Disadvantages of Online Play

Personal Features

1. There is a temptation to play online when you shouldn’t. Internet poker is so easily accessible that it is easy to find yourself playing when you would be better advised not to (during or after a drinking session, for example). While it is true that alcohol is permitted in most live-action games, you are less likely to run into someone who is playing poker completely drunk in live play than you are online. On occasion, some online players even take the time and trouble to inform others at the table of exactly how much they have drunk! (If you come across such a player, please feel free to e-mail me so that I can join the party.)

2. There are more distractions when playing online than in a brick and mortar cardroom.The fact that most people play online in their homes, means that potentially they could be distracted by other matters and, in failing to pay full attention to the table, start to make mistakes. Whereas in a brick and mortar game, the physical presence of other players should be enough to keep your attention on the game, this safety net is absent from the online game. Most online players are, to a greater or lesser extent, guilty of answering e-mails, surfing the Internet or watching TV while they are playing. (It follows that you will have an instant edge over many of your less focused opponents if you simply give the game your full attention. Online poker is real – the players are real and the money is certainly real!)

3. Like all ‘computer games’, online poker may encourage obsessive and compulsive behaviour in some people.
The relatively easy accessibility of online poker might be potentially very damaging for ‘problem gamblers’, since the next opportunity to gamble is only a mouse-click away. Furthermore, it is easy to get sucked into playing ‘just one more hand’ or ‘just one more round’ and before you know it another hour has passed by.

4. Online poker is a very untactile form of the game.
Most players prefer the tactile qualities of physical cards and chips to making impersonal movements of a mouse around a screen. Indeed, some players like to hold a few chips in their hands while they are playing online, in order to make the game seem more ‘real’.

5. Online poker could potentially have negative health effects. For players who play for many hours each day (like anyone else who spends a great deal of time on a computer) there is the risk of RSI or other computer-related health problems such as eye strain and headaches. Furthermore, nowadays many people already spend their working hours at a keyboard, and it may be unhealthy or unsatisfying for them to spend their free time at a computer as well.


Social Features

6. There is little social interaction online.
For many players the general social interaction of a brick and mortar game is one of its most appealing qualities. If you attend a regular weekly game, for example, you have the opportunity to chat with old friends and share the odd joke while you are playing. Although all online cardrooms offer a chat facility, this is a poor substitute for proper conversation. Professional players who play exclusively online may therefore experience a sense of social isolation.

7. There is no face-to-face psychological warfare.
Many brick and mortar players enjoy the fact that they are engaged in combat with other players sitting nearby; human beings whom they can look straight in the eye, rather than pixelated representations on a computer screen.

8. There are no waitresses bringing food and drink online.
If you need beer or pizza you actually have to get up and fetch it yourself!


Financial Features

9. There is no internationally recognised regulation of online gaming operations.
Many players are understandably wary of depositing substantial funds with online cardrooms. Apart from fears over the legality of playing online poker for real money, there are two main reasons for their concerns. First, if the cardroom were to go out of business, they would most likely lose any funds that are being held on account. And second, if they became involved in a dispute with the cardroom, their account might be frozen without any means of legal redress.

10. It is more problematic to buy-in and cash-out online.
In a live-action game you can just show up with the cash and sit down to play, whereas online poker requires that players have some electronic means of funding their account. Likewise, you cannot simply walk away from an online game with a bundle of notes, but will experience a delay of at least a few days while any cash-out is processed. One side-effect of this is that there are fewer purely casual players online than in a casino – the hassle involved in buying in online is enough to deter anyone with only a passing interest in poker from playing solely on a whim.

11. Online games have a higher hourly variance than live play.
Online players generally experience higher hourly swings than their live-action counterparts. This extra volatility can be attributed primarily to the greater number of hands that are dealt per hour in an online game. However, experienced brick and mortar players may also encounter greater variance because they are deprived of the visual tells which usually enable them to save a few big bets or win an extra pot or two in each session.
12. There is potentially more chance of going on tilt online.
It is more important (and harder to maintain) your emotional control and general discipline when there is no-one else around. The very fact that they do not want to embarrass themselves in public, is enough to prevent many players from going on tilt in a live-action game. However, there are no such emotional checks in place when you play online, and the fact that you are playing with ‘cyber’ chips rather than real chips may accentuate the problem. Furthermore, the online game is so fast that you can find yourself on tilt before you know it.
13. Online games are generally regarded as tighter than live-action games.
On the whole, online players are more poker-obsessed and poker literate and will therefore play in a tighter fashion than their brick and mortar counterparts (for some of whom poker is more a social event, possibly being combined with a visit to the blackjack table, some slots and a little roulette). Indeed, many good players choose to play at lower limits online than they would in a live-action cardroom; the speed of the online game and the fact that they can play multiple tables means that they can earn as much (or more) online than they would in their normal brick and mortar game.
Furthermore, most online opponents are competing at a level with which they are comfortable, and not being forced to play out of their depth just because it was the only seat available. In online play, casual or inexperienced players can choose to play at micro-limits, whereas in brick and mortar cardrooms they would very likely be forced to play at least at $3/$6 or $5/$10 limits. The micro-limits provide these new players with the opportunity to learn to play poker very cheaply before they venture into the online low-limit and middle-limit games. In addition, many of the looser players who provide the ‘action’ in full ring brick and mortar games, opt for short-handed rather than full games online. Finally, weak online players are usually prevented from going on serious tilt for thousands of dollars, due to online credit restrictions. Instead of losing whatever may be in their wallet, without ever having to add it up, these players are forced to establish a proper bankroll when they buy-in.
Game Selection Features
14. You cannot change seats online without leaving the table and therefore possibly losing your seat altogether.
Brick and mortar cardrooms always provide players with the option of moving seats when another player leaves, but in an online game you cannot change seats in this fashion. You must first leave the table and then buy back in, which would place you at the bottom of any waiting list.
Game Play Features
15. You may be disconnected from the site while you are playing.
Every online player occasionally experiences the frustration of disconnections from a site in the middle of a hand, either for Internet connectivity reasons or because of a local problem with their computer.
16. You need to be able to make good decisions more quickly online.
The online game is much faster and more frenetic. In fact, some experienced players deliberately act bewilderingly fast in order to confuse their opponents and perhaps cause them to rush their decisions.
17. It is more difficult to identify and use tells online.
Although there are tells in the online game, these are far fewer and generally less reliable than tells in brick and mortar games.
18. It is more difficult to identify the really bad players quickly.
When a new player joins a table at a brick and mortar cardroom, it is often relatively easy to identify how experienced they are by the way they handle their chips, whether they act promptly in turn, the conversations they have with the dealer and other players, etc. (although it is true that some players do pretend to be inexperienced to deceive their opponents). However, online you have to rely solely on your interpretation of how they are playing their cards. Sometimes a new player to an online game might appear to be very loose, when in fact they have just received a glut of good starting hands. If you were instead able to see them in the flesh you would have immediately been able to peg them more accurately as a solid, experienced player.
19. In the online game there is a risk that players are either colluding by phone or Instant Messenger or perhaps cheating in other ways.
Although collusion does occasionally occur in brick and mortar games, it is much easier to collude online. Indeed it is even possible for one person to be playing two or more hands at the same table.

Why I love High Roller Casinos

There are many online casinos out there on the internet and a lot of them offer high roller bonuses these days. I have previously talked about high roller bonuses and how they differ from regular bonuses but just to quickly recap, they are more or less the same thing except with a high roller bonus you have to invest a lot more money yourself but in return you get more money back and at the better casinos a much more favourable deal plus its easier to get comp points etc. What it boils down to in life is that if you flash the cash then you get better service. Now it can be debated whether or not this is a good thing but at the end of the day everyone wants better service and at the better high roller online casinos you certainly get it.

A high roller casino or poker room will also typically offer higher stakes games for you to wager on which increases the drama considerably and also makes it easier to play as it can get a bit tedious having to make a lot of smaller bets, especially in poker.

A High Roller Casino will also tend to focus a bit more on the core games like the table games, Craps and Roulette, and card games like Blackjack and Baccarat and this is something I personally really appreciate as I’m not really that interested in the slot machines and video poker. When I’m in a real casino I always head straight to the VIP area and the games that they have and these tend to be the games I play at an online casino as well.

As I have alluded to before, customer service for me is absolutely vital and is in one of the main things we really value and factor very highly when reviewing new high roller casinos and poker rooms for this site. In my experience customer service can vary a tremendous deal between the casinos but the ones offering a high roller experience tend to be much more focussed on it and are much smoother and quicker when it comes to for example dealing with payouts and any queries and this is absolutely vital to the whole gaming experience, there is nothing worse than having hassles with a casino to get your money paid out.

How Online Poker works

Online card rooms use computer software to produce virtual card rooms. Players see a depiction of a card table on their screen, showing the other players (cartoon style) and details of their own hand much like you see on console games.

The software uses a random number generator to determine the order of the deck of cards. This ensures that, with each game, the cards are randomly shuffled. The software deals the cards and prompts the players to make decisions about their hands. At the appropriate times in the games it gives the options of check, call, bet, raise or fold. These options will appear on the screen. Players select which option they want by clicking with their computer mouse. The screen will tell you how much you need to bet to stay in the game and provide the options that you have at that point in the game. Throughout the game, a running total of the pot and the actions of the other players are shown. At the showdown the cards of the remaining players will be revealed. The software deducts the amount of the bets from the player’s account and credits any winning pots to their account.

Because the games are operated by a computer they are run at a much faster pace than normal poker games. There is no dealer so no time is wasted while the cards are shuffled, dealt and collected. There is often a time limit imposed. If you do not act within the time limit, your hand is folded.

The rules tend to be similar to those found in bricks and mortar casinos. Due to the internet environment, there are special rules that cover what happens if a player gets cut off from the internet during a game (see later).

Cards are burnt as in a normal poker game. You don’t see the cards getting burnt. The players take it in turn to be the dealer. They don’t physically deal the cards themselves. All the dealing is carried out by the software. A disc (dealer button) will indicate which player is the current dealer.

Once all the cards are dealt, the various options that are available during the game will appear on the screen – raise, call, check and fold. The first player has one of three choices: check, bet or fold. Once a bet has been placed, the subsequent players must call, raise or fold. In draw poker you will need to select the cards you want to hold.

Players can take a break, leaving the game for a short while and returning to the same table.


Joining a game
To begin playing you will need to log on to your account. This will take you to the lobby. Here you will find a list of all the games currently in progress. If there is an empty seat at a table you click on ‘Join game’ and you will be taken to that game. If there are no empty seats available, you can put your name on a waiting list. You can specify what stakes you want to play for and how many people you want to play against.

For each table there will be details of how many players are currently sitting at the table and how many are on the waiting list. If you put your name on the waiting list, you will be notified when a place becomes available.

You may sit in any chair that is available. You will be shown the players’ nicknames and how much money they are playing with.

An information box will tell you the name of the game, the limits and type of game the blinds, ante and the buy-in.

When you first sit down at a table you are prompted to enter the amount of your buy-in. There will be a minimum buy-in that will depend on the game being played.
Take your time to familiarize yourself with the layout as they differ with different sites. Most sites allow you to customize the screen to suit your taste.
Watch the games before playing and only join once you are confident that you understand exactly what you need to do. Read the terms and conditions before agreeing to them. Many sites have a code of conduct.


What happens if you get disconnected from the internet?
If you get disconnected from the internet while a game is in progress, the way that your hand is treated will vary with different sites so you should carefully check the rules. In general, your hand will automatically be played as all in. If check is an option, the system will check for you. If not you will go all in and a separate pot will be created. If you have the winning hand, you will be awarded the pot that built up at the time that you were disconnected. To avoid abuse of this feature, players are limited to a number of all ins in a 24-hour period. If you exceed the number of all ins in that time, your hand will be automatically folded if you get cut off from the internet.

Practice makes perfect in High Roller Poker

You need to be able to correctly identify a poker hand and recognize immediately the value of your hand and where it comes in the ranking. When you first look at your cards, they may appear to show nothing, they will be in a random order and it may not be at first obvious that you have, for example, a straight or a possibility of a straight. At the showdown, you will need to know, for example, that your full house beats a flush.

To get better at recognizing the hands you can practise assessing the hands by dealing out dummy hands. Deal out hands of five cards, identify the poker hands and put them in the correct ranking order. You will soon appreciate how infrequently a good hand is dealt. Once you have mastered the ranking, you can then start to judge whether or not a hand is worth playing.

Get plenty of practice. Take a pack of cards and deal out dummy hands as if you’re playing the game with several players. Look at your own hand. Decide whether or not it is worth playing. Then assess your hand against the others. Did you make a good decision? Would any of the other hands have beaten yours? Are you throwing away hands that could easily win? By continuing to do this you will learn the sort of hands that are worthwhile playing and those that are not.

Play alone or with friends until you are familiar with all situations. Practise placing bets as you play. Some games are played so quickly that it can be difficult for a novice to follow them. With practice you will become faster.

It is also very important to play at the right level. Don’t aim too high when you are still learning. Stick to the simpler, cheaper games and gradually work your way up. Remember, the higher the stakes the better the players.

High Roller Bluffing in Poker

If all the other players fold in a game of poker, the remaining player wins the pot and does not have to reveal the cards held to the other players. This means that it is possible to win a game without necessarily having the best hand. Bluffing is convincing the other players that you have a good hand when you actually have quite a poor hand. Bluffing is achieved by placing a big bet to intimidate the other players to fold. The advantage of bluffing is that it allows you to attempt to win a pot even when the cards that you have are poor in value and would have little chance of winning in a showdown. To succeed with a bluff you need to raise the betting to a level high enough to ensure that the players fold before the game reaches a showdown. If your bluff is successful you will win the pot and no one will know that you were bluffing. If, however, you are forced into a showdown, you must reveal your cards and your bluff will have failed.

Semi-bluffing is making a big bet when your current hand is poor but has a good opportunity to improve. Your initial cards may not be enough to win a game but if you stay in until more cards are revealed you may get what you want to make a great hand. If you don’t get the cards you want then you continue to play out the hand as if they are there. In Texas hold ’em, you may, for example, have two cards for a potential straight or flush. After the flop, you still need two cards to make a straight. You continue playing as if the flop gave you what you needed for a good hand. By sufficiently raising the stakes you attempt to make the others fold. If this does not work, you continue to bet and hope that you get your necessary cards.

When should you bluff?
Bluffing is most effective in high roller poker games where it is possible to substantially increase bets. If it becomes expensive for a player to stay in a game they are more likely to consider folding. Bluffing is particularly suited to no-limit Texas hold ’em, because you can bet what you like: you can make a huge bet that is big enough to make anyone think twice before continuing to play.

The size of the pot will influence your decision on whether or not to bluff. Bluffing is most useful for taking small pots. In a situation where lots of players have folded, you are left with little competition for the pot. With a small pot, players are more likely to fold if they have a mediocre hand. Although they could improve, they will often prefer to sit the game out and wait for a better hand with a bigger pot. In contrast, a large pot will be much more competitive. Players will be more likely to fight for a pot where they have contributed a substantial stake.
Bluffing is best used against good players. A good player will realize that your increase in stakes means that you either have a good hand or that you are bluffing. If you have a reputation as a tight player, the increase in stakes will be taken seriously.

Bluffing will not always work. Not every player will back down, particularly if they relise that they have a good hand. If you find yourself in the situation where your bluff is not believed it may, be better to fold earlier rather than later. If you are continually re-raised you can quickly lose all your chips.

Ideally, you should bluff when there are just a few people left in the game. It is easier to convince one or two people that you have a good hand rather than having to convince five or six.

Your position in relation to the dealer will have an influence on whether or not it is worthwhile to bluff. It is not good to bluff from an early position as you have no idea if the other players have been dealt a good hand or not. It is much better to bluff from a late position as you will see players’ reactions to their hands and how they bet.

A good time to bluff is when you have just won a big pot with a good hand. A forceful round of betting will be more likely to convince the other players that your luck is in and you’ve got another good hand.

It’s important not to get caught bluffing as this will cause you to loose credibility. You need to be able to force players to fold without getting caught in a showdown. If you’ve recently been caught bluffing, players will tend to call your bets. You can, however, use getting caught to your advantage if shortly after you have a good hand. The other players will remember that you just bluffed and are more likely to assume that you are trying to pull off another bluff. You can then use this opportumty to raise your stakes and take a big pot.

You should bluff when other players are running short on chips. They are more likely to fold in order to play in the next game. You will need to take care if they stay in though, as if they go all in, you will be forced to a showdown. Avoid bluffing against players with lots of chips as they are more likely to carry on betting.

Bluffs that seem to represent a specific hand like a flush, straight or full house have a much better chance of succeeding. Trying to convince the other players that you have a good hand will be easier. If there appears to be nothing on the board it will be harder to convince the other players that you have anything special.

A bluff when you are on a losing streak or when you are low on chips comes across as desperation and is less likely to be believed by the other players. If you have to go all in, you will be forced to a showdown and your bluff will be revealed, which will reduce your credibility.

Be wary of bluffing when there are high cards in the flop like A, K, Q, J or 10 as someone will inevitably have a match and will be highly unlikely to back down. If there is an ace in the flop, there is bound to be someone who already has an ace In their hand.

For example, with a flop of A, K, J anyone holding an ace, king or jack will stay in, anyone with a pair of aces, pair of kings or pair of jacks will stay in. So too will anyone holding a queen with the hope of getting a straight. The competition for the pot will be too great. If the board ends up as A, K, J, 10, 7, anyone with a queen knows that they have nuts. Anyone with three of a kind will likely stay in. Anyone with an ace and another high card may also stay in. Those that have just missed their hand may also stay in and attempt a bluff.
If there are low cards in the flop, it is less likely that someone will have a match. Players are much more likely to stay in with high cards. If you start betting strongly as if you have a three of a kind or a high pair this is more likely to be believed. You need to ensure that you bet strongly enough to force out your opponents before more cards are dealt.

If you bet pre-flop and didn’t get the desired hand after the flop, you continue betting as if you got what you wanted. The players will note your strong position pre-flop and your apparently stronger position post-flop.

Keep an eye on the players who have folded as they will inevitably show that they threw away a good hand. If they had a matching pair in their hand, it diminishes the chances that the other players have a good hand.

Choosing a good High Roller Online Casino

Are they reliable?

This should always be your first question when seeking out a high roller online casino. There are a lot of online casinos out there and unfortunately there are some rogue ones who offer the moon yet deliver nothing. One of the best ways to find a good reliable casino is to check out their customer support, if you get a good and prompt response then you can feel pretty safe with them. It is also a good idea to check out which organisations they are affiliated with like for example gamble aware and also see what kind of payment options they have.


Just how good is their High Roller bonus?

Many bonuses look almost too good to be true and sadly in a lot of cases this is true. This is not to say that the bonuses are worthless just that they might not be quite as great as the banner would suggest. Before signing up to any high roller bonus it is crucial that you thoroughly read through and understand the terms and conditions as they do vary from online casino to online casino.


How does the high roller casino look and feel?

Although all online casinos have a similar look and feel with the lobby and various game areas etc there is still a lot of variation and some online casinos might feel a lot better than others, I certainly know that I have my favourite high roller casinos as I’m sure you do or will. Almost every casino or poker room we review offers the facility to play for fun before deposting any money and this is something which we recommend as there is nothing worse than depositing your money into the high roller account and then discovering that you hate the graphics or sound or something else with the online casino.


Do they have my casino games?

This is a crucial requirement and also fits in with reading the terms and conditions for the high roller bonuses. If a casino doesn’t offer your favourite games then there is little point registering with them as there are sure to be other casinos which offer the exact mix you want, for example some casinos focus very heavily on slots whilst others lean more towards video poker etc. Also please make sure that the high roller bonus you sign up too allows you to play your favourite games as many for example don’t allow Blackjack!


What do others think?

Reading our reviews and other players comments is always a good idea, and if everyone gives a high roller casino or poker room the thumbs up then you can feel pretty safe depositing your money with them. At High-Roller Casinos we only review quality online caisnos and poker rooms so you can feel totally safe with the ones we have listed on our pages. If you need further pointers there are many gambling forums on the internet which can be very useful.  

Profitability of Poker Tournaments

Just as there are many online players who make a very good return on their efforts in cash games, so there are others who prefer to focus on tournaments. Many events contain a proportion of players who lack the bankroll and/or skills to be successful in cash play and prefer to take a shot at a decent prize for a small investment. Occasionally a multiple-table tournament will be won by a relatively weak player scoring a one-off triumph, but in general the better players naturally can expect a clear positive expectation. Over the course of a whole event, the combined skills of the better players should overwhelm those of a weaker player. The latter may have a good run and win some sizable pots, but even if they eliminate some of the good players there will usually still be enough decent players left with sufficient chips to ensure that they will most likely come unstuck in the end. Furthermore, part of the success of the top players in large buy-in ($100 or more) events is that they have developed very good reads on the other regular players in these events, which enables them to make the kind of profitable opponent-specific plays that would be impossible for a less experienced rival.

It is often argued that good tournament players should be able to make at least a 40-50% return on their investment in the long run (i.e. $4-$5 profit for every $10 spent on buy-ins), and there are undoubtedly some online tournament specialists who are able to make 100%, particularly for low buy-in events. However, it is important to remember that the variance attached to tournament play is high – in the short run one big tournament victory could make all the difference in determining whether a player is ahead of the game or not. Furthermore, the short-term luck factor involved in tournament play can be quite high, especially for sit and go tournaments in which the blinds escalate rapidly, thereby possibly nullifying some of the edge of the better players.

The long run in tournament play might therefore be defined as at least 100 events – until you have played this many tournaments, your results will not be a particularly reliable indicator of whether or not you can beat the game in the long run. Indeed, if you specialise in multi-table events, and your results are such that you nearly always finish outside the money, punctuated by the occasional big pay-off, even 100 tournaments is too few to be regarded as a reliable sample size. For this reason, an absolute bare minimum bankroll of 20 buy-ins is probably necessary for a serious tournament player, and it is perhaps advisable to keep as many as 50 buy-ins in your bankroll if you play exclusively in multi-table events.

Nowadays many players like to specialise in the widely available sit and go events. With the normal 50%/30%/20% prize structure in these tournaments, each player starts with a theoretical 30% chance of making the prize list (assuming the standard ten-player tables). However, since the cardroom usually charges 10% of each buy-in in registration fees, you would actually need to reach the final three 33% of the time to break even (assuming you achieve an equal ratio of first places to seconds to thirds). Undoubtedly, specialists at the lower buy-in levels (e.g. $10 and $20) have the long-term potential to cash out considerably more than 33% of the time, possibly as much as 50% for a very good player and 60% for a really top-flight player at this level. Furthermore, it is highly likely that their tournament skills would enable them to achieve a higher number of first place finishes relative to seconds and thirds, thereby increasing their overall level of profitability.

In a newsgroup post a few years back, WSOP bracelet-winner Daniel Negreanu claimed that he had played 85 $100 single-table tournaments at Paradise Poker the year before, winning 16, and placing second 11 times and third seven times for a 40% cash-out ratio and an average profit of just over $40 per event. However, the blinds in the Paradise Poker tournaments rise so quickly (every ten hands) that tournaments typically last only 70-90 hands, which almost certainly would have negated some of his ability and allowed the weaker players more of a chance. It is quite conceivable that in multi-table events (or sit and go events with a different blind structure) his return would be considerably greater than this.

Whichever type of tournament you choose to play, you should always ensure that:
•    Your connection is in good order before you start. There is nothing more frustrating than being disconnected during a tournament and anted-away while you are trying to return to the game.
•    You will not be disturbed while you are playing. Any distractions will cause you to lose focus, and if you are called away from the table you will again be anted-away.
•    You have organised some refreshments in advance, particularly for a multi-table event, which could easily last several hours.
•    Everyone else is present at the table when you start play. If any players are absent then you can steal their blinds without mercy. Also, watch out for anyone who joins your table midway through a tournament – if they happen to be sitting out and the other players don’t notice immediately, then you can steal their blinds too!

Multi-Table or Sit and Go Poker Tournaments?

In the past twenty years, tournament poker has become hugely popular around the world, not least because it is an ideal way for newcomers to familiarise themselves with the game. First of all, your maximum financial risk is known in advance. For example, if you enter a $10 no-limit hold’em tournament at PokerStars your liability is limited to $11 ($10 buy-in for the prize pool plus a $1 registration fee for the house). Second, the potential reward is always much greater than the entry fee, so everyone has an incentive to try their best. Third, online tournaments typically deal at over twice the rate of their brick and mortar counterparts, so there is a lot more play to them. Finally, tournaments are tremendous fun – over the course of an event your stack of chips can go through wild fluctuations; you can inflict and receive bizarre bad beats on all-in bets etc. Many players love the cut and thrust and adrenaline rush of tournaments, and find cash games something of a grind in comparison.

Online tournaments come in two distinct forms: single-table (often called ‘sit and go’) events, in which typically nine or ten players (eight for seven-card stud) compete against each other, and multiple-table events, which may contain dozens or hundreds of entrants. Nowadays most sites offer both single- and multi-table events, but some specialise in one or the other. And likewise some players prefer single-table events, others multi-table and many play both types.


Sit and Go Tournaments
For a sit and go event there is no pre-determined start time – you simply pay your entry fee, take your seat and wait for the table to fill up with other players before you can start (which may sometimes take quite a while, depending on the time of day and overall site traffic!). Typically, a single-table sit and go tourney will last a maximum of an hour or so and payout on the first three places (50% for the winner, 30% for second and 20% for third), but you should ensure that you check the prize structure before you start play. In addition to the standard single-table events, PokerStars also offers two-table sit and go events with 18 players (16 for stud) and four prizes.

At some sites the sit and go blind structure is such that the blinds rise very rapidly (every ten hands), and players are forced to take risks almost from the outset. Some purists find these games unattractive, reasoning that this turns the tournament into something of a crapshoot. However, there is no doubt that at sites with a relatively more sedate blind structure (such as PokerStars, where there are only nine players, the blinds go up every ten minutes rather than every ten hands, and everyone starts with a fairly large stack of chips) sit and go events can be a lucrative, fast-moving and enjoyable avenue for many players. Indeed, Mike Caro argues that for good players short tournaments may prove more profitable than larger tournaments in the long run, because:
– They provide an excellent opportunity to exploit skill differentials .
– You can play two or more shorter tournaments in the time it would take to reach the final of a single long event, thus reducing the ‘luck’ component .
– You risk proportionately less of your bankroll on each individual event.

To these factors, I would add a fourth:
– Single-table tournaments are great practice for the final tables of multi-table events!

Multiple-Table Tournaments
Unlike sit and go tournaments, which start whenever there is a full table, multiple-table events are always scheduled in advance. Usually registration will begin an hour or more before the start of the event and will close either when the first person is eliminated, when all the tables are full or at a designated time after the start. As more and more players are eliminated, the tables are merged until ultimately there is only one table left, at which point the event takes on the characteristics of a single-table event. Typically a multi-table event will last for several hours and offer a much longer prize list than its single-table counterpart; it is very common for every player who reaches the final table to receive a prize if there are around 45 or more entries.

Nowadays most of the major cardrooms offer re-buy tournaments, in addition to the traditional freezeout events. Re-buy tournaments are attractive because in general, the cardroom does not take a cut when you re-buy or add-on (Paradise Poker being a notable exception to this). Furthermore, with more chips in play than a normal event, there is more play to it (although this does mean that it will go on longer!).

Inspired by the example of Chris Moneymaker, who turned a $39 PokerStars satellite into $2.5 million at the World Series of Poker, most sites now offer satellites for the major brick and mortar events. Not just for the WSOP, but also for the World Poker Tour and many other events. These satellites are hugely popular. After all, who can resist the thought that for as little as $1, they could be rubbing shoulders with Doyle Brunson and Gus Hansen, playing for a huge prize at the final table of a nationally televised event!

One advantage of multiple-table online tournaments over their brick and mortar equivalents is that you are usually provided with completely up-to-date information on where you stand in the tournament, how many players are left, and the relative chip positions of all the remaining players. This valuable information can and should be used to help you formulate your strategy for reaching the final table and beyond! At PokerStars you can go to the tournament lobby for the full picture on where you stand at that particular point in time (although information on your current position and the largest and smallest stack can be obtained by clicking the ‘Info’ tab).

Nowadays some sites allow players to do prize-money deals for the top places. These are usually negotiated through the chat boxes and then relayed to the site’s support team. Needless to say, you should check beforehand that the site at which you are playing permits deals, involve the tournament director if at all possible, immediately notify support of the deal that has been struck so that they can transfer the funds, and ensure that you are able to provide back-up evidence (in case someone should renege on the deal) by keeping a copy of the chat. During the first World Championship of Online Poker in July 2002, PokerStars actually provided the facility to pause the tournament (if all the remaining players agreed) so that deals could be discussed.

There have been numerous incidents in multi-table tournaments in which one player has deliberately employed ‘stalling’ tactics (using the maximum allotted time allowed for each decision) with, say, two tables left in order to improve their chances of a higher placing. There are three possible ways in which stalling might benefit a player: first, the players on another table might simply knock each other out, enabling the stalling player to reach the final table; second, a rise in the blinds may occur that will cause someone else to be forced to go all-in before the player who is doing the stalling; and finally, a middle stack might stall to prevent a big stack from running over the table whilst everyone is in a defensive mode, hoping to make the final table. It is conventional for tournaments to go to ‘hand for hand’ just prior to the formation of the final table. This combats the first and third stalling methods but not the second. Although legal, such angle-shooting tactics are not to be recommended and may very well incur the wrath of fellow players if taken to extremes.

Another possible angle that sometimes arises in tournaments is ‘chip-dumping’, whereby one player deliberately loses all their chips to another in order to enhance the latter’s tournament prospects. Tournament action is so fast and furious that chip-dumping is far from easy to detect while you are playing. However, if you suspect that another player is being assisted in this way, then you should protect yourself and the other players in the tournament by notifying support of your suspicions.

The Scoop Monster Poker Experiment

Billed as ‘Hand analysis for serious poker players’, the launch of the Scoop Monster program at the beginning of October 2002 caused something of a furore in the online poker world. The program, which worked exclusively with the True Poker playing client, was designed to tell players the precise odds of winning the current hand, and advise them how to proceed. Not only that, but Scoop Monster could also be set to automatically play the hand for you! Naturally the arrival of a ‘bot-like’ program such as this provoked a great deal of interest and debate, not least at True Poker itself, who were as surprised as anyone by its appearance, since they had no affiliation with Scoop Monster whatsoever.

Players who experimented with Scoop Monster on True Poker generally reported one slight flaw in the ‘autoplay’ features – it just didn’t play very well! Although it was able to hold its own in play money games, it is doubtful whether anyone could hope to make a worthwhile long-term profit with the original version of the program in real money games. Despite this fact, True Poker understandably saw the new program as a threat to their business, which hinges on the concept of real players competing against one another for real money, and rapidly implemented countermeasures against the product. Not only did they announce software changes to prevent players from using Scoop Monster, but they also announced a clear policy that anyone found to be using this or similar programs would have their accounts terminated. By the end of October, Scoop Monster had been taken off the market; all that remained was a message on the Scoop Monster web site stating that the product was no longer available and that all existing customers were being reimbursed.

Poker All-In Abuse

At some sites when a player does not act in the allotted time during a hand the player is put all-in for the money that has already been placed in the pot, and the other players carry on contesting a side pot for the rest of ‘ the hand. It is almost always the case that these automatic all-in situations arise because the player has been unintentionally disconnected from the game, due either to Internet routing problems or a computer crash. However, from time to time the automatic all-in privilege is abused by unscrupulous players choosing to deliberately disconnect themselves rather than having to make a difficult call in a big pot. (Of course, this is an even greater problem in pot-limit and no-limit games, where the last bet could amount to a considerable amount of money.) At PokerStars and Paradise Poker, for example, if you time out and are still connected to the game server, then your hand is automatically folded, but it still is a matter for the individual cardroom to decide whether that disconnect was intentional or accidental. Clearly if you suspect that anyone has abused the all-in rule, the onus is on you to report the incident to the cardroom for investigation (ideally with a note of the hand number so that they can track it down easily). All-in abuse is cheating, and there have been several instances in which players have been barred from a cardroom for this practice.