Although poker is a game of skill, much of the enjoyment and part of winning is the ability to out-think your opponent and use effective mind games. Pretending to have a bad hand, bluffing having a good hand are part of the mind games. Reading tells and working out who is bluffing and what they are covering up is an essential part of the game – when playing in person.
But what about online? Does it count when you can’t see the other players’ faces? Here are the differences between playing poker online and in real life.
Body language is a major part of playing in real life. Understanding a player’s playing style and identifying when they are changing things up to hide a good or bad hand is how players win or prevent a loss. Trying to hide the adrenaline surging through the body at the prospect of a big win has turned many games. Offline, this is just as important as playing the right hand. Online, it’s a non-issue. You simply cannot read a face that you cannot see, so other factors come into play
Poker can be a harsh game. Players use verbal aggression to unnerve their opponents – mockery, ridicule and “trash talk”. Although this remains part of the online game, but because you cannot see their face, it is much easier to ignore. Why? Because you need to check the message box and if you forget to look at the moment it appears – which happens to be the moment your opponent is trying to put you off – (as you will when concentrating on your hand) you can’t be affected by it. Also, the relative anonymity that people enjoy online makes the insults more outrageous.
People are cautious with money, generally. Unless they happen to have a lot of it, don’t mind losing it or are addicted, you are unlikely to see outrageous gambles at the table. Online, things are very different. It appears to be a psychological tactic designed either to make other players worry that the person making a rash play or that they have a bad hand and covering it, but it seems that players are much more willing to take a risk when playing online that they are not prepared to take when at a physical table.
Creating A Character
Professional online poker player use their own names, although some occasionally use wrestling-style stage names like “Poker Brat” (Phil Hellmuth) and “No Home Jerome” (Phil Ivey) but these are tame and rare. We get no equivalent of “Hulk”, “Tornado” or “Warrior”. Online poker actively promotes screen names and players have used this to their advantage. Men use feminine handles to lull players into a false sense of security that they are young and ditzy. It goes deeper than simply pretending to be younger than you really are or a 50-year-old pro male creating a persona of a young and inexperienced girl. Using character names (such as those who appear in Dostoyevsky’s “The Gambler”) can unnerve some players.
Handling Nerves and Panic
Hiding how nervous you are, anxiety at your hand and outright panic is incredibly difficult at the table. Even the most experienced poker players cannot hide adrenaline and fear once either has taken over the body. Online poker is a very different experience. Even the most anxious player about to lose a hand can promote an aura of laid-back calm through the messaging system. A few carefully chosen words can conceal both excitement and panic.