Is Online Poker Fun?
March 15, 2010 12:34 AM   Subscribe

What is it like to play online poker as a hobby?

I am thinking about taking up online poker as a hobby. It seems like good way to relax after work.

What draws me to poker is the math and strategy behind the game. It seems like online poker could be a good way to learn about probabilities while playing a game (a positive externality).

However, I have a significant mental stigma against gambling. I have never gambled (except a few friendly poker games with friends) and the idea of taking up gambling as a hobby doesn't sit well with me.

What is it like to play online poker as a hobby? Stressful? Costly? Relaxing? Is it a huge time sink?
posted by Spurious to Work & Money (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
What is it like to play online poker as a hobby? Stressful? Costly? Relaxing? Is it a huge time sink?

Well, with the online poker games I've played, "gambling" isn't necessary. Most online poker sites have "free play" games, where you generally get given a daily allocation of virtual money to play with, if you don't feel like putting any real cash on the line.
posted by Jimbob at 12:37 AM on March 15, 2010

I'm not sure how much help anyone can be in determining what you'll think of it; like any other hobby, some people like it, some people hate it, some people do great things with it, and others ruin their lives because of it.

I know two people involved in online poker:

Guy #1: ruined his life, got in debt because of it, I heard (but I'm not entirely sure this is the sole reason) it really screwed up the end of his college career and I'm not sure that he graduated.

Guy #2: got really good at it and made a ton of money; started his own site with a friend and is now a millionaire.

I don't happen to know any middleground stories where online poker is concerned, though I'm sure they're the norm.
posted by Nattie at 12:40 AM on March 15, 2010

Time consuming and frustrating, usually unprofitable and a constant feeling of distrust of whatever service you're playing with, especially when you lose several times within and hour to a full house only slightly better than yours.
posted by thorny at 1:21 AM on March 15, 2010

In my experience as a professional online poker player, I didn't learn much math in the course of learning the game. I do use simple probability and multiplication/division constantly while playing, but the math part is very repetitive and routine. I have played mostly "big bet" (no limit or pot limit structure) games, and have always thought that limit games were more mathematical, but I'm not sure if that's true.

Strategy, on the other hand, is something that I'm always thinking about, both while playing and while going for a walk, or cooking, or whatever. I love to think about different possibilities for how I could play a certain hand, and then follow out the branching structure of what might happen next. ("If I call now, and the turn is a diamond, what should I do if he bets?")

I find gambling very unappealing. But playing poker to me feels more like betting on a sure thing. In the long run, a skilled player is overwhelmingly likely to win all the money from a poor player. I think of my work playing poker as being more akin to opening a casino or selling lottery tickets than it is akin to being a customer of those things. But, like a casino operator, most of my money comes from taking advantage of people who do want to gamble. If you're uncomfortable with that (and I can understand why many people would be), I do not recommend playing poker for real money.

For me, there was definitely a fair amount of stress involved in learning the game, and it still is stressful sometimes. I enjoyed that aspect of learning very much though -- I paid a lot of attention to my own emotional states while playing, and worked to improve my ability to play without getting frustrated or stressed out.

Even now, I would not characterize playing poker as relaxing. It's something I do when my mind is alert and ready to really work on something; it's the opposite of passively reading a novel or watching tv. This could be different if I were playing for play money instead of real money, but then, if I were mentally relaxing while playing it seems like I wouldn't really be "playing poker" in the sense that I like to do it -- I wouldn't be constantly scrutinizing possibilities and seeking out the best next move in each hand.

As for being a time sink, it certainly can be, but it can also not be. Games are always running, and so you can play 24/7 if you want to. But if you're playing cash games, there's rarely a pressing reason to play right now rather than later this week. Tournament poker can be a good deal more binding, timewise, since once you enter a tournament you may be in for anything between 5 minutes and 5-7 hours, depending on the size of the field and how well you do.

And finally, about money. You can, as Jimbob mentioned, play for play money. If you go this route, the hobby can be free. I would recommend doing this at the start no matter what, so that you can get a feel for the game. If you want to play for real money, I would suggest making a deposit of $100-200, and playing very small stakes games using good bankroll management. I think that anyone who's making an effort to play well should be able to at least break even in those games eventually, so it shouldn't have any ongoing costs. And depending on how well you do, it may turn into a significant money producer, as you build a bankroll and move up in stakes.

There's a ton of poker instruction and discussion out there, and if you do start playing, I highly recommend taking advantage of it. Two Plus Two is a publishing company that operates a huge strategy forum. Deuces Cracked, Leggo Poker, and CardRunners are all subscription services for strategy videos, but I think they all also have some videos available for free.

If you do decide to give it a go, good luck! Feel free to memail me with any other questions.
posted by gorillawarfare at 1:32 AM on March 15, 2010 [17 favorites]

I've played online in no limit, 2 and 4 cent blinds, online poker. It's an okay way to kill a few hours very cheaply.

In those very low stakes games, people tend to play very fast and loose - it can be a frustrating at times, when you've played a hand very well, only to be scuppered by someone making wild bets that anyone with familiar with the game would shy away from. This said, I kind of view that as part of the challenge of these low stakes plays. A tight player will often break even in these games, unless you play at small tables, it can be difficult to make out like a bandit; on a table of 12 there's always a few wildcards who can rob you of a hand.

FYI, I have never, ever, had the slightest compulsion to keep playing and or pumping money in. For me, it's just not that fun. I'm not really an addictive personality, though, you ymmv.
posted by smoke at 2:56 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with smoke about low stakes games. Beginning online poker is a bit of a balancing act where you try to avoid sitting in games with people who constantly shove all their chips pre-flop or multiple people call raises in terrible position and one makes their hand. These people will lose their shirts very quickly, but unfortunately poker sites are packed full of them and it's very easy to lose your money right along with them as you try to figure out a way to combat them. It's great if there's only 1 or 2 of them at a table; you can play fairly tightly and suck up their money. It's horrible if the table's full of them.

The games where you see less of that tend to be higher stakes where people (generally) will take the game a little more seriously. Then you have to worry about the potential to lose more money while you learn. You can learn the very (very) basic fundamentals of poker playing for free, but you see the benefits of strategy & statistics by playing with other people who know the game (hopefully not too well).

What draws me to poker is the math and strategy behind the game. It seems like online poker could be a good way to learn about probabilities while playing a game.

It can be, yes. Many serious players use programs like Hold'em Manager (HEM) and PokerStove. PokerStove is a hand evaluator that calculates hand equities (odds) for you. Hold'em Manager is a monster program that calculates... just about everything. It tracks your hands, gives you real-time statistical read-outs of every possible aspect of your game. At a glance you can tell how aggressive you've been playing, what your average take per hand is, hand history at the table (all tables you've played). It'll plot line graphs of your performance for you. People who use this learn the math and strategy behind the game, sure, but what they really learn is how to tailor their game to get the results they're looking for.
posted by empyrean at 4:03 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

There really isn't that much mathematics involved in Poker. So it seems like a bad idea in that respect.
posted by mary8nne at 4:55 AM on March 15, 2010

I enjoy it. I've gone through phases where I play too much, but in the sense of "spending too much time playing a computer game", not "gambling my life away". I'm moderately profitable, but that's all.

To avoid it becoming a cash/time sink, I'd suggest playing single-table tournaments for low stakes. You put down $1-2, the game lasts about an hour, and the top three get paid. If you limit yourself to one game per night, max, then you've got yourself an enjoyable hobby that doesn't take too long. If you start winning consistently and build up a bankroll, you can move up to higher stakes. You could also try playing low-stakes multi-table games (e.g. with 45 players, lasting maybe 2 hours) or tourneys (up to 6 or 7 hours, as mentioned). I followed this approach and got as far as $10 buy-ins, but haven't been able to win consistently enough to move up further.

Other than that empyrean, smoke, and gorillawarfare have given excellent advice. I'd also refer you to Dan Harringdon's books on No-Limit Hold'Em. Harringdon is very good on the mathematics of the game - pot odds, implied odds, M (basically "where you are in the tournament", and how desperately you should play as a consequence). I agree with empyrean that the mathematics are important.
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:27 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like it a lot. As gorillawarfare says upthread, you will be learning less math and more tactics. I believe the deck to be managed, so the math you will be learning will be faulty. To learn the math, read Dan Harrington's books. On preview, what IJ says

Pokerstars works very hard at transferring you from a play money to a real money player. After a short time, they gave me 2 bucks, and I spent a long time playing the 10 cent tournaments.

Currently, I play a free tournament a day at Full Tilt. I don't feel as much of a sell there.

I wrote a couple odds calculators like empyrean talks about. One is if you know everyone's cards, and the other is just from your perspective.
posted by rakish_yet_centered at 5:33 AM on March 15, 2010

Not much to add to what has already been said. You can play for free so it does not have to cost you anything. I've played on Zynga via face book. The games there are ridiculously soft so it's really easy to win long-term although there is a lot of short-term frustration with bad-players being lucky.

You can actually play many different styles of poker and still win. You can play a pure maths game - but whilst probabilities are important to know early on and to build on, once you get into it game theory becomes more important.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:35 AM on March 15, 2010

I've been playing online poker for about two months now and even though it requires thinking, I do find it very relaxing. Of course, you have to be prepared for the emotional ups and downs. This weekend, I lost half of my small bank roll -- I was playing as I normally would but the reality is that most players in micro stakes play any hand that they are dealt (this is loose play, and these folks are called 'fish') and, in the short term, they will win more often.

It's probably a good idea to get yourself a good beginning poker book and, assuming you'll jump into Hold 'Em, Sklansky is probably the best.

In the meantime, 'tight is right': you want to play as few hands as possible, sticking to the strongest pocket cards: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, 10-10, AKs(uited).

Good luck and have fun! (And watch out for those darn flushes, they'll get ya!)
posted by gsh at 5:39 AM on March 15, 2010

It's not a very relaxing game, not for me anyway. It's fairly stressful and every now and then I'll have a session that tilts me to no end and I have to stop playing for a few days or more. The fact that poker players actually invented a word, "tilt", to describe the disgust and frustration you can get playing should tell you how stress free the game is.

Don't get me wrong, though. It's a great game. The depth of strategy is remarkable. This depth is hidden behind a veneer of luck which is the game's blessing and its curse. A blessing because it makes terrible players think they are good, that they can win. A curse because it leads to endless suckouts and bad beats when other players play worse than you but win anyways. That doesn't happen in chess, where skill is paramount. But the luck factor is why poker is huge and chess is a niche hobby. In chess you know if you're terrible and you stop playing.

You can take a lot of the gambling out of poker by following good bankroll management. Click that link gorillawarfare posted! When you play with a proper bankroll you minimize the damage done by bad streaks of luck and you maximize your skill advantage over others. In the short run anybody can win and anybody can go busto. In the long run if you're good you will win.

One of the best ways to improve is to get better players to review your play. And an easy way to do that is to post hand histories on the 2+2 forums. Those forums are invaluable. They are easily one of the very best forums anywhere on the Internet, for any subject.

If you like you can MeMail me to talk more. I love this game and I love talking about it with smart, thinking players. Good luck!
posted by Khalad at 7:40 AM on March 15, 2010

As an online poker player, I can honestly say that once you learn to play proper poker and can play in a high enough stakes game to play with similar players, it can be a great way to enjoy an evening alone. The problem with playing free or very low stakes games is that you won't actually learn the game, you'll just learn to get frustrated by the people who shove all their chips in on crappy hands. If you know the basics, just get into a few games and learn to be patient with your cards. And when you're having a bad night, walk away and read a book instead of playing just one more game.
posted by Unred at 8:13 AM on March 15, 2010

I played poker online for almost three years as a (very time consuming) hobby. I would spend 2 to 3 hours each day playing, studying and reading up on it.

However, I have a significant mental stigma against gambling. I have never gambled (except a few friendly poker games with friends) and the idea of taking up gambling as a hobby doesn't sit well with me.

What is it like to play online poker as a hobby? Stressful? Costly? Relaxing? Is it a huge time sink?

Like you, I don't like gambling. I was drawn to poker because it seemed like a way to let off steam. It quickly became something of an unhealthy obsession.

To be honest, if you don't have a natural aptitude for the weird mix of psychological insight and math needed to be a winning player, it's very stressful and draining. Soul sucking, is how I'd describe it.

This is not necessarily because you're a losing player (I wasn't), but just because there will always be levels you don't beat yet, and players who tilt you, and long downswings that will suck the life out of you. If you are a very emotional person, poker is not for you. The margins are very slim, and even one or two mistakes in a two hour session can effectively wipe out your winrate - you make most mistakes when you are still reeling from making a bad read and losing a stack, or when you just won a huge hand or played something perfectly. Any time you're being swept away by your emotions, you're losing. And it's very human to be swept away - in fact, if you play poker as a hobby, it's probably the thrill that attracts you in the first place.

At first, I thought that by studying more and working harder, I could overcome this tendency to "tilt". Not so. I think if you're not making decent inroads after playing for six months at a considerable volume (I'm thinking 60k - 100k hands per month, which means playing at least six tables at a time), you will probably never be a succesful poker player.

I was still playing low stakes after two years of intense study. I felt stuck, and I noticed that most of the people at my tables were the same players I'd met two years earlier when I started out. Even players who comfortably beat the 100NL level would lose a huge part of their bankroll at 200NL and then come back.

Poker is like a huge Ponzi scheme: hundreds of thousands of micro stakes players at 2NL give money to a smaller number of people at 5NL, who hand over their winnings to guys at 20NL, etcetera, all the way up to a handful of high stakes ballas who play 5000NL.

You know those little fish cleaning shark's teeth? That's what it's like to be a not so hot poker player. I was tired of being a little fish who provided money to one or two guys at the very top of the piramid.
posted by NekulturnY at 8:17 AM on March 15, 2010

Gorillawarfare says wise things.
I know a lot of people who play for play money and find it to be fun and relaxing and totally free. I am a small-stakes player and I find it a lot of fun though yes, as Khalad says there is stress and "tilt" involved on occasion. I sometimes play in private tournaments online with people I know (kind of like a bowling league, but poker), and that is fun and very social. In fact, I've gotten to know a lot of really great people in the poker community and made some great friends which is a bonus.
posted by pointystick at 8:20 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been playing casual, low stakes poker player for around ten years, and started playing online for money around 2003. I put in $100 back then and have won consistently enough that I've never had to deposit any more since. I've always played mostly single table Hold 'Em tournaments with around a $10 buy-in, and never moved on to higher stakes (which is how a lot of people either start making or losing significant amounts of money). The single table tournaments are my style because it gets the bad low stakes players out in the early part of the game, and let's me take on the more skilled players with less people at the table (which is what I'm better at and enjoy). Low stakes cash games or play money games are boring to me because the correct strategy is to wait for a great hand and get one of the poor players to put all of their money in against it, so most of the game is spent sitting around doing nothing.

What draws me to poker is the math and strategy behind the game. It seems like online poker could be a good way to learn about probabilities while playing a game (a positive externality).

As gorillawarfare said, there's not really much complex math involved. Having a calculator and/or piece of paper to keep track of figures wouldn't be very useful, at least in Hold 'Em (in games like stud where more cards are shown, card counting can be more useful for figuring out odds). But strategy is the main draw for me as well. A lot of people say that poker is a game of people played with cards, and to a large extent that is true. Your success or failure in poker will mostly come down to your ability to play things out in your head and decipher what your opponents are doing and how they will react in the future. It will also give you more of a feel for probability. For example, you know technically what a 20% chance is, but if you play enough poker you'll be intimately aware of how often your AA will get beat by 78 suited. And that's just the more obvious kind of probability, you'll also learn how to factor in conditional probability (how likely is it that your opponent has an ace if there was an ace on the flop and another on the turn?), even if you don't know what conditional probability is on a technical level.

However, I have a significant mental stigma against gambling. I have never gambled (except a few friendly poker games with friends) and the idea of taking up gambling as a hobby doesn't sit well with me.

For me, poker is not like gambling at all. I am decent enough that for low stakes games I make money in the long run, whereas with gambling the odds are in favor for the house. That's not the norm, obviously, because more than half of online players lose money, but someone who spends some time learning the game and stays in the lower stakes can relatively easily get to that level. For me it's a hobby that actually makes me a small amount of money, for other people it's a hobby that costs them about as much as other hobbies would, and for a small fraction of people it's a problem that costs them large amounts of money. I'm not a very gambling-inclined person, and I play for low enough amounts of money that I could lose it all tomorrow and be fine, so that helps.

What is it like to play online poker as a hobby? Stressful? Costly? Relaxing? Is it a huge time sink?

It's stressful in that there will be times when you have to make key make or break decisions, or you'll be making a huge bluff, but for me that's the good kind of stress, like being mentally invested in a sports game or watching an exciting movie. I think in the long run it has helped me deal with real life stress better, because playing poker helps me work through stress and make decisions in a safe environment. My cost has been less than zero thanks to winning money over time, but if you are buying in for tournaments or tables at $10, be prepared for bad runs where you lose $100 in ten sessions even if you are playing good enough to win (also, on the other end of things, don't mistake a good run where you win $100 in ten sessions for you being the king of poker). I would not say that it's very relaxing, more like stimulating. You'll be thinking a lot during the game and if you're like me you'll be replaying a lot of the events in your head afterwards to try to figure out what you did right and what you did wrong. And it's only as much of a time sink as you want it to be. You can easily play a cash game or single table tournament for under an hour, or play all day long if you want to.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:34 AM on March 15, 2010

Could people clarify a bit what their stakes and starting bankrolls were? I played online for a little while. I started with the free tables, which didn't feel like real poker to me, since people would make crazy bets and chase cards because hey, it's not real money. Then I kicked in a small bankroll that one of the sites, I think Full Tilt, matched to some extent. I think I was starting with $40-50, playing at low-stakes tables. There, I ran into the same problem as the free tables; since the stakes were so low, people were making wild bets and catching cards on the river. I couldn't justify throwing more money at the hobby; I couldn't risk losing the amount of money it would have taken to play "real" poker.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:39 AM on March 15, 2010

I play online occasionally for play money (on one hand, I don't really have an addictive personality so I don't feel the need to push for higher and higher stakes - on the other hand, I have a young kid, so I don't want to get pulled away from something where I will lose money by doing so).

My impression of the play money side is that if you are at all skilled, or even if you just play tight (pick a list of hands you'll play and fold everything else), you will clean up on all the players who will bet on anything. Therefore, it gets boring after a while, but is very useful to learn with.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 8:51 AM on March 15, 2010

I think I was starting with $40-50, playing at low-stakes tables. There, I ran into the same problem as the free tables; since the stakes were so low, people were making wild bets and catching cards on the river. I couldn't justify throwing more money at the hobby; I couldn't risk losing the amount of money it would have taken to play "real" poker.

As I mentioned in my comment, this is more of an issue at cash game tables (where you just buy in for a certain amount and playing and buying back in until you quit) rather than tournaments. At low stakes cash game tables, there is always at least one completely terrible player at the table, and all of the better players will mostly be competing against each other to take money from the worst players. Add in the fact that there are always 8-10 people at the table, most of whom always see the flop, and that means that somebody is going to have a monster hand every time and there isn't much room for bluffing.

Even if you play the lowest buy-in sit-and-go tournaments for a given site (which will probably be around $1-$2), those really terrible players will mostly lose all of their money in the first 10 minutes or so, and will not be able to buy back in. Some of them will get lucky and get out to a big lead early, which can be entertaining (relatively good players hate when obviously bad players win big hands, which can lead to those good players playing worse and giving the bad players even more chips), but in general they don't last long. If you stick to a cautious strategy early on until things settle down, you'll set yourself up for some "real" poker against the better players in the later part of the tournament. Taking a step up from the absolute lowest stakes tournaments to one notch higher also makes a huge difference, because a lot of the worst players play the lowest one.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:14 AM on March 15, 2010

burnmp3s, yeah, I should have clarified, I usually played cash games since I often didn't have the time to sit down for a tournament. At low stakes, it seems like tournament play is the way to go.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:17 AM on March 15, 2010

I currently play $0.25/.50 ($50 max buy-in) cash games for at least a couple of hours a day. I started by depositing $50 and playing the .01/.02 ($2 max buy-in) games and gradually moved up by using a relatively liberal bankroll management strategy. (If I have enough for 4-5 buyins, I'll move up a level, as long as I think I can win at that level on average. If I lose a buyin or two, I'll move back down.)

I enjoy it a lot and it's by far my main hobby right now. I don't find it stressful at all, probably because I'm not playing at stakes high enough to be really relevant to my life. It does affect my mood somewhat -- if I'm having a rough few days in poker, I can be somewhat irritable -- but it's not a big deal. I've already withdrawn many times what I've deposited (I deposited $50 bucks two more times while I was learning because I failed to use proper bankroll management and drop down in stakes when I was losing and I've withdrawn over $500 so far) so I'm playing with pure profit now and basically can't lose unless I deposit a whole bunch more money.

For me, it is an enormous time sink. I just like to play poker online more than I like to do a lot of other things, so I spent a huge amount of time playing. It's got all the characteristics of something that's addictive -- constant stimulation, instant and frequent gratification, etc. And you can develop a "tolerance" of sorts. The amount of money it takes to get your heart going gets higher and higher, but if you're using good bankroll management, you should generally be playing at a level that doesn't get your heart racing anyway. If I lose a buy-in (50$, right now) or two but I made the right play, it barely bothers me at all and if I win one, I just pump my fist and go "Yes!" and then I'm over it already. If I go on a 4-5 buy-in slide, which is rare, I get pretty frustrated.

Oh, and this is probably relevant: my wife hates it. I'm constantly playing on the laptop while we're watching t.v. together, etc. She knows that I'd rather play than go out with some friends for dinner half the time, and it bothers her. That would probably be true of any hobby though, and I think she tolerates it better than she would some other hobbies because I win, overall, and my winnings are our winnings. So be aware of that, if you're married/cohabitating/etc. I think it's pretty common for anybody with online hobbies. I got the same stuff from my previous gf about my blogging habit.

As for the math/strategy side, it's been very rewarding. Before poker, I was really into chess for a long time and then the game go. Poker (at least no-limit texas hold-em, which is what I play) is not nearly as deep as those games, mathematically or strategically. However, it's deep enough that you can spend at least a few years learning without getting bored, probably. I use a program called Hold'em Manager, which keeps a database of every hand you play and computes and displays statistics of everybody you've ever played a hand against. All kinds of statistics. I currently have my HUD (heads up display) showing me about 10 stats for each person I play against (things like how often they raise preflop, how often they just call, how often they checkraise the flop, how aggressive they are postflop, etc. There are charts and graphs and statistics to analyze and datamine for when you're not playing also.

I've read and enjoyed poker books and ebooks and articles and forum posts (I recommend 2+2 as well) and videos, etc. I DVR something like 10 poker shows a week and watch them all unless they're repeats. (The shows aren't particularly helpful for my game I don't think-- I just enjoy them.)

And it pays! (IF you're good and disciplined.) How many hobbies give you money rather than sucking it up? I've only made a few hundred dollars online so far, but that's better than any other hobby I've had, which generally cost money. And casino games are actually easier than online ones -- that's my experience and it seems to be the general consensus of internet players, although they are obviously biased. Last time I went to a real casino, I won $1200 over a weekend and it was easy. I was on something of a hot streak, so I wouldn't expect to win that much every time I go, but I would expect to win most of the time something in the $200-600 range for a weekend, with approximately a 25% chance or less (I'm guessing) of losing $200-600.

As for gambling, it depends on what your issue is. Poker is gambling, but unlike other games, it's a game where you, rather than the casino, can have an edge. (The casino of course always has an edge, even in poker where it takes a rake, but your edge over other players can be larger than the house's edge over you.) So in that sense, it's a game of skill, not luck. Taking money from "fish" or "donks" or "recreational players" or "tourists" can feel a bit strange as well, especially as you start moving up in stakes and ability and you get to the point where they barely have a chance against you. However, you could (and probably should) refuse to play with someone who clearly has a problem, and everybody else pretty much knows what they're getting into and is going to lose their money to somebody else, if not you. In live casinos, you deal with the moral question of taking money from drunk people, but since they usually act like assholes, I never feel too bad. :-)

Memail me if you have any questions.
posted by callmejay at 10:56 AM on March 15, 2010

Oh, one more thing. If you're going to play a lot, you need to learn about rakeback and bonuses. Rakeback is when the online casino or one of their affiliates gives you a fraction of the money that's paid in rake at tables you are at. Full Tilt and I think its main competitors offer huge initial deposit bonuses as well, so if you deposit up to $600, they will basically give you $600 over the course of time as you play.

I cannot stress this enough. Poker is all about finding and exploiting mathematical edges, and rakeback is a huge one. Once a week or so, they just dump money ($10-$50) in my account. If you play higher stakes, rakeback is higher. You generally need to get rakeback when you join a site, so figure it out before you do so. I use
posted by callmejay at 11:01 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

To answer the questions about stakes and when people start playing decent poker, I'd say at even the .2/.5 tables, about a third to half the players are playing decently. At .25/.50, there's almost never more than one or two really horrible/reckless players at a table, and sometimes it's hard to find them.

This is great, of course, if you want to win a little money at the low stakes. (Just wait until you have a great hand and get your money in. Never, ever bluff.) It sucks if you want to learn how to play at the low stakes. But, since you can win easily, just win until you have enough to play at the higher stakes, and keep moving up using the principles of bankroll management. By the time you get to .25/.50 the good players are better than the people you'll see playing $1/$2 in a brick-and-mortar casino and by the time you get to $1/$2 online, fuggedaboutit. (That's what I'm told anyway.)
posted by callmejay at 11:06 AM on March 15, 2010

(even the .2/.5 tables should be even the .02/.05 tables)
posted by callmejay at 11:06 AM on March 15, 2010

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