Planet Mark's Blog. Thoughts, News And Strategy For Poker Tournaments Of All Size

Are You Making Yourself an Online Poker Target?

There are certain things that new players do at online poker tables which flag them as novices. This is dangerous. You will find plenty of players who are looking out for these flags. Their aim is to play pots against the new players, taking advantage of mistakes. This post has two goals. First, for newer readers, to highlight some ways you ‘give yourself away’. Second, for readers who have more experience – to show some things to look out for!

5 Ways You Make Yourself a Target at the Online Poker TablesDon't become a poker table target

#1 – Playing Too Many Hands:

This is a classic novice mistake – especially for those coming from a play money app or game to real money poker for the first time. To beat the games you need to be selective with your starting hand selections. While there are no hard and fast rules, playing more than 25% of the hands you are dealt will be an immediate flag to experienced players that your stack is there for the taking.

Add to this playing lots of hands from early position, playing them passively (limping and calling) and playing a lot of hands which are tricky to see flops with (ace-rag, unconnected suited cards and so on), and you are simply asking for trouble.


If there is a single sure-fire way to tell your new real-money opponents that you are fresh from play-money, it is to type ‘ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ’ in the chat. Unless someone at the table is consistently slow (unusually so), this just does not happen in the real money games. Many experienced players will make a note immediately if you do this, and will watch your play carefully (probably using HUDs too) for exploitable errors.

#3 – Not Topping Up Your Stack

In a cash game you need to give yourself a shot at a full double-up those times when the situation becomes favourable. This means keeping your stack topped up. If you started with $100, and have lost a few small pots and are sitting on $77, pro players will quickly figure you are not one of them.

Almost all the best poker sites allow you to automatically top up to the table maximum. Check this out and make sure you do not buy-in for odd amounts and make yourself a target.

#4 – Bet Sizing Tells

Over the years, bet sizing in online poker have got smaller. When No-Limit Holdem was new online, 3x to 4x was the standard… these days it is more like 2.1x. If you bet more than everyone else at the table, your opponents will probably figure that you have come over from live poker recently. This is also important in tournaments. Bet sizes (for opens and post-flop) get smaller as the game continues. While a 3x raise is normal during the first levels, this goes down to 2x later. If you are raising 4x with no regard for the situation or stack sizes, this will become very obvious to experienced opponents. The same opponents who will be able to work out the right strategies to exploit you!

#5 – Chatting Flags

Some people say ‘Nice Hand’, though anyone who does this often is almost certainly new to the game. Save the compliments for quads or better, and even then only if you are at a friendly table…

This also applies to the ‘rigged’ type chat… If someone loses a 35% / 65% shot while ahead and rants about how the site is rigged and there are too many fish… well, do you think this is an experienced or good player?

People who use chat to ‘make friends’ are also unlikely to be the same characters who study hard to improve their game.

There Are More!

There are more than these 5. I could add being overly tricky (unbalanced), the extremes like limping aces / kings and raising other strong hands, check-raising too often, bluffing when weak too often and so on... These are all easy to pick up once you know what to look for (or have a HUD). 

Using This Type of Information

As you get experienced, you’ll see more and more of these mistakes. I recommend making a note (and adding a date to it), when you do see any of the above. You should look to isolate the novice players, preferably in position. These same players are likely to play too many hands, stay in pots they should not be in and call big bets with hands that should have been folded pre-flop.

Finding Opponents That Give Away This Info

This depends on where you are located. For US players, the biggest site (Ignition Poker) has anonymous play - making it hard to keep track. I enjoy the games at America's Cardroom, where there are some 'grinders', though the recreational players do outnumber them. Check out my entertaining Fish-o-Meter tool to find the easiest games for your location!

GL at the Tables, Mark

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