Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Internet’s best-kept secret. This is our own original guide to helping you win at two of the Internet’s online poker monsters, Empire Poker and Party Poker. These behemoth sites are where the world’s best and worst poker players collide, and they’re pretty much the closest thing you’ll find to a poker free-for-all. For that reason, we’ve devoted a whole section of our website to giving you advice on how to handle these big, soft babies. Keep reading.
First off, Empire and Party Poker have the same live games and single-table tournaments. That’s because the sites are on the same network. In other words, an Empire player sees the same games and people that a Party player sees, and vice-versa. Only the multi-table tournaments differ, and we’re not going to address those in this section anyway. This section will focus on beating the live, no-limit games that make Empire and Party Poker so popular.
Empire and Party Poker host many, many limit and no-limit or pot-limit games. The difficulty of the limit games increases exponentially as the stakes go up. While there are still a lot of fish even at the $15-$30 range, there are also a lot of sharks at these limits. If you’re new, we recommend playing at the $0.50-$1 and $1-$2 limits, to steer clear of the players that want to eat you for lunch.
However, if you’re not new, we can safely say that it’s not too intimidating to play the no-limit games with the $100 buy-in. While that sounds like a lot—and it is—the fact of the matter is that the competition at Empire and Party Poker just isn’t as solid as it is almost everywhere else on the Internet. Even though there is a noticeable increase in difficulty as you move from the $25 limits to the $50 limits and ultimately to the $100 buy-in, people tend to be just mediocre at all levels. That’s the beauty of these two sites.
We think the main reason the no-limit games are so soft is because they attract a lot of people who are used to limit poker, but want to give no-limit a try. Empire and Party Poker, in fact, even “shelter” these players by putting a cap on the maximum buy-in (you’ll notice much higher limits at other casinos). A $100 maximum with $1-2 blinds is not very impressive by today’s Internet standards; most places make the max $200 or more. That’s probably one reason that the fish feel a bit more secure at Empire and Party Poker than at other casinos.
In this section, we’ll assume that you have a basic understanding of no-limit poker. If you don’t, please read the no-limit articles in our intermediate strategy section. We are NOT guaranteeing a cake-walk after you read this section by any means!
Having said that, we can address the two things it takes to beat the games at Empire and Party Poker (besides, of course, a solid overall game): discipline and game awareness.
This sub-section is going to be short but sweet. Simply said, Empire and Party Poker games make people go on tilt more than any other games. The reason for this is the low maximum buy-in. People say, “Hey, it’s only $20 more, so I may as well go all-in.” That’s what makes it very tempting to call when you shouldn’t. Our advice? When you play at Empire and Party Poker, make sure you’ve got your head in the right place. It’s easier here than at other places to let your emotions take control; realize when it’s happening and MAKE IT STOP.
Now for the second, more comprehensive part of our “cheaters’ guide”: awareness of the games. There are three beatable Empire and Party Poker games—the ones filled with loose-passives, the ones filled with tight-passives, and the maniac games, which you should stay away from. If you don’t know what these terms mean, check out the intermediate section of our strategy pages—get yourself informed! But if you do feel comfortable with these terms, and you feel like you can relate to them, the following paragraphs should give you a very good idea of what to expect at Empire and Party Poker.
Against loose-passives, the key to success is to play a solid, tight-aggressive game. If you have a super-premium hand pre-flop, like A-A or K-K, bet it hard and get that pot as thick as possible pre-flop. You want to have a very large pot, with most of your stack, so you won’t give your opponents good implied odds. Once you hit the flop, you must attempt to put your opponent on his hand. If your opponent’s on a draw, you want to bet it very hard; make him pay for trying to catch a card! If your opponent’s on a made hand, change your strategy and slowly increase your bets. Take him apart bit-by-bit. For example, if you hold A-A and the flop is K-8-3, and you put your money on K-Q, make consistent ˝-to ľ-pot-sized bets to slowly zap your opponent out of his money.
If you have a very good hand, like A-K or Q-Q, you want to limit the field pre-flop and see how the flop treats you. Generally, you should put in a decent raise pre-flop and then decide whether or not to punish draws, or to slowly zap your opponents out of their money once the flop comes (provided the flop is to your liking, of course).
If you hold a drawing hand, like a suited connector or a low pair, you want to see the flop for very cheap. You can generally win a huge pot if you hit, but again, you don’t want to pay very much to see the flop. If you hold a set, you want to get in a raising war at the flop with someone who’s hit a pair. If you have a suited connector, you want the pot and the bets to remain small, until you hit (in which case, put in a solid raise and get paid off).
Now, moving on to the next category of player. Against tight passives, you can generally play a more loose-aggressive game. In addition to following the advice against loose aggressives, you can frequently take the pot down at the flop with flop bluffs. For example, if you raise pre-flop with A-Q, and it limits the field to three players, you can generally flop-bluff successfully if the flop is K-x-x. Your opponents will assume you have a king and fold.
Basically, the reason you can beat the Empire and Poker games that we’ve just discussed is that the players at these sites are not aggressive enough. They either fold or call too much. Take advantage of this wonderful opposition weakness. However, we do want to stress that there ARE aggressive players at Empire and Party Poker, and don’t forget about that third category of player that we mentioned above: the maniac player. There are plenty of maniacs too. Just be sure to choose a room that fits into the categories that we’ve given you, and avoid the rooms that don’t. That’s the best advice we can give.
One special note: when you’re trying to decide what kind of game you’re seeing at Empire or Party Poker, you might be confused between a genuine, aggressive game full of competent poker players, or a game that’s saturated with maniacs. Sometimes the difference can be hard to find! The way to determine the difference is the size of the bets. If you see people making pot-sized bets and raises, then the game is probably filled with better players and you should stay away. However, if you see people betting $60 into a $10 pot, they’re a bunch of idiots. Who would call such a large bet unless they’ve got a super whopper? If you hold the nuts, you’re going to want to build the pot and not just take it down when it’s at a puny size. That kind of a game, dear friends, is designed for maniacs, and not intelligent poker players. Don’t even bother.