How to Play Poker
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Is Online Poker for Losers?

You may win at online poker, but are you sure you're playing with real money?

Not saying that online poker is total nonsense--it does hold a special place in the poker universe--but only pointing out that, from a certain perspective, playing poker online can be a waste of time and meanwhile bastardize your skills as a poker player.
Here are three reasons why playing poker exclusively online is a cop-out:

1. You Don't Have to Look Anyone In the Eye

All throughout the illustrious (and totally seedy) history of the game of poker, men have had to look other men in the eye, over a stack of chips, and then turn over cards and see who's got what.

When you're playing online poker, there is no equivalent to this simple, desperate moment of looking another human being in the face, having them look you in the face simultaneously, and then share the knowledge that in about five to ten seconds, someone is going to win and someone is going to lose.

Just having the intestinal fortitude to endure such a moment, even triumph through it, may be considered the highest art of poker.

When you play poker online, the terrifically visual, tactile interaction of playing poker with other warm bodies in the room is not available. That's check one in the "con" column of online poker.

Yes, avoiding eye contact can seem easier, but if you're a lesser poker player because of it, is that really an advantage, when you face formidable foes?

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2. Self-Discipline and the Casino Mentality

If you can go into a casino, play poker, not get drunk and act stupid and lose your entire life savings within a very short time, you are to be commended as a self-disciplined individual. That brand of tested self-discipline should come in quite handy as you play hands of poker.

In other words, casinos and other pro-level cardrooms offer a bevy of tools by which you can play badly and lose money (to predetermined agents and the like). Between the alcoholic beverages, the scantily clad women, the egos and predilections of your tablemates, the cold air that keeps you awake forever or close to it, the carpeting that you can't look down at without feeling like you're going to puke--

Again, it comes down to the visceral side of playing poker: when you play poker at a real life casino, you are subjecting yourself to a formidable test. Online poker, by contrast, can be performed in the appointed comfort of your living room, while you're sipping a cup of hot tea.

Soothing tea it may be, but are you ready for primetime, pushing buttons while wearing pajamas?

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3. Online Poker Can Help You Build Valuable "Anti-Skills"

If you have a chance, check out the poker writings of Steve Badger at This guy is a real good writer about how to play poker and in a more general sense, how to not get your money taken.

One thing that Steve identifies is this concept of "anti-skills." This concept is pretty subtle but it makes a lot sense: there are a lot of players who think that their faults are skills. They think they play better because they're great bluffers, or because they can turn hands with Jacks into steady winners.

But in reality, those "skills" are actually vulnerabilities in their game that winning poker players will expose at the most profitable times. You can develop a great set of anti-skills playing in home games or at casinos, but online poker remains the number on training ground for f(*^#R$ing awful poker players.

Even when you're playing for real money, the sheer number of fish, ninnies, and scaliwags on some of these poker websites is bona fide outrageous. Careful the company you keep, right?

Isn't there a danger that you may develop subpar habits, playing with subpar players?

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