I'm often asked how playing poker on the Internet differs from playing in live games. There are many ways. You can't see your opponents on the Internet, so you can't pick up any tells other than the time it takes them to bet. There aren't the distractions you find in a casino - no real life waitresses walking by asking for drinks; no friends stopping in to borrow money. There's no chance that someone next to you will expose his cards to you.
Things like that are surely different.
But there's one other difference that I'd like to focus on in this column - and that's the ability to play in more than one game at the same time.
I for one won't do that with stud. I do it with hold em and Omaha - games that don't require any card memory. But I won't do it in stud because I don't want to play if I can't remember all of the folded cards. I have a hard enough time with one game; I can't do two or more.
That being said, many players do play multiple games on the Internet - something they can't do in live games. I've asked them why they are willing to give up the edge of remembering folded cards. They answer that it isn't important to them - which they make up for it by playing with a slightly reduced edge in more games. Hey, who am I to argue?
There are ways to exploit these multi-game players that I'll share with you here.
The first is obvious. Since they're not keeping track of the folded cards, you give yourself an edge if you do so. I've written an article on the subject and there's a chapter in my book devoted to this skill. But leave it to say that if you can remember the rank of the folded cards you're ahead of the game.
The second may not be so obvious. Since they're in many games, they are not paying attention to all of the action in your game. They tend to play more automatically - more by pre-design than according to the nuances of the game you're in. They're less attentive to particular styles of play. So, for example, if you've been winning a number of pots with aggressive play, they're less inclined to remember that fact and assume that you're just trying to steal again if you raise the bring-in with an Ace exposed.
This can pay rich rewards. If they've called the bring-in, for example, they're less inclined to fold I've found, if you raise. Since they're not paying attention to you and your tight/aggressive style (assuming that's how you play) they're almost surely going to see the round out once they're in. So if you're inclined to bet as a bluff in this situation, thinking that they'll remember you as a player who rarely bluff - don't. Save the bet.
Their multi-game playing helps when you want to steal the antes. Most players playing more than one game tend to be very tight - folding everything that isn't a high quality starting hand. They can't keep track of the subtleties of the game so they have to keep things relatively simple. That means few tricky moves and few borderline calls. Since fewer than 20% of the starting hands are quality hands, the vast majority of the time they'll fold to a raise. If there are a few of these players in your game you can safely attempt to steal the antes much more frequently than you normally would in a game with players only playing one game.
Expect them to respond automatically to your action - based solely on the cards you are representing with your action - failing to take into consideration the kind of player you are or your recent play. Don't waste tricky plays that depend on your image to succeed. Certainly don't bother getting into mind games with them. They aren't engaged enough in the game to exploit in that way.
You should keep track of the players who play in multiple games so you don't' have to figure it out every time you face them. The major sites all have some kind of "player notes" feature. Use it to identify the guys who are playing in multiple games. You can then exploit them the next time you see them in a game. Or go that even one better. Look for games with a few of these guys playing in them and get a large advantage over the field.
Ed Note: Go ahead - play multiple games online - today at Noble Poker