Online and Offline Play
Whether you are playing online or off... the game is the same. You adhere to the same rules in an online poker room as you do in a live game with friends. However, there are certain characteristics of an online poker game that must be accounted for when you sit down to play if you hope to be successful in the long run.
The pace in an online card room is much quicker than that of a live game. Obviously this is because you do not have to wait for all of the usual physical aspects of the game to be completed, and there are time restrictions for each action in any game. Most of the time you will sit at a table with the same opponents for no more than 30 minutes or an hour, as opposed to live games, where you are likely to play for several hours with the same small group of people. The fast pace of the game encourages players to move around, looking for the best tables to seat themselves at. It also provides people the opportunity to play a few hands, or a few minutes, and leave. This characteristic of online poker rooms should weigh on your decision-making rationale at the table. Primarily, it should lessen the importance of advertising at the table, or creating an image for yourself in order to gain value in the form of called bets in future hands. The fact is, unless the players you are seated with are regular opponents, you are very unlikely to actually gain any value from consciously attempting to create an image at the table. Ninety percent of the players you are up against will not be around in the future when you are able to put that image to use. So while you are seated at a sit n' go tournament or a quick paced ring game... don't compromise your play in order to create an image at the table... it will not add any value to future plays as it would in an offline, live game.
The type of setting you are playing in also should determine which aspects of your play you concentrate on utilizing at the table. In an online game, your opponents are not intimidating looking men, or dainty, passive-looking women... they are simply names and cartoon-like characters. As a result of this, much of the psychology present in live poker is missing from online games. For players who have a difficult time applying a "poker face" or bluffing in a live game, this works to their advantage. For others however, it may mean that they are missing an integral component of their poker strategy. Whatever the case, the truth is that this virtual environment often makes bluffing less effective than it otherwise would be in a live game. Not only are you able to make a bet without attempting to disguise your emotion, you need only click a button to place your chips in the pot, as opposed to physically removing them from your stack. As a result of this characteristic, bluffing is much more common online than it is in live games. You will need to avoid becoming a player who spends most of his time bluffing... Concentrate on playing your best game and consistently attempt to gain a read on your opponents' betting patterns in order to determine when they are likely to be bluffing. Don't ignore the bluff altogether—it is a very effective weapon in any solid player's arsenal—but do not get caught up bluffing too much because it is too easy to do, it will surely hurt you in the long-run, and most likely the short-run as well.
When playing online, you will also find that it really isn't necessary to devote 100% of your attention to the game. In a live game there are few distractions... you are there to play cards, and playing cards is what you do. Online however, you not only have the ability to play more than one table at a time, you also have the entire internet at your finger tips. Chances are you will be browsing the web, listening to music, reading email or instant messaging friends while you are playing. And that goes without mentioning the TV on in the background, or the distractions arising from the people in your household. In order to be a solid online player, you will need to learn to minimize the effects of these distractions. Recognize that you are playing cards, so playing cards is what you should be doing. Avoid playing too many tables at once, and avoid diverting your attention from the table unless it is really necessary. Remember, your opponents are likely to be playing more absent-mindedly as a result of the regular distractions that they are unknowingly letting diminish their ability to make rational decisions at the table. By recognizing and eliminating as many distractions as possible, you will gain a competitive advantage over your opponents, and isn't that what poker is all about?