Playing online poker is convenient and popular because you don't have to leave your humble abode to drive to a local card room or a local casino. Most people don't have options to play in a nearby casino so online poker becomes their only alternative. However, playing at home also provides several distractions than can hurt your game. Your online bankroll might be in jeopardy if you don't stay focused at the tables.
You can only play one table at a time in a casino and some card rooms have rules that prohibit you from reading at the tables or talking on your cell phone. Aside from reading a copy of Poker Player Newspaper, you are forced to sit and focus on the table. Good players study their opponents to pick up tells and betting patterns. I try to talk to the other players at the table to gauge their personality type. Even when you are not actively in the hand, you are collecting information on your opponents. When you play online, you are tempted to do other things to cure your boredom. I joke around with my friends that I love playing online because I don't have to wear pants. There's an added level of comfort associated with online poker that you can't find in a casino. You can play in bed, in your office, outside on your deck, on the toilet, and even in a car (and I sincerely hope someone else is driving). But when you play at home, unless you are going to limit your distractions, your comfortable surroundings can be a detriment to your game.
Avoid talking on phone or instant messaging your friends. That's one of my biggest distractions. I turn off my IM chat and shut off my cell.
Pet owners should make sure their animals are not near the computer. I know one friend who accidentally folded quads because his cat that normally sleeps on top of his monitor jumped down and landed on his keyboard. If you are going to be playing a long session or in a tournament, make sure you walk your dog before you sit down.
Try to play poker after your children are asleep. My buddy Drizz constantly sits out of his Omaha 8 game because paternal duties take precedent when his kid spills juice or feeds an entire bottle of ketchup to the family dog.
Playing online allows you to play more than one table. Don't abuse that opportunity. I know it's tempting, but playing multi-tables is not for everyone. When you have three or four tables open at once, it's hard to pick up on betting patterns of your opponents.
The worst aspect of playing online is that the internet is literally at your fingertips. When I used to play, I wrote emails, checked up on the Yankees score, and read my favorite poker blogs. Surfing the web or watching TV keeps your eyes away from the action and clouds your focus.
Try to avoid playing in the same room as other people such as friends, roommates, and spouses. Their conversation might distract you or worse, they might influence how you play a particular hand. I've been on both sides of that scenario. I've convinced my brother to call in situations where he should have folded and vice versa.
There's no right way to play online poker. Keep in mind that sitting on the living room couch while watching the baseball game with the kids and the pets jumping all around, as your wife attempts to tell you about the weekend plans might not be the optimal circumstances under which to play a WSOP satellite. Try playing in a quiet room away from people, pets, and distractions like surfing the internet, watching TV, or talking on the phone. But wearing pants is always optional.
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