A lot of people start playing online poker as they heard there's the possibility of making online poker real money profit. Unfortunately for them, poker isn't as easy as it looks!
We'll be giving you the best strategies, tips, and tricks to give you the best chance to make money playing online poker.
Types of Online Poker Games
There are two main types of online poker games you can play; tournaments and cash games.
Poker Cash Games
A cash game is a game of poker where each chip is the equivalent of a dollar amount. The poker game is played as per the rules of the particular variant and players are free to come and go from the game as they please. If a player loses all their chips they have the option to buy back into the game. The casino either takes a percentage of each pot called the 'rake' to cover the costs of running the table.
Cash games are a great way to profit from online poker but it does have some drawbacks - let's look at the pros and cons:
- Large number of tables - Cash games are a very popular form of poker and most major sites have games for a variety of stake levels running 24/7.
- Flexibility - Unlike a tournament, you're free to spend as much or as little time as you'd like at the table so you can spend a couple of hours playing without being locked into a 9-hour tournament.
- Low variance - The variance is a lot lower in cash games compared to tournaments so if you're building your bankroll you'll find the upward trajectory is a lot smoother with fewer erratic swings.
- Tough games - As you move up in stakes, online cash games become extremely tough and take a lot of dedication to beat consistently.
- Lack of game diversity - Whilst the most popular games such as Texas Hold'em, Omaha, 6+, etc. are well catered for, it can be hard to find a cash game for more obscure variants.
- Tilt - If you have issues with tilt it's easy to lose a lot of money in cash games as you can keep reloading your stack until you bust your bankroll.
An online poker tournament is an event where players compete to win a portion of a collected prize pool. Each player pays an entry fee and is given a set number of chips. The blind levels start low and are increased throughout the tournament and antes are introduced. Players are eliminated from the tournament as it progresses and portions of the prize pool are given out upon elimination once 10-15% of the field remains. The tournament carries on until one player has all the chips and is declared the winner.
Online poker tournaments require a different skillset to cash games but can still be a great way to make money from online poker.
- Huge returns - Winning a poker tournament will give you a massive return on your investment with the average tournament win being for 200-300 buy-ins and special events being even larger!
- Wide scope - There are a variety of different tournament structures and tournaments offered for a large number of poker variants so you'll be sure to find a game for you.
- Dynamic Play - In tournament poker, the changing blind levels means you have to be constantly adjusting your strategy on the fly making for a more fun, dynamic game.
- Increased variance - Tournaments have large amounts of variance as you're only expected to cash around 10-20% of the time and will make a big score 1% or less of the time, this leaves a lot of potential for prolonged downswing.
- Time commitment - When you enter a tournament you need to be available for the whole duration of the tournament which is often 5 hours minimum.
- Dynamic Play - Whilst this can make for a more interesting game, it makes tournament poker a lot harder to master.
As you can see, both types have their pros and cons so you should decide to play what you enjoy most.
Profitable Online Poker Variants
Whilst cash games and tournaments are different formats of poker, both can be played using any poker variant:
Texas Hold'em Poker
Texas Hold'em is often referred to as the "Cadillac of poker" and is by far the most popular variant of poker being played. There are thousands upon thousands of Texas Hold'em cash games and tournaments being played daily.
Texas Hold'em is the most solved of the popular games and has been heavily studied for the last 20 years so the level at the higher stakes is extremely tough. However, new players are learning all the time and there are still plenty of soft games out there to earn some money in.
Short-deck (6+ Hold'em)
Short-deck is a relatively new game to the poker scene, having gained mainstream popularity around 2016. It is similar to Texas Hold'em except the cards 2, 3, 4, and 5 have been removed (which is why it's sometimes called 6+), and flushes beat full houses. Most short-deck games play with an ante and double-ante structure, even in cash games, rather than a traditional SB/BB structure.
As it's the newest game, there is comparatively little known about how best to beat it compared to a game like Texas Hold'em. On top of that, it is known for being an incredibly gamble-y game due to how close equities run between hands. If you can develop a winning strategy there is a lot of money to be made in this game.
Omaha, specifically Pot Limit Omaha, is a game that was threatening to overtake Texas Hold'em in terms of popularity back in the early 2010s. It is another flop game similar to Hold'em but players are given 4 cards rather than 2 and players must use 2 cards from their hand and 3 from the board.
With the added cards you're incentivized to play a lot more hands preflop, making it more of a gamble-y game than Hold'em. This is another game that's very hard to solve due to the sheer number of preflop hand combinations and there are plenty of soft games to take advantage of if you know how to play.
General Strategies to Increase Online Poker Profits
Here are some strategy tips/advice to help you increase your profits at the table:
Use Medium-Strength Hands to Bluff-catch
Medium-strength hands can be tough to play. Do you value bet them and risk getting called by worse? Or do you check and risk having your opponent make a better hand?
A great way to play a medium-strength hand such as 2nd/3rd pair is to play it as a bluff-catcher. By using these hands as bluff-catchers you allow yourself the opportunity to make money from hands that would have folded to a bet. Make sure that you're choosing hands that are too weak to value bet as these are the best candidates for bluff-catching.
3-Bet Your Strongest Hands
A lot of players, particularly new players, overvalue the potential of trapping with strong hands preflop. They think that if they slow play their AA and KK they can trick their opponents and win a big pot.
However, pots are only as big as you make them and you should take every opportunity you can to increase the size of the pot when you have these strong preflop hands - including 3betting pre.
For example, let's look at how two hands play out with and without a 3bet. Player A raises withto $6 and Player B traps on the BTN with their . The blinds fold and the pot on the flop are $15. The flop is . Player A bets $10 and Player B calls. The turn is , Player B bets $25, and Player A calls. The river is , Player A bets $50, and with the backdoor flush coming in Player B calls. In this scenario, Player B wins around $90 from Player A.
Now let's look at the same hand but with a 3bet pre. Player B raises to $6 and Player A 3bets to $20, Player B calls. The pot on the flop is now $49 and on the same flop Player A bets $35 and is called. Player A then bets $100 on the turn and is called again. On the river Player A bets $225 - and even if Player B folds they've still made more money than the previous hand!
Invest in a Poker HUD
Investing in and using a poker HUD such as Hold'em Manager will help you both on and off the table. On the table, it will track your opponent's tendencies in real-time and display that information on your table. You can then use this information to adjust to how your opponents are playing. For example, if you find your opponent is folding 85% of the time to 3bets you can start to 3bet them more often and win more pots.
Off the table, a HUD can help you as it tracks all the hands you play so you can find leaks in your own game. You can filter hands by situation and pot size so you can see where you're making mistakes in specific scenarios as well as look over hundreds of stats that can show you where your leaks are.
Mistakes to Avoid When Playing Online Poker for Money
Here are some things to avoid doing when at the table, both when playing cash games and tournaments. If you find yourself doing any of these you're costing yourself money!
Playing Too Tight or Too Loose
If you're playing too tight you're missing out on opportunities to make money. Players who only wait for the very best hands think that they're being clever whereas actually, they're costing themselves a lot of money by refusing to play speculative hands.
On the other hand, if you play too loose, you can lose back all the money you've won and more by chasing big hands with weak holdings. You need to strike a balance somewhere in the middle where you're not exclusively playing the nuts but not going crazy either.
Betting the Same Amount on All Streets
Pot management is an important poker skill to learn and being able to size best across multiple streets appropriately can earn you a lot of money in the long run. If a player bets the same amount on every street they're losing their chance at building a big pot by the river.
For example, Player A flops the nuts against Player B who is a calling station. The pot is $10 on the flop and Player A bets $10 on every street. $10 on the flop, turn, and river means he wins $30 from Player B. But what if Player A were to increase their bet sizes across the streets?
Now Player A will bet the size of the pot on every street; on the flop, he bets $10, on the turn, he bets $30, and on the river, he bets $90. In this example, he wins $130 from Player B - more than 4x what he won in the first example!
Over-Defending Your Blinds
Whilst it may be tempting to play a lot of hands from the blinds - you're getting a discount after all - it can end up costing you a lot of money. When you play hands in the blinds you're automatically going to be out of position to the rest of the table which makes playing the hand a lot harder. If you're calling with a lot of weak hands because of the discounted price you're going to end up checking/folding a lot.
Instead, you should defend your blinds a lot more aggressively, particularly from the small blind, and 3bet more often. Some players will only 3bet from the small blind as calling is such an unattractive prospect. You should also think about how the position of the raiser affects the hands you should call in the big blind. If the raise comes from UTG at a 9 handed table, their range will be very tight and we should tighten our calling range to adjust.
Ignoring other Player's Actions
It's easy to get caught up in your hand, focusing solely on the hand we've made/trying to make. However, by doing so we're missing out on a wealth of information that our opponents are giving us. When we consider what we should do with our hands, we should be doing so in the context of our opponent's actions.
Things like what position our opponent was in preflop, how long they took to make their decision, what their post-flop actions are (passive/aggressive) can help us decide what we should do with our hands. If we're playing an opponent who we've noticed is very aggressive, we may decide to slow play a hand like a flopped set as we anticipate they'll bet into us whereas if we made a bet they could just fold.
Make Money Playing Online Poker: FAQ
We've collected and answered the most common questions about how to make money from online poker:
What is the difference between cash games and tournaments?
A cash game is a poker game where the chips have a cash value whereas a poker tournament is an event where players compete to win a portion of a collected prize pool. The chips used in a poker tournament do not have a cash value and players need to place in certain positions in the tournament to win money.
Can you win more money in cash games than in poker tournaments?
Tournaments offer the potential for a higher return on investment as winning a tournament can give you well over 100 buy-ins whereas a great day for a cash game player would be winning between 10-20 buy-ins. Whilst tournaments offer this potential the variance is a lot higher than cash games so you can expect to have higher highs and lower lows if you choose tournaments over cash games.
How can you play in position during online poker games?
You can play in position more often when playing online poker by playing more hands from the BTN and CO and playing fewer hands from the blinds and early position. This can be done by either raising a wider range when it folds to you in a late position or calling more hands in these positions when facing a raise.
What is the rake among online poker games?
The 'rake' in an online poker game is a percentage of each cash game pot (often only taken once the flop is dealt) that is taken by the poker site. This is how online poker sites make their money.
Can anyone be a professional online poker player?
With the large amounts of resources and training available online, anyone can gain the skills to play poker professionally as long as they are willing to put in hours and hours of hard work to learn the game.
Whether you prefer to play cash games or tournaments, there is still a lot of potentials to make money playing online poker.
This article was published on November 8, 2021, and last updated on October 26, 2022.