Sports & Poker – Form is Temporary, Class is Permanent

If you're a serious sportsbetting fanatic in Canada, or even if you're just taking your first steps in the wide world of betting online, chances are you've studied the formbooks.

Whether your game is hockey, football, basketball or horse racing, closing your eyes and taking a long shot is fine – but you won't be counting the loonies when the results come in at the end of another expensive weekend.

It's fair to say that the best way to be a profitable sports bettor is to pick a sport and master it before moving onto another one. Every sport has its individual traits and nuances, be it NBA, NFL or PGA Golf, and if you're ignoring those patterns, you'll be broke in no time.


The sad truth of being a successful sports betting guru is that it takes time and effort. Let's take hockey as an example. You need to sit down and research, study, and research some more the teams' and players' form going back months, years even, to get a good handle on the form. That way you'll be one step ahead of the bookies and you can find value. Does that online bookie have the right spread on total goals between the Canadians and the Chicago Blackhawks? Is their handicap on the Vancouver Canucks off the mark when you know from your studies that they've been hitting goals for fun over the past few games?

Finding value in a sea of online bookies is like finding a needle in a virtual haystack, but hunt it out and your bank balance will look a hell of a lot healthier come Stanley Cup time.


Although it's a very different game entirely, online poker does share some characteristics with sports betting. Shrewd gamblers can put their hard work to good use, not by studying the form of the Seattle Seahawks Linebackers, but by the form and behavior of the poker players you'll encounter week in, week out on the virtual poker felt.

So, if you're thinking of transferring some of your hard-earned CAD from your online sportsbook to a new poker account to see what all the fuss is about, it pays to know what to look out for so you can be up and winning straight off the bat.


Poker players, like all human beings, are creatures of habit. And while it's easy to spot 'tells' in live poker players – gestures or moves that they ALWAYS do, without fail such as folding their arms when holding a big hand – you can easily follow online patterns just as easily.

While to poker virgins online poker may seem at first like it's packed with random events -in reality online poker players follow strict patterns which can be analyzed, just like a hockey team on a roll or a baseball pitcher who's on a hot streak. Poker players are human, after all, and often times you'll be up against players who play a lot of poker. As such, they're very easy to monitor and take notes on - and we've got you covered with our easy guide to strategy and spotting form in online poker.


So, how can you assess players' form – players who remain invisible avatars sitting behind a bunch of wires and a smokin' monitor? Well, serious online poker players will use 'tracking software' like Hold'em Manager or Poker Tracker, two examples of vital programs which 'sit' over your online cash games and tournaments in order to give you information on your opponents. They don't come cheap – the latest version of PokerTrackercosts $59.99 (going up to $159.99 if you want software for the 4-card variant, Omaha, included). However, use it well and the cost of PokerTracker can easily be quickly recouped.


Let's take a typical cash game on PokerStars and see how making notes on players and tracking their play can improve your play and show that players are prone to making the same moves time and time again.

Tracking software or Heads-Up Display (HUD) like PokerTracker allows you to easily see what the players at your table will likely do in certain situations during a game. The client literally 'tracks' stats on different players, and you can then make notes accordingly.


For example, let's say you're sitting in a $1/2 No Limit Hold'em cash game on You notice that the same player, “bigfish123” has been mixing it up at your table a lot that week. As such, you've noticed a few telltale signs – he will fold to any form of aggression post-flop. You open up the PokerTracker client, and lo and behold, it tells you that he certainly is folding to a lot of continuation bets – almost 25% of the time.

But that's not all – a few regulars at your table are folding a lot pre-flop and coming in with big hands that go to showdown. Checking PokerTracker you see that the pre-flop betting percentages, or VPIP% (Voluntarily Put Into Pot) is pretty low. If the general VPIP% are low on your table the software is telling you exactly what you want to hear – these players are fairly tight, will fold a lot, and you can therefor steam in and start becoming the 'table bully'.

You can even take detailed notes on a player with PokerTracker, as it comes equipped with a built-in Player Notes editor so you can easily monitor what other players do.


Regular online poker players, or 'grinders', follow certain patterns. After all, they have to if they're going to make a steady, regular income online. These players may even be playing multiple tables at the same time (as should you once you get proficient in the game) and therefore they won't be paying THAT much attention to what's going on.

The great thing about multi-tablers online is that they will often have set moves to the action going on.For example, they may fold a lot to post-flop bets (or continuation bets) or be happy to call you down to the river before folding to any type of aggression on that last card. All this is grist for the mill, and you should be taking notes as you go along. Then, when you next load up an online table, you won't be wasting valuable hours trying to re-assess brand new players – find the weak grinders and exploit them! You don't even need to invest in expensive software if you don't want to – just invest in a notepad, or use the on-screen notepad that comes with your poker client, and start writing down observations.


With the legal situation south of the border in the US gradually improving the lives of online poker players, in time there will be more and more American players coming back online. Not only that, but poker closer to home is enjoying a boom of its own. There are more poker sites than ever catering for Canuck players, and individual provinces are busy readying their own government sites.

In all, what that means for you is a bigger player pool over the next few years. It's time, then, to take advantage and start using your analytical skills to take on the best, hook in those fish and stay one step ahead of the pack. With the right tools, and some tactical nous, you'll be bagging the big loonies in no time.

Online sportsbooks with poker rooms make it very easy for you to transfer your funds between games, so in minutes you can be up and running on a $1/2 No Limit Hold'em cash game with those Super Bowl winnings in tow.

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