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Underestimating Your Opponents – Part II

by Alan Schoonmaker |  Published: Sep 19, 2012

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Alan SchoonmakerMy last column said online players (OLP) and brick & mortar players (BMP) underestimated each other. Shortly after Black Friday I asked, “When they switch to live games, will OLP become predators or prey?” I got four extremely different answers:

OLP are so superior that they will become predators.

OLP are so inferior that they will become prey.

OLP vary so much that they will become both.

OLP are generally superior, but need a transition strategy.

This column will report and analyze their answers.

1. OLP Are So Superior That They Will Become Predators.

DeltaChaos wrote: “My experience (as a dealer) and my observation of how these games play out tells me that online players should absolutely crush the live cash, especially in games that have no cap to the buy in…”

“M” said: “Most online pros will have no trouble in any games … a player losing less than 6bb/100 online figures to be a winning player in most live games… any online player who has a win-rate of 3bb/100 or more online figures to crush any live game.”

“Richard III” wrote, “I have no respect for live players. None. Live players for the most part are passive pathetic weaklings who never bluff or make any sort of daring move.”

2. OLP Are So Inferior That They Will Become Prey.

I_P_Freely wrote, “Online players suck. At most, 1 out of 100 of the so-called ‘online pros’ in the U.S. will still be playing poker two years from now.”

Iamluksak wrote: “Most online players do not have a chance in a B&M cash game. A few will get lucky in a tournament, but the ones who play $1-$2 to $5-$10 will be broke in record time. Has anyone who plays in a regular game at a casino ever seen an online player that was a winning player? Most online players who play where I play are always good for the game.”

3. OLP Vary So Much That They Will Become Both.

I was surprised that so few people took this obviously correct position. Their skill must vary in the same way that virtually all human abilities vary.

Fortunately, some people are thinking clearly. My friend, Cary Darling, wrote:

“First off, I used to love having online players sit down in my live games. Yeah, they ran over the table a number of times using aggression and being unpredictable, but that usually also meant their downfall. Their lack of patience to wait for a ‘real’ hand, or their inability to understand the subtle differences between live players and online players usually got them slowly, but surely feeding their chips back into the hands of those who could be patient…

“As hit and runners these guys were dangerous. They’d make ballsy calls and be willing to coin flip for their stacks, and if they take you down and leave, then, yeah, it sucked. But, as we know, it’s all long term.

“However, these kids that play online are pretty damn bright… Now will all of them be able to adapt? No, most… of them [lack the patience and humility]…

“The sad truth is … there just aren’t many winning players… This is not to belittle anyone; it’s just the nature of life. And even if you are a winning player at a certain level, you’re always going to find a better player…

“[It’s] one reason I decided to give up playing professionally… I saw the writing on the wall. The information I was just then learning [at Cardrunners.com] … the kids on the forums had already moved on and created styles to exploit the one I was learning. So by the time I even got to their new style, or the new theory, I was already a year or two behind, and now going on three… It was quite scary.”

4. Online players are generally superior, but need a transition strategy.

When I had a radio show, most guests were professional players and writers. At first, I asked them, “Are online or live game players better?”

The answer was always the same, “Online.”

So I changed the question to, “How much better are online players?”

Answers varied from two to ten times with an average of about five. That is, my very knowledgeable guests said that online players were about as good as the players in much larger live games. A typical answer was, “An online no-limit game with fifty cents and one dollar blinds is about as tough as a live game with $2 and $5 blinds.”

However, their superiority does not mean that they will easily crush live games. David Cossio, a successful pro, certainly agrees. He emailed:

“Online and live dynamics are pretty different. Most online players rely heavily on software … to make their ‘adjustments’ when playing a hand (especially online pros multitabling and making thousands of robotic decisions).

“They know what a raise on the flop means [by utilizing] a large database on the player doing it, they know the percent attempt to steal before the flop of a late position raiser; good luck adjusting live to these and many situations with a grand total of five hands in their live database about a specific player.

“Table selection online, no problem… online sites can tell me if players in a specific table are winners or losers and where the big fish is seated. Good luck determining how tough a live table is before playing a hand there.

“Of course, there will be many online players who will crush live, since there are so many of them, just by the law of numbers this has to be true; the ones who won’t will be working at McDonalds soon…

“And, of course, live games are easier to beat than online games, and most intelligent, dedicated online players will continue to be intelligent and dedicated live, but to say online poker players will be live poker Gods … is preposterous.”

I Agree With Number Three and Number Four.

Nobody can make a convincing case that online players will automatically become successful predators or pathetic prey in live games. Some will succeed, and some will go broke. The ones who switch successfully will do what good poker players have always done: correctly analyze and adjust to the situation.

You Can’t Afford To Underestimate Anyone.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re an OLP, a BMP, or both. If you underestimate your opponents, your arrogance will be expensive. You can’t make good decisions with bad information.

Helping readers to make and adjust to realistic assessments of yourself, your opponents and our game is my primary objective. Because Black Friday forced OLP to switch to live games, my recent articles recommended many adjustments. But BMP must also recognize the strengths, weaknesses, and impact of the influx of OLP into their games.

You won’t enjoy reevaluating your perceptions. It’s much more pleasant to believe that your opponents are so weak that you can run over them. I hope you have the courage and discipline to make the painful, but critically important adjustments. ♠

“Dr. Al” (alan_schoonmaker@yahoo.com) coaches only on psychology issues. For information about seminars and webinars, go to propokerseminars.com. He is David Sklansky’s co-author of DUCY? and the sole author of four poker psychology books.