A few things in life are certain. Death, taxes, and that poker players are going to take a break from the game and return at some point. Some of you may identify with the latter. Maybe you stopped playing after Black Friday or maybe you took a break after a prolonged downswing?

Whatever the reason, now you’re ready to jump back into action. Before doing so, it may benefit you to do a bit of planning so that your newest venture into online poker is a successful one. Below are five things to reconsider before returning to online poker after a break.

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1. Move Down in Stakes – Or Start All Over

If you’re returning to online poker after an extended absence, consider dropping down in stakes. For example, if you were playing $.50/$1 on a site pre-2011, then you may want to start playing $.25/$.50 when you decide to open a new account at Global Poker.

The reason behind this is multi-faceted. First, poker has changed and the relative strength of games is increasing. A $.50/$1 game may play as tough as $2/$4 used to play “back in the day.” You may even want to observe some of the current games to gather more information before jumping in.

Also, it’s been a while since you were at the tables and it may take a little while for you to re-acclimate to the games. While adjusting, you should consider playing lower to protect your bankroll.

Honestly, the best course may be to start all over and work your way up from scratch. Sure, it may not seem ideal to work your way up from $.01/$.02 or $1 tournaments, but it may be the best way to protect your bankroll until you see where your game stacks up against the current competition.

2. Get Used to Playing Without HUDs

If you were used to playing online poker with a Heads Up Display (HUD), then you better start learning how to play without one. Many sites now outlaw the use of HUDs and those that don’t ban them tend to make their software incompatible with most popular HUD units.

For some of you, this will be a dramatic shift in how you play. It will require more focus, personal note-taking, and the ability to adapt your game without the aid of a computer. In other words, you will have to use your live poker skills on an online level. Are you up for the challenge?

3. Be Ready to Pay More Rake – And Rakeback? LOL

If you’ve been following online poker news for the last couple of years, you’ll notice that rake across the board is going up. Some rake changes have been widely publicized while other sites have either quietly phased in rake hikes or they start with a high rake.

When looking into a site to play, check out their rake structure and make sure that it is something that you are comfortable with. This is especially important if you plan to play online poker as a source of income rather than recreationally.

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For those of you who have been gone for more than a couple of years, one of the biggest shocks will be rakeback – or rather the lack of it at most sites. Many sites have either completely done away with rakeback or have changed their rewards structure to where true rakeback is extremely difficult to obtain.

Most player reward structures benefit recreational players and greatly reduce the rewards that regular and pro players can achieve. Again, you’ll need to check out a site’s reward structure to see what type of rakeback, if any, you can achieve. Granted, that’s not to say that rakeback doesn’t exist at all, but those of you who relied on rakeback as a way to make a profit at online poker will find it far more difficult to do so in today’s “recreational” culture.

4. Study – Actually Study This Time Around

The games are getting tougher. That’s not just a cliche anymore. That’s a bona fide fact regardless of the stakes you play. As such, it is important that you spend time studying and working on your game if you hope to improve and rise up through the ranks.

Also, the quality of training material that you use is important. Many poker books written more than five years ago are barely relevant to the modern online poker game. Those that are relevant tend to only apply up to a certain point. By and large, once you move past the lowest stakes, you need training material focused on the modern game and game structures.

Luckily there is a world of content online including poker courses that you can use to learn the game. In addition to training sites, there are numerous pros and competent amateurs that give away free training materials on sites such as Twitch, YouTube, and others. You don’t have to pay to get quality training.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that investing in your poker career isn’t a smart decision. If you choose to sign up for a training site or hire a coach, conduct your research into the site or player and see if their strategies will actually benefit your game or if the training is merely a money grab.

5. Open Up Your Game More

Poker is constantly evolving and this means new ways to play the game. If you’re limiting yourself by mastering just one form or variant of poker, you’re leaving money on the table. This includes Texas Hold’em.

Back in the day, you could feasibly make a good living specializing in one form of Hold’em such as Heads-Up or Six-Max play. Nowadays, you had better work on other aspects of your game if you want to stay competitive. There’s nothing wrong with specializing in a particular area, but you need to expand your game if you want to remain profitable long-term.

Also, you need to work on expanding your skills in other areas. Remember how the game changed when Rush and Zoom Poker came along? The players who embraced those games were among those turning massive profits when the games became staples.

When something new comes along in online poker, it is a good idea to work on your skills in that variant early so that you can be among those turning a profit once the game goes mainstream.

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