Online poker has become something of an internet phenomenon with it accounting for almost 70% of gross gambling revenues online through the myriad of sites that are constantly promoted through both conventional media and online. The game itself has been for over a hundred years and is traditionally portrayed as a game where you play the man and not the game. Even so, in the online world its popularity is still as high as ever.
The biggest difference in online poker from the real thing is that you are missing the main element that is always talked about during televised poker tournaments and in the various films about poker which is 'the man'. In an online game you are not face to face with your opponent easily able to see their 'tell', the expression or movement that tell an expert poker player whether someone has the cards to back up what they are betting.
Just because you are playing online however, does not mean that you cannot get some idea of how people are playing even though they are not sitting across the table from you. This is a skill you learn over time but there is nothing to stop you from practicing the basics right from the very first hand you play.
When you join an online game you really have no idea at first who is playing or where they are from. Take some time whenever you join a new table to play a few low bet hands and just watch what is going on. It may take several hands where you most often lose small amounts but this initial loss is worth the expense in learning firstly, how the different players interact with each other, are one or two of them likely friends, do certain players like to bluff or bet high on a whim rather than on solid cards. Are there one or two players who are very aggressive at first with their betting but tend to reduce their aggressiveness when they actually have a very good hand?
Even as a beginner it is relatively easy to spot different peoples playing styles within a few minutes and more than likely you will spot the other smarter players watching you to see what you do. If you can quickly identify the people who like to bluff or bet high at the start in the hope of a good hand then you already know which players to bet against and more than likely, if you play smart, these same players are the ones whose stacks you will walk away with.
After you have been around the online poker circuit for a while and have learned many of the different peoples online 'tells' you will soon be able to sort out the professional or 'serious' players which you should be wary of, from the ones who are just there for a laugh or to blow some money after a long week at work.