Online poker is more competitive than ever before. Players who used to crush 200NL are now struggling at 50NL, and old 50NL winners are now losing on a regular basis. Keeping ahead of the curve has become a near impossibility for many players as the pool of weak players has died down.
At this point in time, the most important and effective tools and skills are not skills at all. Most players think of skills as things like check raising and three betting, but many players have long since mastered these tactics. The real advantage can be found in the meta game aspect of poker. Look at a player like Tom Dwan or Phil Ivey. Needless to say, the competition doesn’t get any more difficult than these guys. What separates them from the rest of the field? It certainly isn’t because they know proper bet sizing and their opponents don’t. Instead it is their ability to think on an extremely high level. These skills are partially developed over time, but are also very much intrinsic.
Poker is a Mental Game
When the competition becomes fiercer, the game becomes much less about certain plays and more about how to stay one step ahead. How you out-think your opponents is something that you can only teach yourself, but a big first step is to eliminate as much tilt as possible. The players who tilt the least are almost always the biggest winners in any given game.
This can not be emphasized enough.A losing player can easily turn into a profitable player via emotional control alone, as ridiculous as that might sound. Even winning players will need to work on emotional control at the tables, though, as winning can also lead to poor tendencies. A winning streak might falsely lull a player into thinking they can win any pot that they play even though that is clearly not the case. The mental aspect of the game can make the difference between two players, and might be the only thing that allows a player to win.
Adjusting to the new games is tough for players because a set playing style might have worked for a very long time. When you learn how to play poker a certain way, and it works for a long time, it is only natural to be scared to try something new. Changing your strategy is an absolute necessity if you are losing and want to start winning. The strong players will adapt whenever they have to, whether it is from street to street in a particular hand, or from month to month as the games change. Back in 2005 a TAG (tight aggressive) playing style would have completely crushed virtually any table.
Even in 2008 a TAG approach would work quite well. As we near 2011, though, the TAG style of play has become less and less effective. Now the LAG (loose aggressive) players are starting to run over the players who have been unable to widen up their ranges and increase their aggression levels. Eventually the TAG style of play will work again, but not for awhile. Poker styles come and go, and the only way to stay ahead of the curve is to change before everybody else. There might not be a ton of free, easy money to be made in most limits of online poker anymore, but there is still a lot of money to be made if you play your cards just right (pun intended).
Trying New Games
Learning new games is always a viable way of exploring new methods for profitability. You might just find that the 7 Card Stud tables are not as difficult as you imagined. Texas Hold’em is the most competitive form of poker in the world, with Omaha coming in second. The cash games are the toughest variety, and sit and gos and tournament follow behind, in that order. What if you played some Triple Draw tournaments? This would incorporate softer fields in a tournament format that is traditionally the easiest to beat. The reason that players don’t do this is because they don’t want to put the effort into learning how to play a game that they are unfamiliar with. The fact remains that if you want to win in poker, you need to be willing to put the work in. When it comes down to it, there is no substitute for hard work and practice if you want to be a winning poker player.