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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

The Round Table - Phil Galfond Addresses the Online Pro VS Live Pro Debate

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Much hype in the poker world comes from the debate of who is the better player, online pros or live pros. Phil Galfond, known online as OMGClayAiken discusses his take on the matter.

KL: You wrote on a blog about a year ago about doing a show about online players and live players competing heads up.

Yeah, I think it would be really cool to do a TV poker show with a challenge between live and online players. I don’t think it will happen and I don’t think it would be good for the live pros. I think it would be good for the online pros to prove to the general public that we can play by playing against the people they think are the best players in the world. The live pros have nothing to gain; the general public thinks, of course, they were going to win; if they lose then they look bad.

If I were a live pro I would have no interest in doing a show like that. I think more and more I have stopped wanting as badly to be thought of as a great player or to be a household name and known by the general public. There is really no reason to and it’s just like an ego thing, basically. I am trying to focus more on being a better player and making as much money as I can, which is what I feel like I should be doing as a poker pro.

Also things have changed with the legislation. It is harder for people to get good money out of sponsorships so that is a side benefit of becoming a household name, sponsorship deals. As far as I understand they aren’t what they used to be. So, if someone put together a high stakes poker show on TV where we could play high stakes no limit or high stakes PLO I would love to be on it, but it is not something that I think about much.

KL: Who do you think would win, and how do you level out the variance?

You can’t. If you took 5 online pros and 5 live pros and had them each play best of 5 hundred big blind freeze outs whoever runs the best is going to win, pretty much. There is nothing you can do; the long term takes so long. There is really no way to prove who the better player is.

KL: Do we need to?

People who think they are the better player would like to, but no we don’t need to.

KL: Where do you think that rivalry comes from?

I think for a long time, and I think it’s getting better, the online pros have had an overall lack of respect for the live pros and the live pros have had a lack of respect for the online pros. I think it stems from…poker is a game where a lot of ego is involved. If there wasn’t ego in poker a lot of games wouldn’t happen because people wouldn’t play other good players. Everyone thinks they are better than they are. Especially when you have 2 groups of players who think they are playing the correct way and they play different games, therefore they kind of have different styles.

The average live pros’ style is different from your average online pros’ style so both sides look at the other side and say they are playing differently than me and I am good so they must be wrong. I think from that, each side thought the other weren’t playing well and each side knew that the other thought they weren’t playing well, so I guess that is where the rivalry started. I think it’s getting better. I know that a lot of live pros have gotten a chance to play with us know, I have gotten respect for my game and I have gained respect for theirs.

We play a different game, we play against different kinds of players, structures are different and it dictates a different kind of style of play. I think the best players from either side can adjust to any structure so they will thrive online or live. For the most part I think a lot of the disrespect stemmed from different styles when really, especially if your games are different, you can have different styles.

KL: Did that start because online players were playing a different game and figured out a different way to win?

Yeah, live players play a lot less heads up and shorthanded, they are playing 10 handed a lot of times and mainly playing tournaments. They aren’t used to shorthanded play; they aren’t used to cash game play necessarily.

The other thing is, in general, live games are a lot softer than online games. To be a very good live pro you have to be great at making money from weak players. In an online game, say $100-$200 no limit, the majority of the players are going to be excellent players and to survive you are going to have to know how to beat excellent players. It is a totally different skill set.

I think there are a lot of people, like some of the best tournament players in the world, that can’t play nearly as well as I can against a tough player but I can’t play nearly as well as they can against a weak player. It’s just something you need to practice.

There is also the idea of stats. Online players have databases and heads up displays. In a lot of games you are playing you know how many hands this guys raises preflop, you know how often you see bets, things like that where live players never had that. They never really got a chance to think about it as part of it. They obviously thought about how their opponents played but not to the extent that online players do, or as precisely.

It’s a different game and like I said the best live players could go online and I think it would take some adjustment, but they could beat the games. The best online players could go to the live games and beat those too. It really is a different game.

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