I know this will come as a shock, possibly one that will ruin your day, but there are some pretty notable differences between mobile online poker, and real world poker. I’m not saying that mobile poker doesn’t follow the rules of the game exactly, it certainly does, but that doesn’t negate the fact that poker is a game traditionally played in a room, at a table, with other humans.
Alarmingly, when playing multiplayer online poker, you’ll have the realisation that other people are not present in the room with you. And, if you are a human of even mediocre intelligence, you will have pieced together that poker is a game largely about deceit and trickery. Is your opponent bluffing? Are they about to destroy you with a full house? It’s what makes the game so interesting, entertaining, and popular.
But, let’s do some deep analysis here, shall we? How can a game almost entirely be about reading your opponents translate into a world where your opponents are invisible? I sense shenanigans.
Is Reading Your opponent A Thing?
In one memorable scene in Maverick, the entertaining 1994 Western, Bret Maverick, played by Mel Gibson, gets himself into a poker game by promising to lose for an hour. Of course, being the sneaky soul that he is, Maverick is really using the hour to learn his opponents “tells.” He henceforth dominates the game and walks away with pockets loaded.
But are poker tells really a thing, and can a person use them to their advantage? Curious, I set about doing some research.
Poker “tells” are really just a fancy way of saying; “Is my opponent behaving suspiciously?” Or, if you want to be realistic about it, you might as well just say; “Is this person lying to me?” Most people are not good at lying, and tend to behave awkwardly when doing so. The same applies to poker. Of course, in a social situation like poker, where people are behaving suspiciously half the time, given the nature of the game, it’s not very easy. Reading your opponent is, however, a thing that a person can use.
Tells Through Actions
But the truth is that reading your opponents behaviour comes second to reading the course of the game. You don’t necessarily have to pick up on a player acting suspiciously in order to know that something is up. Simply pay attention to how many cards the player has drawn, and how they are betting. If a person draws two cards, and throws down a huge bet, it’s safe to assume that something is up.
Or is it?
The great thing about poker is that a person can commit pretty deviously to a bluff. They may call for two cards, when really they have a hand of nothing, and follow the bluff through by throwing down a huge bet. Acting smug about the bluff and taunting your opponents in person may have been the cherry on top, but the simple actions taken are enough for players to see what’s happening.
In other words; bluffs are still bluffs, regardless if you can see your opponent or not.
Poker is psychological warfare. The object of the game is simple, and hardly requires much practice beyond understanding the basic rules. The real challenge of the game is playing your cards to your advantage, and making opponents think that something else other than reality is happening.
Yes, the reality is that there is a layer of that psychology missing when you are not able to see and interact with your opponents. But there is still plenty of room to work, even when your opponents are completely invisible.
In fact, one might even say that removing the human element breaks poker down to its purest form. Since opponents may taunt or distract one another in the real world, they are forced to work within the confines of the game in the online world. After all, when unaware that your opponent is an attractive blonde, for example, it is no longer a distraction.
Is Online Poker Missing Something?
But the question is; is online poker missing something? And the answer; it’s hard to argue that a fundamental element is not missing from online poker. Because, although poker is still entirely playable online, it is not the social theatre that occurs when playing at a table with friends.
However, I also have to say that if a player is interested in the actual core rules of poker, as opposed to the fussing, distractions, and other nonsense that occurs, online is certainly the way to go. Playing poker with friends is certainly a great deal of fun, but more often than not the loudest, most distracting person tends to be the centre of attention, and not the person who manipulates the rules the best.