We’ve got a live one!

We’ve got a live one!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

By Paul Jackson.

The obvious and fundamental difference between playing online and live – one which can have significant impact on a player’s ability to play to his optimal best – is the slowness of the live game. Playing on a live table is usually about six times slower than playing one table online (excluding misdeals) and, of course, you can play multiple tables online which is a much trickier feat to accomplish live.

Unless, that is, you were one of those Full Tilt Pros, before PokerStars took over, who was entered into every WSOP event and could run from one event to another, unconcerned that your ability to play optimally might be hindered, as it wasn’t your money, and maybe not even your company’s money either. But I digress.

So, if you multi-table, say, six tables online, you’re playing something like 36 times faster than when you play live, and so discipline and patience can become an issue.

Also, if you’re an online player who is used to jumping up and down in your pyjamas telling an opponent about what you did to his mum last night and how much she enjoyed it, you need to remember that, when you play live, that opponent will actually be right in front of you and his mum might actually be in the same building and available to confirm or deny your assertions.

To help maintain your discipline and patience, listening to music or reading a book may help, but ideally it’s best to spend all your time watching every action of your opponents. Study opponents and watch them to see when they look at their cards and what they do with their hands and cards when they’re waiting for their turn to act, and then what they do when their turn comes. This may help you identify which players are likely to be playing their hands from positions behind you, which will increase the effectiveness of your attempts to steal blinds.

Always try to read your opponents’ hands, whether you are in hand or not, no matter how much guessing is involved. You will not have Hold em Manger to tell you what to do – instead, you actually have to use your brain to help you make decisions against opponents based on your perception of their tendencies. That perception should be based on what you have actually observed, rather than by referring to a green or red percentage figure set on a screen. The second fundamental difference is that, in general, the standard of player is much lower live than online. Many players in the live environment are many years behind current conventional thinking (although, as that changes all the time, they will no doubt be ahead of it in a few years’ time without having changed a single thought in their heads, not that they will know it) and they may as well be driving to the casino in their new Black Escort XR3I.

You can’t make conventional assumptions about what they should or should not do, or what they should or should not have in terms of hands, and if you do, then it is you that is playing beneath yourself, not them.

Generally speaking, the average live tournament player will limp into pots too much and will have a much narrower open-raising range than is optimal. They will limp a lot and call a lot, often with below average hands, because they like to play poker and playing poker means seeing flops, even if your play consists of limp-calling followed by a check-fold on the flop.

You must be sure to “tag” your opponents correctly and appreciate that, just because they call with weak hands, they will not necessarily raise with weak hands and, furthermore, if you see them raising with weak hands, that does not mean they will three-bet light.

Many live players will play every single hand, but will only raise – and certainly will only three-bet – with the absolute top of their range. They will defend their blinds too often and too light, with no post-flop intention other than hitting the flop and continuing no matter what, or check-folding when they miss.

They will also have a tendency to either slow play too much or play all monster hands much too fast. They will rarely bluff more than one street and will virtually never check-raise-bluff on the river.

One of the biggest mistakes good internet players make when playing live is to base their interpretation of an opponent’s action and possible hand on what they themselves might do in a similar spot, which is mostly way too sophisticated to ever apply to the person they are confronted with.

If it is a good spot to isolate limpers, or a serial limper, a live player raising is probably not doing so. It’s more likely that his hand just warrants a raise and the limpers are irrelevant in that decision. Likewise, if he open shoves a 12 big blind stack, he will likely have a much tighter range for doing so than would be the case for good online players.

One of the strangest but most frequent activities I see live players engage in is what I call “the Volcano Spaz”. For this to occur, we require a live player who is a complete nit who sits there playing the top 1% of hands only. After sitting there dormant and gradually bleeding away his stack from 100 big blinds to 50 big blinds without ever putting more than three big blinds into any pot, this player suddenly explodes and gets the lot in with 9-5 suited, or similar, normally against a young person who is probably “at it”.

Most decent online tournament players will be much better post-flop players than the standard live player and so over-limping in position can be very profitable and can increase the size of your stack, even if it does feel like it is decreasing the size of your penis.

I think the biggest thing for good online players to remember is that it may well be profitable to forego small edges in spots where you are required to put a large portion of your stack at risk, to enable you to take better advantage of the multitude of significant edges that will fall into your lap the longer you sit with standard live players. And sometimes that may require you to feel like you are playing “weak”.

Tags: Paul Jackson