There are a lot of things a player needs to be competitive at online poker. The most obvious poker necessities are the money to play and the skills to win, but ask any pro and they'll tell you that mastering poker is all in your head. It's simply not enough to know the game on paper; you have to be able to play it on the felt. That means no matter how deep your stack is or how long you've been playing, you're not going to get far without great patience, concentration and confidence.
Many aspiring poker players are undermined by their inability to take a loss, learn from it and move on. The fact of the matter is, in both live and online poker you're going to lose more often than you win. This is why players that see every flop drain their bankrolls so fast. The smartest strategy is to minimize your losses and make the most of your wins. Remember that the average player only finishes in the money in one of seven tournaments. You may have to build your bankroll out of pocket for a long time before your poker habit sustains itself, but that does not mean you should throw your money away.
If you're a relative amateur when it comes to online poker, then the best way to protect your bankroll and to learn from your losses is to set limits. Setting limits keeps you focused and helps you to track what you're doing right and doing wrong. It also makes it easy for you to see if your win / loss ratio is improving with time.
Poker is skill-based, but it still has an element of chance, so sometimes even if you do everything right you can still lose. These scenarios tend to bring on a mental state called "tilt." Tilt can be the kiss of death for even experienced poker players. Since many new players don't recognize when they're playing on tilt, sticking to your limits can be a good way to cut your losses when you've strayed from your strategy. If you do feel a case of tilt coming on, regardless of whether you've reached your limit or not the best approach is to stand and leave.
A little bit of stress while playing poker online is normal and can even be good because it keeps you sharp, but maintaining that stress is as important as maintaining your bankroll. If you become overwhelmed by in-game stress, then your focus is no longer on the game. Alternately, being too laid back can also be a mistake in a game that notoriously rewards aggressive players.
Though free poker and cash poker offer two very different experiences, if you've never played competitive poker before then playing the free tables can be a good way to test the waters. Of you can't cut it against the relatively soft competition in the points-only poker rooms , then you'll be an easy target at the cash tables. In the same vein, if you can't handle losing points, then you're probably not ready to play for money.