Poker is constantly evolving, which means you have to evolve if you want to stay ahead of the curve. Indeed, when you consider what it takes to thrive in the industry today compared to a decade ago, things are very different. What’s more, there are also dozens of new games out there you can make money from. Whether it’s fast-fold cash games or lottery-style tournaments, there are more ways to ante-up and, therefore, new strategies to be sampled. In this guide, we’re going to take you through some of the online industry’s recent innovations and look at how they’ve changed the game.
While many would assume that once you know how to play poker, you know how to play poker, the reality is quite different. Yes, if you know the basics, you can turn your hand to any variant with relative ease. However, just because you were once a winner in No Limit Hold’em cash games, that doesn’t mean you can beat a new variant like SNAP. As we’ve said before, making a living from poker isn’t about being a “run-of-the-mill gambler”. In practice, you need to be an excellent card player, which is only possible if you take the time to learn every game available.
Online Poker as It Looks Today
Based on this, we can only give you some tips on how to thrive in the modern game if you know what “modern” games entail. Perhaps the biggest change poker players have witnessed in recent years is the injection of speed. With the industry undergoing a period of consolidation, casino gaming and sports betting have become more closely linked to poker. This shift has given rise to a desire for games with more “gamble” in them. One of the best ways to introduce more unpredictability into a game of poker is speed. For example, when you take the online poker innovation SNAP, the flow of action is never consistent. Because you’re being shifted from one poker table to another each time you fold, the opponents and dynamics are always changing. Compare this to a standard Omaha cash table, where you stay in the same seat, and it’s easy to see why people say SNAP games have a “gambling” element to them.
In fact, this idea has been taken a step further by innovations such as BLAST. These sit & go tournaments have a high-octane dynamic because they feature four players, short stacks and fast-rising blinds. On top of all this, the prize pool is random. Before the action starts, a counter reveals a mystery prize. The overall effect of these features is a tournament scenario that’s part gambling and part poker. To put it another way, you’re gambling because you don’t know how much you’re playing for. Moreover, because the blinds are rising every two minutes, you have to be willing to go all-in more often, which, in turn, leaves your fate in the hands of the poker gods. However, on the flipside, you’re still playing poker, which means hand reading, timing and bet sizing are all important.
Even More New Ways to Play
Beyond these speed-based innovations, the modern game has also become more social. Webcam poker is perhaps the most interesting as it takes the Twitch streaming culture and integrated it with popular variants such as Hold’em. Put simply, when you join one of these tables, your face will be on view for everyone to see. Naturally, this gives you a chance to communicate with those around you in a more direct way, but it also adds another dynamic to the mix. As a standard online poker table, you don’t have to worry about keeping a straight face. However, when you play webcam poker, you literally have to think about every expression you’re making. Of course, if you’re a high-level player, you can give off some false tells. But, if you’re new to the game, the first thing you need to think about is maintaining a straight face regardless of how weak or strong your hand is.
Beyond webcam poker, FLOPOMANIA also adds another wrinkle to the modern game. Instead of a small and big blind, each player pays a fixed ante, receives two hole cards and proceeds straight to the flop. As you’d expect, this dynamic generates more action as active players are more likely to have a hand if they remain in the pot. Again, if we go back to our SNAP and BLAST, aggression is the key to success in these games. Although play on the turn and river should be slightly more conservative, the optimum strategy is to play more hands. Why? Well, because you get to see a flop straight away. This cuts out any of the pre-flop mystery and, moreover, gives you more opportunities to either value bet or get creative. When there are no cards in the middle, players are often more willing to speculate. However, once the flop is dealt and players can see how strong or weak they are, you can force folds more often with aggressive play.
Be Fast, Be Aggressive
This new dynamic of speed and unpredictability has proven hugely popular with bettors of all persuasions. For poker players, it’s a way to embrace a new, exciting variant. For those with experience in the casino and sports betting worlds, these innovations have the right combination of luck and skill to make them intriguing. As you’d expect, these games require different strategies and that’s something modern poker players have to embrace. What’s more, the games have brought new players into the game and that’s also something savvy grinders have to think about in terms of tactics.
Before we touch on that, let’s talk about the speed aspect of the modern game. When online poker first became popular in the early noughties, those that had cut their teeth in the live area often struggled to compete because the pace of the game was different. Today, the pace has been upped again and that means one thing: you need to play more hands. Take, for instance, a BLAST tournament. In this format, you start with 1,500 chips and 2-minute blind levels. On top of this, there are only four players, which means you can’t hang around and wait for top-tier hands before making a move. Yes, a conservative style in the first few rounds is advisable but, once the blinds have ticked over, it’s important to loosen up. Suited connectors in position, picture cards out of position and three-betting with the top 10% whenever you can should be a standard in these games.
Push Small Edges to Thrive in Today’s Games
This need for aggression is made even more apparent when you go back to the point we made about new players coming into poker. Although the skill level of the average Hold’em player is better today than it was ten years ago, new players clearly have holes in their game. The way to exploit these holes is to play fast and loose. Although newbies are more likely to call with weak hands, it’s also worth remembering that people miss the flop 2/3 of the time. When you combine this with short blind levels and players moving from table to table, the chances of eliciting a fold are a lot higher than usual. Therefore, if you want to exploit inexperienced players in these new formats, it’s always worth taking an aggressive line. Of course, what’s important to remember here is that every piece of poker advice should have the phrase “it depends” attached to it.
Although we’ve said that modern poker variants require a more aggressive approach, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. There will be times when you need to tighten up if you want to preserve your expected value. However, as a general rule, it’s better to push small edges, bet whenever possible and generally take an aggressive line if you can. Poker is constantly evolving and the latest innovations have changed the game. Today, thanks to the industry’s focus on speed and new players, the best way to boost your bankroll is to be the dominant player at the table.