by Paul Seaton
It’s an age-old discussion in poker. What is the best way to succeed at the game we all love – playing live or grinding online? Well, many professional players mix both and are able to succeed across two very different disciplines. So how do you go from crushing dreams across the virtual felt to ousting live players without batting an eyelid? We’ll help you identify the areas you should focus on by highlighting the differences between online and live poker.
Speed of Play
The first major difference between playing online and sitting down in a bricks-and-mortar casino is the number of hands you’ll see during play. In an hour of playing poker at one online table, you’ll likely up to 100-120 hands. Even at a fast-paced table in a casino tournament, you’ll be lucky to see more than 40 hands in the same timeframe.
A frequent leak from online players is that after multi-tabling for 10 hours at home, adapting to the comparatively slow play at a live table will frustrate them. If this is you, make sure that you don’t get distracted by only have nine players to focus on, instead putting all your energy into working out which players demonstrate the strengths and weakness that you take advantage of online. If you’re predominantly a live specialist looking to add online success to your CV, make sure that you use the same game selection that you would face with two tournaments at opposite ends of the country to choose from. Working out what is the best game for you to play online and where you have the biggest edge is vital.
Location, Location, Location
It can be a thrilling experience to win around $25,000 by taking down the $150K Guaranteed in your favourite pair of jogging bottoms and hoodie. But winning live trophies often gives a good player great promotion, with headlines, news articles and that classic trophy photograph projecting a player from solid to spectacular, potential pro to badged-up ambassador. It really can happen very quickly, so the advantages of dueling it out in the live arena are plenty. However, there’s no better way to analyse your own game and iron out weaknesses along with building a bankroll to cope with the live elements than by putting in the hours online. Your profit margin can be grown with volume to build up a stash of fund that is able to cope with the travel expenses that joining the live circuit demands.
It isn’t just the financial and recognition areas in which there are massive differences between the online lifestyle and the live tour. There is a social element to getting dressed up and meeting your poker friends face-to-face that no amount of social media, video communication or mobile phone calls at 3am can replicate. It’s fun to put faces to names rather than online avatars to chat box banter, so don’t be afraid of breaking up a successful online career with time outside, if only for the natural light your poker face probably craves! Likewise, playing in casinos every day would be demanding to even the most gregarious of party animals, and online poker can become a source of fun as well as finance. There is a therapeutic feeling behind many of the processes behind online success, so embrace it!
Two’s Company, Three’s a Live Table
One thing you see a lot more of at a live game is opponents. Not in terms of numbers, as the opposite is true with online tournaments getting thousands of runners, but in pots themselves. Many more pots go multi-way at a live table as opposed to online, where you’ll frequently be heads-up to the flop or even pre-flop with all-in and call situations before a community card is dealt much more common. This may mean that you need to modify your tactics as a consequence. Live games are much easier to get involved in pots for less and there is less pressure to raise than online. You’re also less likely to be ‘squeezed’ when you’re eyeballing your enemy, and can exercise more control multi-way than you would be able to online. If you’re at the mercy of a digital deal against a sole opponent, then factor in their range and learn to multi-table to give yourself the best chance of a comparable edge.
Attack vs Defence
Live and online players are very different, and using this to your advantage can not only win you plenty of money, but also make your experience a more enjoyable one. Live players are typically a little looser than online players at much lower buy-in levels, so take advantage of loose/passive types by ramping up aggression when it matters. Online, players are tighter and more aggressive. They also mix up their ranges better in general than live players; put simply, if you identify a player as loose live who has a certain range, that’s probably how they’ll stay until either you or they leave the table. Online, players can switch it up easier – they haven’t got to look into anyone’s doubting eyes while they do it and can disguise without giving away physical tells. Online players will normally be more discerning about when they commit all-in for 50-100 big blinds whereas a top pair, top kicker can be enough for many inexperienced live players.
There is a famous example of an older live player once claiming that a young player should show him more respect because he had ‘played more hands than him’ by playing the game for over twenty years. The truth is, as the youngster was only too happy to point out, the sheer volume of hands you can rack up online proves that statement to be wrong more often than not.
Be careful about how you identify players live and online on this basis, and never assume anything 100%. Before long, you’ll be mixing it with the best!