If you’re one of the thousands of players at the World Series of Poker this year, you’ve probably got some sense of how to read your opponents. Each of their actions has a purpose, and if you can find the pattern in what they do, you can probably figure out their overall betting strategy and make the necessary adjustments to your poker play.

But what about when you play live poker online at Ignition? Now things are a little trickier. You won’t be able to pick up any physical or verbal tells, and since all the tables at Ignition poker are anonymous tables, you can’t use tracking software to help you figure out the competition strategies. That shouldn’t stop you from trying, though. You’ll still find opportunities to exploit your opponents if you look closely enough. Here are four things to pay close attention to the next time you play live online poker for real money at Ignition:


1. Player Positions

In order to get a read on your fellow poker players, you’ll need to keep track of the decisions they make on the felt. One of the biggest influences on these decisions will be player position. As a basic live online poker strategy, players should open a narrow range of hands preflop when in early position, and a wider range as they get closer and closer to the button. Once the flop comes, players should play more aggressively when in position, and more passively when out of position.

Not everyone follows this strategy when they play live poker online. Every time you get to see your opponent’s hole cards, whether it’s at showdown or when they choose to flash their cards before mucking, you’re getting valuable insight into how they play. Even if you don’t get to see their cards, if you start your session and see a player opening the action several times in a row from any position, that player could be on a strong run of cards, but it’s more likely that they’re being overly aggressive. When you find one of these opponents at your table, remember the tip: Fold tighter, call down lighter.


2. Stack Sizes

Stack size is another important factor that should influence the way you and your opponents act at the table. This will be even more important when you play live real money poker tournaments at Ignition. As stack sizes get shorter, players need to adjust their betting decisions accordingly; if you find an opponent who fails to make these adjustments, either by playing too aggressively or passively, you should exploit their weakness at every opportunity.

There are two recommended ways to measure stack sizes. The first, and easily the most common, is to count how many big blinds everyone has. This is the preferred method for cash games, but if you’re serious about mastering the tournament felt, you might want to make the switch from big blinds to the M-ratio. This tip was recommended by 1995 WSOP Main Event champion Dan Harrington, M takes into account the antes as well as the blinds, measuring how many orbits you can survive without making a move before you run out of chips.

There’s a preferred way of playing your stack depending on how many M you have for that game. At 20M or more, you have enough stack depth to play much like a cash game. At 10-20M, you lose some of that leverage, and aggressive play is recommended to get your stack back over 20M. Conversely, once you get below 10M, tight play is required until you get really short (around 6M or less), at which point it’s push or fold preflop. If your opponent doesn’t appear to be following these guidelines, take advantage by making the appropriate adjustments to your strategy.


3. Bet Sizes

This is one of the more subtle aspects of online poker betting, but the size of your opponent’s bets can give away a ton of information for that game. Some players will telegraph the strength of their hands through their bet sizes; generally speaking, big bets can be a sign of aggression, while small bets (including min-bets) are often a sign of weakness in poker. Search for these opponents while you can, and for the most part, make sure you use either uniform or “balanced” bet sizes yourself, to better disguise your betting intentions.

You can even combine your understanding of position and bet size to get a better read on your opponents. Bigger bet sizes are more effective when you’re in position in a heads-up pot, so if you find a player who frequently makes large bets out of position, and/or in multi-way pots, you’ve probably found an overly aggressive player to exploit. You can do the same to weaker opponents who make too many small bets in position, especially when it’s heads-up.


4. Hand Ranges

Narrowing your opponent to a specific range of hands is the ultimate goal when you’re reading other players at the table. You can use each of the previous three criteria to help you get a sense of the players you’re up against. When your opponent takes a certain line (meaning the string of decisions they make preflop, and how they navigate the streets from the flop to the river) that doesn’t make strategic sense, see how often they make these unusual plays in the game, and if you can, what cards they show up with at the end of the hand.

In general, players tend to take the same lines when confronted with the same hands, so you can effectively narrow down their hand ranges based on the plays they make and the information they give off. The trick with the anonymous tables at Ignition Poker is that you probably won’t be able to collect a large enough sample size on post-flop decisions during a single game session.

What you can do is focus more on pre-flop play. This is the most important phase in any online poker hand, and also the easiest place for you to get a read on your opponent. What position have they opened from? What stack sizes are in play? And how much did your opponent bet pre-flop? With this information, you can make an educated guess as to what hands they might have in their range; if you find out at the end of a hand that they opened with weaker hole cards than strategy would suggest, that’s exactly the info you need to build their player profile.


Other Strategies

In addition to these four factors, you might be able to pick up some timing tells when you play live desktop or mobile poker – real money is on the line at Ignition, so every piece of information and tips you can get will have some value. Your opponent might be facing a difficult decision if they’re taking a while to bet, but don’t put too much stock in these tells – your opponent could be multi-tabling or otherwise distracted, rather than struggling to figure out what to do in a marginal situation. For the most part, stick with the basic preflop reads described above, exploit where available, and you’ll be one step ahead of the competition.

Reading your opponents is a skill that takes practice to improve, so once you have a grip on these concepts and tips, it’s time to play some live online poker – iPhone and Android versions are available at Ignition for your mobile device, and you can download our poker client for free if you’re using a desktop to play. Don’t forget to collect the Welcome Bonus and all the other goodies waiting for you on our Poker Promotions page, and as always, best of luck at the tables with the other players.