I began my so-called poker career by honing my game online at various online poker rooms. After paying an undisclosed amount for my education, I eventually reached the point where I consistently increased my bankroll and felt pretty good about my game. When I decided to take it to the next level by playing in more “live” games around town, I was shocked. Total destruction! They beat me like a circus monkey…I mean it was ugly. But why, I did so well online? Were the players in the “live” games that much better? Or was it that the game was subtly, yet distinctively different? After consulting several cardsharp friends, doing a little self-analysis, and losing more money than I care to reveal, I found that the problem, as I suspected, were those subtle differences between online and “live” poker.
No Tells: This can be good or bad depending on how well you read opponents or project your hand to other players. Playing online can level the playing field, so to speak, between beginners and professionals. The only real tells online are found in betting patterns. You’re less likely to have the whole table fold into your pocket bullets since they can’t see the trembling, sweating, trouble breathing, or in some cases, unresponsive catatonic behavior that sometimes occurs when trying to control a monster hand in a big game. However, the downside is that you will never learn to hide your tells and read other players unless you play “live” poker.
Faster Pace: Online poker takes place at a much faster pace than “live” poker. There’s no waiting for cards, shuffling, or chip counting. As a result, this may cause an online player to get impatient in a “live” game and play hands that should be folded. If you’re moving from online to “live”, remember to be patient. Don’t freak out because you haven’t played a hand in what seems like an eternity. It’s not bad luck that you haven’t seen as many playable hands, it’s because you haven’t seen as many hands period.
Players Are Anonymous: You never know who you’re really playing with online. It may be Phil Ivey or it may be some bum waiting to donate his money to the cause. Cardsharps and fish come in all shapes and sizes, but when playing “live”, sometimes you just know (ie. Does this guy look completely lost or is he giving a command performance of chip tricks). Furthermore, don’t assume that just because a player’s username is Nancy, that the player is female. Some guys like to play under female aliases because they feel other players will give them less respect and they can take advantage of their sexist opponent’s underestimation.
Exact Chip Counts: Playing online provides you with instant access to chips counts. There’s no estimating, asking, or not knowing how your “stack” measures up to your fellow players’. This may not seem significant at first, but believe me, the first time you go all-in without realizing that your opponent does indeed have enough to cover you, you’ll understand the value.
The Verdict: The bottom line is that experience online isn’t a substitute for experience playing “live” poker. Online poker is a great way to develop your “pure” poker skills, however, if you’re looking to be the next poker superstar on the WPT, you’ll need as much “live” poker experience as possible.