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Will Online Players Become Predators Or Prey?

by Alan Schoonmaker |  Published: Apr 26, '11

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Hi Everybody,

Some players are debating this question in ways that resemble political and religious arguments. Many people are positive they are right, but nobody has offered any scientifically acceptable evidence. It’s probably impossible to provide such evidence because none of us encounter anything resembling an acceptable sample of players.

I have not played enough online to have a strong opinion, but I certainly believe that online players are tougher. My online results were so disappointing that I stopped playing there, and many well-informed people insisted that online players were much better than B&M ones.

My latest blogs were based on that assumption of superiority, but urged online players to develop a transition strategy. In fact, I’m convinced that they can’t get the full benefit of their abilities unless they analyze the differences between online and B&M play and then adjust to those differences. Not surprisingly, many players disagreed with me.

Several positions have been expressed. Numbers one and two are the most extreme, and the others are more moderate:
1. Online players will easily crush B&M games.
2. Online players are donkeys.
3. Online players have widely varying abilities.
4. Online players are generally superior, but need a transition strategy.

Let’s look at some examples of each position. Because many of them were quite long, I’ve edited them. I’ll use the screen names of people who wrote in the blogs’ “Comments” section; you can easily read their complete comments. Two of the people who emailed me directly or through my discussion groups’ “forums” approved my edits and the use of their names. The third approved the edits, but wanted to be identified by only one initial.

1. Online players will easily crush B&M games.

DeltaChaos wrote: “Regarding players switching from online cash to live cash play, 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…

“If internet players stay true to their styles, and play the super-aggressive, no limit games that they’re used to, and they are not hindered by a capped buy-in… they should crush it.”

My friend, “M,” took a similar position: “Most online pros will have no trouble in any games they sit in. The reason for this is simply that the online players have had an insane advantage. The ability to put in up to 40x as many hands per hour (possibly more), in addition to watching videos and participating in online forums and online versions of our live study groups, and all the software available, allows for a massively steep learning curve for the typical online player, even the typical recreational online player.

“So while I, of course, can’t make the blanket statement that 100% of online players will be winners in live games, I would venture that a player losing less than 6bb/100 online figures to be a winning player in most live games. And I think any online player who has a win-rate of 3bb/100 or more online figures to crush any live game he sits in.

Of course, there are aberrations and some people will do poorly in casinos for various reasons… but generally speaking, the average online player, and especially the serious or professional online player, will very easily migrate into live games…

“The statements Dr. Al … made reek of ignorance about how fast a person improves (that’s necessarily improves, not just can improve) his game merely by playing
online.”

2. Online players are donkeys.

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.”

After some people had disagreed, iamluksak continued: “The past week at the casinos has been very good for the regular winning players. The internet players forced to play live have been very easy marks. They keep making excuses for getting it all in with the worst of it. I guess they are used to the ‘catch up’ software of internet poker. They seem surprised when they go all in with a weak pocket pair, and run into a small pocket pair like queens, and lose.

“Another thing I notice is the internet players only last a couple hours, and bust out and go home. If you are running your mouth constantly about me, me, me, at least bring enough money to the game to make listening to your bs a little more palatable.”

3. Online players have widely varying abilities.

This position is so obviously true that I’m surprised that so few people have taken it. It’s ridiculous to claim that all online players are experts or donkeys. Their skill must vary in the same way that virtually all human abilities vary. The fact that this position was rarely stated indicates that many people aren’t thinking very well.

Fortunately, some people are doing so. My friend, Cary Darling, emailed our discussion group after other members had expressed more extreme positions.

“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. After spending a number of hours playing online … I started to see how this actually benefited me when it came time to playing live. The pace is so slow live, those quick decisions I had to make playing online became easier to make live because I had minutes and not seconds. If I was forced to make a decision against someone’s push, I could take as much time as needed until someone called the clock…

“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. There has to be winners and there has to be losers. There are people who can study poker day in and day out and let it consume them, but they are going to die a losing player because they just lack the ability to incorporate that information into their game…

“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.

David Cossio sent an email to our group to disagree with M’s statements that online players would easily crush live games.

“Online and live dynamics are pretty different, most online players rely heavily on software like Holdem Manager or Poker Tracker to make their ‘adjustments’ when playing a hand (specially online pros multitabling and making thousands of robotic decisions).

“They know what a raise in the flop means after a large database on the player doing it, they know the % 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 5 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, 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.”

It’s Your Choice

I don’t think anyone can make a convincing case that online players will automatically become successful predators or pathetic prey in live games. The ones who switch successfully will do what good poker players have always done: Analyze the situation and adjust to it.

I’ll close by repeating some points I made in my first blog on this topic: It won’t be easy to switch. Many players will switch successfully, but it will usually take time and hard work. Compared to websites, B&M rooms:
1. Cost more than twice as much (in rake, tokes, jackpot drops, food, parking, and gas).
2. Are even more expensive for small tournaments.
3. Have a constantly changing number of players.
4. Don’t have six-max or heads up tables (with a few exceptions).
5. Have far more distractions.
6. Can’t let you use hand-tracking, SharkScope, or other software.
7. Require protecting your cards.
8. Don’t count the pot for you.
9. Require controlling your body language so that you don’t give away information.
10. Require reading your opponents’ body language.
11. Deal far fewer hands per hour.

Adjusting to so many differences can be overwhelming, but – if you don’t adjust – you can’t win. If you want to win, you must adjust well. And that’s what my next project is all about, helping online players to switch to B&M games as quickly, easily, and cheaply as possible.

If you have a question, please add it in any comment section, or e-mail me alan_schoonmaker@yahoo.com. Before emailing, please check my first blog, “What is poker psychology coaching?”

 
Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of CardPlayer.com.
 

Comments

JaxFull
almost 10 years ago

"I guess they are used to the ‘catch up’ software of internet poker."

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Could somebody please tell me what this is? Never heard of it before.

 
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clunker
almost 10 years ago

The idea that online players have a great advantage because of the number of hands they were able to play per hr.online is silly. Online you are dealt a 1000 hands per hr and you play 100 of those hands where you think your a 3 to 2 fav. at least and even if you come in slightly under this average you are still a winner + rakeback. In a live game you can only play 1 table at about 25 to 30 hands per hr. where you would get maybe 3 to 5 playable hands and you only win 1 or 2 of these hands you are break even at best,no rakeback. As far as the uncapped buy in, what difference does it make if you buy into a 5 and 10 game for 40k and there's only 10k on table between other players. Some of these players will be winners and some will lose. Will they CRUSH these games, no because they cannot play enough hands to make what they were making online.

 
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sirswish6
almost 10 years ago

if "catchup software" isnt some sort of inside joke, you should be banned from cardplayer

 
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mikeyb111
almost 10 years ago

All this nonsense about coming up with some new style of play that no one has thought of before is a joke. People talk about poker constantly "evolving" but if you ask them to give a concrete example of how the game is supposedly changing they never have an answer. Somebody tell me just one thing about the game that wasn't known decades ago.

 
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KingaDimuns
almost 10 years ago

When players talk about the game evolving, they aren't really talking about things that were completely unknown previously. here's an example: ten years ago, if a pot was 4-bet preflop in a nlhe tourney, it meant AA-KK 99.99% of the time. that's not the case anymore. nowadays its pretty common to see a player 5-bet/call with JTs. in most 6 max games, 3-betting pre-flop is practically required. these are the types of nuances players are talking about when the refer to the game's evolution...

 
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texasroadgambler
almost 10 years ago

KingaDimuns:

Are you kidding? Any player who "5-bet/call with JTs" in NLH is on a kamikaze run.

 
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JamesScou
almost 10 years ago

It's true. JTs is actually not that much of an underdog to alot of hands. I've seen some of the best players in the world 4 bet JTs. I've seen 4 and bet bet shoves with that hand. PokerStove it. . . You'd be surprised.

 
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JaxFull
almost 10 years ago

@sirswish6

if "catchup software" isnt some sort of inside joke, you should be banned from cardplayer

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Strong punishment but perhaps needed.

 
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pokerbotlee2
almost 10 years ago

Doc i enjoy your blogs, i find them a refreshing perspective on poker. However i find this particular one has gone crazy and most people have missed the point..

The real question is not "can on-line players transition to playing live"??, it should be "will they want to"??

I play both live and on-line, im a winnimg player. I spent the summer of 09 in vegas playing the 2/5 and 5/10 mostly at the bellagio but also the venitian.

There is a HUGE misconnception amongst live players that ALL on line players play like maniacs, when infact the opposite is true. Most winning on-line players are nitty and just make fewer mistakes than the bad players at their level. Its not untill you move up fairly high that players try to out play each other. At those levels all players are winning players ( but some are winners at lower levels taking a shot at bigger games)

The only problem winning on-line players will really face is the volume of hands. If you're used to pushing a small edge over 1000s of hands a day, adjusting to playing max 300 hands a day is painfull and not really worth the effort.

Then consider, rakeback, travel, expensis waiting lists.... From my experience most on-line players see playing live as a recreational thing, like a fun change of pace.

Not very many would consider it as a full time option, i dont live in America or North Korea lol so im free to continue playing, and just as a point of interest games on-line are alot softer since black friday

 
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iamluksak
almost 10 years ago

"Catch up software" and "action flops" are 2 topics that can be debated over and over. The only people that think either of these are impossible are living in a fantasy world.
At least 75% of the pro players that I have known for 15-20 years agree with me.
I am surprised when I hear someone say "why would they cheat, they are making so much money." When I hear comments like this I am thankful my father was not a complete loser, who forgot to teach me to never trust anyone when it comes to money. The people defending these sites do not know who is running the software, who is watching the hands, and any other important information that would make you think it is fair. Most would not even know where the site is located. Does the word UNREGULATED mean anything to you.
As far as my comments about how online players will do in a B&M cash game I would like to make it clear that there will be some winning players who can make the adjustments, but most will go broke. Only the top 10-15% of players can beat the rake, and the old pros who have been doing it for years will not lose their jobs when a bunch of kids come to the game.
For those who think I should be banned from cardplayer, I have one word for you, which is the same thing I tell crybabies at the table. CRY!!

 
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pokerbotlee2
almost 10 years ago

@iamluksac, software such as HEM (hold em manager) Poker Tracker and poker stove save hand histories of millions of hands played on-line.These are independant sites not linked to the on-line poker sites.

They prove that the sites are not using "catch up software". To even suggest this shows a complete lock of knowledge and research on the subject.

Basically there are 10 times more bad beats on line because there are 10 times more hands played. The odds of any hand winning are exactly the same whether they are played on-line or live.

The DoJ have not shut down these sites because they think they are using software to create more action, they shut them down because of issues which have come about as a result of on-line poker not being regualted in America. Pokerstars ARE regulated in France and Italy and many other sites are regulated in Europe. Stars use the domain pokerstars.fr on france, they pay tax and work with government to provide safe and fair games. The major sites have wanted regulation for years

 
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iamluksak
almost 10 years ago

You are living in a dream world.

Who are the agencies that regulate the software? Where are the reports they have come up with? What are the credentials? If some made up company is the one regulating the sites, big deal.

Your trust in things you know nothing about is almost bizarre.
You must be one of those people who believe what they read in newspapers, and what they see on the news. Knowing that, it is a waste of my time to reply, but i do have a few small leaks.

The people who run these sites make huge money, and can pay for the best geeks. Do you really think it would be hard for a poker site to manipulate a search engine mining on their site that they gave permission to be there. Run a few fake tables, and you can make up any variance you want.

I never said the sites were shut down for cheating. Even when caught cheating, they did not miss a day. (Regulated . . haha..)I own a liquor store that is regulated. If I sell to minors, or sell on Sundays, I would be closed down. I know regulated is a cool word, and it is kind of fun to say, but Everyone knows why they were shut down. Too much Cheese!

 
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clunker
almost 10 years ago

I don't know about poker tracking sites but there is a definite bias toward the larger stacks in small buy in tournaments. My personel experience while playing small buy in tournaments over the last year and a half is that any allin hand that I am the smaller stack and at least a 5 to 1 fav. at some point in the hand I will lose about 75% of the time. And your thinking that there are more bad beats because so many more hands are dealt does not hold water because I am only dealt very few hands. The sites were shut down not because they are not regulated but for money laundering and bribery.

 
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JaxFull
almost 10 years ago

@iamluksak

I think I know but I still would like your definition of what "catch up" software is.

Thanks.

 
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pokerbotlee2
almost 10 years ago

@iamluksak, well you make me laugh man!!! Im a winning player so i guess ive just never had the same suspicions you have!!

I guess it all comes down to this, its easier for losing players to believe in a conspiracy theory than admit their game is not as strong as they think

Instead of using tools like leak buster, table ninja and poker tracker to examine your game, learn and improve you think the ONLY way you could possibly be a losing player is because of some secret software!!!

Do you think people like Tom Dwan, Phil Galfond and Jason Mercier were randomly selected to be winning players??? Or do you agree that in the long term thier superior play will yeild a higher hourly win rate????

The words arrogant and ignorant spring to mind

You cant sell liquor on a sunday??? Man where are you from?? I live in Europe, we have 24 hour liquor stores (even on sunday) and safe on-line betting and poker sites

You strike me as the kind of guy who dosnt even have a passport and has never read an entire book!!!

Before you make up your mind, open it...........

 
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iamluksak
almost 10 years ago

You claim to be a winning player, and I am sure you are one of the best. I would think that you are either very ignorant, or you work for a poker site.

Where is the info I requested about who is regulating the sites. You claim " Pokerstars ARE regulated in France and Italy and many other sites are regulated in Europe. Stars use the domain pokerstars.fr on france, they pay tax and work with government to provide safe and fair games."

Either reply with the requested information, or admit that you are a liar.

Just to be sure you are clear on your task. Provide information on who is regulating the sites.

 
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JaxFull
almost 10 years ago

Hey sak...

If you're still reading, how about answering my question. What is "catch up" software in online poker?

 
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