, perhaps, quickly check social media or see what’s happening in the world. But this would be a mistake – it’s far better to use our time productively because this in turn makes poker life so much easier overall.

Make Use Of Folding Time

One important habit we should get into is, as soon as we fold, making a conscious effort to observe play, particularly with a view to working out the opposition’s hole cards. It doesn’t have to be with any kind of scientific approach, just watching how things pan out and what this or that player is doing. The idea is to get used to this way of thinking so that it becomes automatic so that, when we find ourselves actively involved in a hand, we’re already naturally taking into account potentially key elements by this process of putting players on hands simply ticking away in the background. Hand reading is a part of the game that tends to be either underused or even not used at all, which is a poker sin given how useful such a strategy can be. While it’s true that we can expect the dynamics at the table to evolve and change, players nevertheless change the way they play very much (or at all), so it’s worth using our ‘folding’ time productively in order to add to our weaponry.

This leads us nicely to the next bit of advice, as well as help make sure that we avoid doing something less than helpful when we’re dealt trash hands – namely NOT playing hands because we’re bored. This is one of many ‘tips’ that seems as obvious as ‘keep your eyes open when crossing a road’ but, perhaps surprisingly, is not a rule that enough players adhere to – even experienced ones. Beginners understandably play too many hands, but more seasoned players knowingly take liberties with poker reality by killing boredom with the occasional dodgy call with, for instance, 72 (because, if we’re going to break any rules, we might as well do so with the worst hand in poker…). This is simply a bad habit that new players should avoid like the plague and instead assume the good habits such as that described above. Experienced players, meanwhile, should be looking to remove this indulgent leak from their possibly jaded repertoire and get back to respecting the fundamentals that should have served them well thus far. A good way of avoiding boredom and the problems it presents is to sit down with a good idea of the kind of pre-flop range that best suits, and to stick to it rather than let boredom creep in.

Letting boredom affect us means we’ll ultimately give in to the temptation to deviate with would-be ‘interesting’ plays with rubbish hands. If boredom can be too debilitating, then poker might not be the most fitting game to be playing…

Generally, time is such a precious commodity that we can’t afford to waste it, and it’s well worth reminding ourselves of that when playing online poker if we have even modest ambitions of success…

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