Poker Strategy: The Chatbox

I am hopeful that this article will break some new ground in online poker strategy advice. Even if you have read 'Super System' or subscribe to a poker coaching service, you will not have seen this information before. Here I will explain how to exploit the chatbox to maximise your profits in online poker. 


As is true of many Internet situations, online poker offers a strange opportunity for a performance of a false self, where one can assume any character and enjoy the freedom of anonymity. When sitting with a group of virtual strangers, you are just an avatar and a screen-name. Although this allows for liberation from any insecurities about your history and physical appearance, the consequent lowering of inhibitions often makes the Internet an unfriendly place. Any veteran of the YouTube comments section could testify to this!

Online poker is an especially volatile arena. With most poker players holding an inflated ego and unshakeable (often misplaced) confidence in their strategy, emotions often run high in the chatbox. We have all seen someone berating a player after a bad beat. Sometimes, the attacked player will respond in kind and other members of the table with proffer their opinions too. With such explosive emotions constantly being stretched by the fall of the cards, surely players who cannot control their feelings risk their anger affecting their play.

If you seek to be an optimal poker player, you have to maximise every edge available. As a result, I believe it makes sense to exploit the wonders of the chatbox. With the previous psychological context in mind, I present the best methods of chatbox exploitation and misdirection:

Level 1 - De-education

Scenario: Two players get it all-in pre flop - the hands are KK and A6 offsuit. The player with A6 gets lucky and wins the pot despite being a big underdog. The player with KK launches into a chatbox rage about how their opponent is a donkey, how unlucky they were and how the poker site must be 'rigged'.

Your Response: Jump into the conversation and explain how the A6 was actually a favourite, because any hand with an A is a favourite over any pair. Maybe add that the KK had less outs to improve because he had a pair. In contrast, the A6 had three outs, so was a clear favourite. Also explain at length how AQ is a favourite over AK.

Why?: People often do not realise that you are trolling them. People love to win arguments and will get deeply involved in the debate, whilst also thinking that you have a very poor grasp of strategy. They will be more likely to play poorly against you due to the belief that you are an inexperienced player. The frustration of the argument could also cause them to tilt. Newcomers may even believe your bizarre poker strategy advice, which is also beneficial to you.

Level 2 - Protect the Fish

Scenario: A terrible player just sucked-out in a big pot and is enduring abuse from their opponent. The chat is becoming quite aggressive and you worry that the fish will leave the table to avoid the abuse. 

Your Response: Do whatever it takes to defend the fish. Justify their play with some more backwards strategy advice and come up with some playful banter against the aggressor. NEVER say anything racist, sexist or otherwise bad taste, but deflect their anger away from the fish.

Why?: Two very good things are happening at this table. One player is very weak and has a big stack, so you want them to stay. Another player is clearly steaming and could begin to play recklessly. You do not want the weak player to be driven away from the game by the abuse, so you will benefit from fighting their corner and making them feel more welcome. Meanwhile, your 'white knight' behaviour will serve to inflame the aggressor more. They will be even more likely to tilt and launch a vendetta against you with big bluff attempts. Any grudge against you will also make this player more likely to reload their stack and play in a tilted state.

Level 3 - Chatbox Tells

Scenario: A player just put you to a tough decision on the river with a big bet. You are really unsure whether to call or fold, but notice that they are saying things in the chatbox as you use your timebank.

Your Response: Firstly, any information is good information. If you have time, ask more questions such as "What do you have?" If they claim to have a poor hand or try to goad you into making a faster decision, my experience suggests that this player has a big hand. Fold.

Why?: This is a tell drawn from live poker. Players who act weak are often very strong. Although this tell (like all tells) is not 100% reliable and can be manipulated, it is a strong indicator with weak low stakes players. People who say "gg" in the chatbox before shoving all-in often have a premium hand, also. 

Level 4 - Play the Noob

Scenario: Various.

Your action: Do various things that make you look inexperienced. Compliment people on a "nice hand" whenever someone shows trips or better, get incredibly excited if someone has a straight flush or quads, greet all new players to the table and try to engage them in friendly conversation. Generally act like someone who is amazed by everything that happens and act as if you are just having a good time and are not being competitive. 

Why?: Just as card protectors are usually the mark of a fish in a live poker game, the aforementioned traits tend to denote a weak player online. Do not employ all of these tactics if they prove too time-consuming, but don't underestimate their value. Being given no respect by the table is always a good thing. No
body will think you are capable of a high-level bluff if they believe you are newcomer player. 

Good luck with these tactics. I find them to be very successful and hugely entertaining to employ. There is hardly any greater fun than a half hour debate with someone over AQ being a favourite over AK, especially when they spaff their stack over to you with a tilted play soon afterwards. 


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