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Poker News | Online Poker | News

The Changing Face of NLH

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Recreational online poker players from America have hit a funny crossroads of sorts thanks to the US government's prosecution of all things short of the game they love. They can't reliably deposit money back into their accounts, but if they're willing to wait a while, they can most likely pull money out of their accounts. What that means in real terms is that any game involving American players is likely to have a different temperament than it did just a few months ago when Neteller was still in the US market, and some very basic bits of poker wisdom are more important now than ever before.

When the Neteller news first broke - much like when PartyPoker announced it was leaving the US - it wasn't uncommon to find American players gambling it up in cash games like Armageddon was approaching. The boom-or-bust mentality has subsided now and a different attitude has taken hold: most remaining no-limit hold'em cash game players are guarding their money more carefully than ever before. You're more likely to find a rock garden now on the sites that still accept American players, even at some of the lowest limits.

One recent scan of games at PokerStars found the average full-ring no-limit hold'em table had between 22 and 26 percent of players seeing the flop. Even the short-handed tables, normally the preserve of the action player, had tightened up considerably; most tables were between 25 and 32 percent, with some of the higher-stakes tables dropping as low as 10 to 14 percent. The games at Full Tilt Poker on the same day had a little more action. Full-ring tables were running in the range of 27 to 30 percent of players seeing the flop, while the numbers were a little higher for short-handed tables: 29 to 34 percent of players were taking the flop. Even with the numbers higher than their PokerStars counterparts, the average Full Tilt table was nothing like the heyday of action poker online.


At a glance, the trend is clear: without a way to replenish their accounts, cash game players are tightening up. So far as how this affects the approach you should take to the game - well, that depends on how much risk of ruin you're willing to take on. Power poker hasn't lost its effectiveness; a smart, aggressive player should be able to run just about any table he sits at and still walk away ahead. The likelihood of being trapped has grown significantly, though, now that there are more tight players at the average table. Employing a hit-and-run strategy - taking down a few nice pots and then moving on to another game - can be a good way of avoiding the minefield of players waiting to trap you for your stack. The downside is that you never get to know your opponents very well, but naked aggression doesn't require a lot of nuance in the first place.

For the more risk-averse players, bankroll management is just as good an idea as it's always been - if not more so. Dropping in limits can be an effective safeguard against variance, as long as you adjust properly to your new opponents' level of thinking. If you normally multi-table, cutting back on the number of games you play at once can also dull variance's edge by allowing you to devote more focus to each game. The flip-side of cutting back on variance through these measures, of course, is that your hourly win rate is most likely going to drop. If your main concern is protecting your roll and staying in the game, that shouldn't worry you too much.

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