From Maverick to The Cincinnati Kid: Online Poker Tips

Hey, we all want to be suave online poker players, like Mel Gibson in Maverick or Steve ‘The King of Cool’ McQueen in The Cincinnati Kid. The bad news is we can’t. The good news is that we can learn a lot from them as well as other cinematic high rollers. And the best part is that the dreaded ‘tells’ (like sweating, blinking, not blinking, smiling, laughing nervously, sighing, shrugging, etc) are rendered meaningless in poker online. Just remember that the fact that you’re playing in front of a screen doesn’t mean it’s all make-believe.

General rules of thumb

Pick on someone your own size (or smaller). In poker, it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than the other way around – you want to avoid playing John Malkovich in Rounders. In fact, you don’t want to be a rounder at ll. At least not until you’re ready. There is a learning curve, and it’s one you should negotiate as if you’re driving in a slippery road on a dark night. Be patient and remain within your level and means.

Play with your hands, not your emotions. Remember in The Sting when Paul Newman pretended to be an obnoxious drunk in order to get a rise out of Robert Shaw? The lesson is never to let your emotions get the best of you. Bad players make emotional mistakes. Good players pick up on those mistakes.

Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away (aka the Kenny Rogers principle). Like the good book says, if thy hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee. Also, as the twig is bent the tree's inclined. All of which is to say that good hands are dealt, not made. If you get a bad hand, fold. If a good hand goes bad, fold. For there is no shame in folding, but there is no honour in stubbornly hanging on to a losing hand.

Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll bluff your house down. There are different ways of bluffing your way through an online poker game. One example would be comparing a certain part of the female anatomy to a bag of sand, a la The 40 Year Old Virgin. Another would be bluffing just to get yourself out of folding. Both are wrong. Once again, fold if you have to fold. Bluff as seldom as possible. By the way, folding doesn’t mean you’re not playing; on the contrary, it’s a perfect opportunity to study other players’ moves.

Don’t put yourself in a position in which you have to write a novella under a strict deadline to pay off gambling debts. In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Gambler, Antonida Vasilevna Tarasevitcheva gets the gambling bug. By the end of the story, she's lost over a hundred thousand roubles in three days. The moral of the story is the following: don’t call if you can’t raise, and don’t raise if you can’t re-raise.