Most of my recent blogs have been geared toward live poker. However, since we’re in an online environment, I felt that it was high time that I gave some tips and tricks to help you in the internet age.

We’ve all fallen prey to the common ills of online poker – playing while you’re too tired, playing for too many hours, forgoing meals or hydration, or sitting at the table with too many thoughts swimming in our heads. Here are a few simple tips that are guaranteed to make you feel better at the digital felt.

Rule #1: No Alcohol.

This holds true for live players as well. You may think that you’re a better player while under the influence of intoxicants, but you’re not. It’s strictly biological. Your response times slow and your focus decreases. While it can be tempting to get up and pop the top on a beer while your table’s on break, this is always a bad idea. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way. You might as well guzzle your bankroll.

Rule #2: Be Calm.

Sitting down at the poker table is not the best way to blow off steam. If you’re already in a bad mood, poker most likely will not make you feel better. It isn’t like a live tournament, where you have a set time at which you must begin, regardless of your health or mood. You’re playing online because you choose to, when you choose to. Don’t sit down when you’re not feeling right. You’ll chase bad hands and your play will suffer.

Rule #3: Be Comfortable.

This should be a no-brainer. Can you play with a room full of friends shouting in the background? Sure, if that’s what puts you at ease. For most players, however, I’d recommend finding a quiet place with a minimum of outside distractions. Pick a favorite couch or chair, and settle in for a few hours. Make sure you have everything you need so that you won’t have to get up from your machine every ten minutes. If you find yourself losing in one particular area of your house, move to another. A change of scenery can sometimes bring out the best.

Rule #4: Music?

This is a tricky one. I don’t listen to music when I play live, as I prefer to listen to my opponents. However, I do enjoy some background noise when I’m competing online. Pick your playlist with care. Does thrash metal put you in the right mood? Maybe if you’re the ultra-agressive type. For myself, I prefer something smoother. Maybe jazz, folk, or some low-key techno. At times, I’ve also been known to have Tool or Chevelle playing in my headphones. Listen to what you feel like hearing. If you’re not feeling the flow, then change your tunes. If you’re in a tense situation (heads up, final table, etc.), it may be better to simply go without.

Rule #5: Be Flexible.

As I’ve said several times, comfort is essential. If you’re not relaxed, then fix whatever it is that’s causing your discomfort. You’re in your own home – you’re in control of your environment. Nagging distractions will only hinder your play.

Rule #6: It’s Still Money.

If nothing else, this should be your biggest motivator when it comes to finding your comfort zone. Just because your bankroll is made of digital money doesn’t make it any different than the cash in your wallet or purse. You can buy just as many things with your online funds as you can with your real money. Don’t throw it away just because it isn’t tangible. Be smart – nurture that online nest-egg.

Rule #7: No Excuses.

Playing online does not give you extra leeway when it comes to making bad plays. Digital cards, despite what you may think, do not tend to fall any differently than real ones. Don’t chase hands or pots that you’d normally avoid in a live game. Don’t disobey the basic rules of the game just because you can’t see the faces of your foes. It’s bad play, and you know what that does to a bankroll.

That’s what I’ve got. Take it from someone who’s made (and recovered from) all of the ills above. Play the right way, every time, and you’ll eventually come out on top.

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