Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Why Live Poker is Easy

I wanted to express my thoughts about live cash games in general. Having been mostly a internet player the past decade or so (although I have played plenty of hours in live cash games and tournaments) I wanted to talk about some of the differences between live games and online games and some "tendencies" that occur in live games that you don't see much of in online games.

As mentioned before I'm making more of an effort to get out there and play more live poker, both cash games and tournaments. I've played about 12 live sessions so far this year, all at either $5-$10nl, $10-$20nl, or $10-$25nl (w/ some limit mix games). I've done pretty well overall so I think I have a pretty good grasp of the state of today's live games. Granted 12 sessions isn't a large enough sample size to accurately assess my long term prospects (although I think I'll do well) and I'm speaking for the stakes I've played (smaller and larger stakes probably have different dynamics, game flow, type of players, etc. although everything I talk about applies to smaller stakes and at a greater magnitude).

The first thing is that playing shorthanded online has helped a lot as I feel like I can play well no matter how many players are on a table. Sometimes games get short, especially must move games, and guys that have experience playing shorthanded and hu are at an advantage. Most live players have little to no experience playing shorthanded. I notice my edge increases a lot the more shorthanded a table becomes. Also playing shorthanded helps you improve your game tremendously in that you know how to play less than premium hands, plus it makes poker more fun knowing that you can play a lot more hands instead of waiting for premium hands.

There is much less 3betting going on (4betting light is almost non existent) in live full ring games (to an extent in shorthanded games as well). This makes the game so much easier because I can raise and 3bet knowing that I'm almost never getting reraised light. Even the guys that I tag as possible internet guys (young guys in hoodies w/ headphones,...yeah you know who you are) aren't ramping up the aggression like you see in online games. Either they're really not internet players or they're just keeping up w/ the flow of the game w/ nobody else really 3betting much. I admit to toning down my 3bet tendencies because of this as well, although I think I shouldn't. I'm usually the most frequent 3better though.

Also I've been playing in uncapped games and most players have 100+ bbs stacks, some w/ 250bbs stacks+. What this leads to is most players being cautious, probably overly cautious and missing out on value in certain spots (actually I've seen a ton of hands where a guy should've gotten more value, and very little hands where a guy went for thin value). In online games if you have the 2nd best hand you're going to lose the maximum usually (vs. regs). In live games this isn't the case because again, players are a little too cautious. You almost never see a triple barrel w/ air in a live game. (I did it twice in my last 2 live sessions in LA and went 50%...it's pretty cool putting out a big river bet w/ nothing after barreling earlier streets..obviously all I'm thinking at the moment is "don't call don't call don't call don't call!!!!")

Also live players tend to betsize poorly than online players. They're very guilty of underbetting the pot when a bigger bet is called for. This happens more frequently than somebody overbetting incorrectly.

I won't dwell on limping too much because everybody knows live players tend to limp more than they should. I don't care how good you are but limping and calling a raise oop is a spot that's difficult to profit from.

Also most live players don't seem to understand a lot of the current fundamentals that most online players understand and execute well. These include stack to pot ratio, polarization (you may see live players raising w/o much but most are not sure why they are doing it..they're just "bluffing" per se), balancing (although this isn't as important as online unless you become a reg at the poker room you play), merging, g bucks, etc.

Another thing about live games is that you can tell when somebody is tilting. Sometimes you can see the steam coming out of their ears. Or they'll say something like "dealer, when's your break?", "always a fricking ace on the flop!", or something along those lines. It's easy to adjust your game to them and the games become even more profitable. Online it's not easy to see who's tilting and who's not.

I guess you know the general theme of this post...yes, live poker players suck. No, actually it's not that. It's just what I think are mistakes that you see occurring more often in live games than in online games. Therefore live games are generally easier and good online players should be able to transition pretty well should they venture into the live domain.


  1. No doubt re: live players being bad. What do you think 10/20 live equates to on-line? I would think a winning 1/2 on-line player could beat that game in general. Agreed?

  2. That's about right. As long as the amount of money doesn't intimidate the online player he should be a favorite to win in any 10/20 live game.

  3. Hmmm....where does a $.10/.25 online player fit? I struggle with live $1/$2, but honestly I just don't get to play it often enough. Plus, I have a real mental issue with cash games (b/c I donked off a huge chunk online after banking a pretty nice cash in a small buyin tourney) and so I've got to work on the intimidation factor. Heading to New Mexico for SB next week and hope to get some live games in. But really, the main reason I'm commenting is: Where do you get all these crazy pics? Hilarious!

  4. Hi John, just discovered your blog but wanted to stop by and say that I am a huge fan of you and Jeremiah on PRR. I am a live 1/2 & 2/5 NLHE grinder who just officially went pro after 3 years making good money playing part time, and I listen to you guys for inspiration every morning before I leave for the casino (and it helps a lot!) Admire you a ton and wanted to wish you epic rungood in your future!

  5. Tx!! Right in time w/ the WSOP around the corner. Oh and a big announcement from my end coming soon!

  6. Hi John, BIG fan of your PRR show and you. I agree with this idea and hope to see you at V in Vegas!

  7. This blog post is really great; the standard stuff of the post is genuinely amazing.