On the poker circuit, there is an almost invisible line of division and lack of respect between the live professionals and those who got their start on the Internet. Neither side has much respect for the other and believe they are better than the other. If you think about it though, there isn't much difference between the two. Both groups are full of experience and apply aggressive, attacking games to get themselves to the winner's circle. The Internet pro's are probably more math oriented and tend to play more hands than the live players and if you are unaccustomed to playing tournament poker on the Internet, you will need to make some adjustments. I am going to talk about some of those in this chapter but generally speaking, the concepts you learn in this book can be applied universally.
Perhaps the biggest difference between live and online tournament poker is the distractions a player will face playing in the comfort of their own home. When you play a live tournament, you are in an environment that minimizes the distractions (although with cell phones and iPod's that play video's one could argue otherwise) you'll face. You'll be playing poker and won't have the opportunity to do anything else. When you are playing on the Internet, it is easy to find yourself doing three to four other things at once. I know that I am personally guilty of doing this (and still do on occasion). Watching television, surfing the web, answering e-mail, talking with friends and family on the phone... you get the picture, the number of things you can do while playing on the Internet are almost endless.
Almost every book that talks about Internet poker mentions this, but yet few players actually do anything about it and the bottom line is it will affect your bottom line. Anytime you are not watching all of your opponent's and picking up on their patterns you are losing value. For example, say you are playing in a tournament and decide to go see whether your favorite sports team is winning so you jump over to their home page. While you're browsing you miss out on a big pot and don't pick up on the fact that the chip leader minimum check raised with the nuts and then over bet the pot on the turn when he was called. You end up going against him a few hands later and he minimum check raises you and over bets the pot on the turn. You have top pair and deduce that he is trying to buy the pot with his over bet. You move all in and he calls you with a set and you're out. If you had been paying attention, however, you'd still be in.
If you're serious about competing in a tournament or tournaments, you need to find a quiet place and make sure you avoid all possible distractions. Tell your friends and family that you are playing and to not disturb you. Don't answer the cell phone, turn on the television, or surf the web. Your sole task is to focus on your opponent's and to play your best poker.
The speed at with which hands are dealt in Internet poker is much faster than in live play. There is no dealer that has to re-shuffle the cards or count out chips in the event of an all in bet. Everything is automated and as such you are likely going to see two to three times the number of hands you would in a live tournament. This does several things for the player... some good, some bad.
The good is you can play a tournament in a significantly shorter period of time. An average low buy in tournament with 1,000 participants is often over in five to six hours. That same tournament live could turn into a 12-15 hour day if not longer (especially when you factor in longer breaks, dinner breaks, and color ups). If you bust out early in one tournament, you can even sign up for another tournament, something you couldn't do in most cases in a live event.
The bad is that it will make many players rush their decision making process without properly thinking through things. It's very easy to just click a button in an on line tournament and a problem many players make is clicking that button without taking the time they need to evaluate why they are clicking it. One of the things I've always taught my students is to remove your hand from the mouse when you are playing an on line tournament. Avoid that impulse click. Don't move your hand to your mouse until you are certain of the decision you are going to make and why you are making it.
The biggest advantage the Internet professional has over the live professional is game selection. On major sites like PartyPoker and PokerStars, there is literally a tournament or two starting every five minutes. The buy ins are much lower than the typical live buy in, which means you can have a smaller bankroll to get started. Where $500 might only get you in one or two live events, that same amount will let you play in 50 $10 tournaments. Tournament poker is all about the long run... your chances of success are much better the more events you play. If you have $500, you're much better off depositing that in an online site and giving yourself numerous opportunities for winning than by playing one or two live events.
Additionally, you have more control over the type of structures you play. It doesn't matter if you prefer a fast paced turbo or a deep money, slow structure, if you take the time to look you will find the type of event you are looking for. Those same choices are often not available live, you're stuck with whatever is being dealt.
Another thing you can do that you can't do in live play (although occasionally at the WSOP you will see some professionals attempting this, but it's not very effective) is the ability to play in multiple tournaments at the same time. The advantage to doing this is it shortens the length of time to reach the long run. In order to get 100 events in live play, it might take you a whole year, but by playing multiple tables you can easily get 100 events in a month or two on line.
If you are going to multi-table, you need to make sure that you can play each tournament as if it was the only one you are playing. What I mean by that is that you are able to study and evaluate each of your opponents at each table you are seated at. My suggestion is that you start out by playing two tournaments simultaneously until you feel comfortable with that. Continue adding tables until you feel you are at your threshold for playing your best poker. Obviously with each table you are playing, you're probably going to lose a little value but you can make up for that through volume. Personally, I never play more than four to five tournaments at once, but I know players who are extremely successful playing up to ten. Do what you feel most comfortable with.
Playing the players
I'll get more into this in future chapters, but one of the complaints you'll often hear about Internet poker is that you can't read the players and that it is difficult to figure out what players are doing. I'll let you in on a secret that most successful poker players already know... physical tells are over rated and are often more of an excuse for making a bad call or play rather than helping a player. The key to figuring out how a player plays is through careful observation of their patterns. What cards do they play from what position? How much do they bet? When do they bet? The great thing about Internet poker is that you have all that information right at your finger tips. You can be involved in a big pot at PokerStars and can go look at the recent hand history to see how your opponent has played hands in the past. You can see if they only play big cards or if they are capable of having 6-5 on the 8-7-4 flop.
Playing on line can bring you numerous money making opportunities. Take it seriously, and remember that it's just like any other poker tournament you're playing. Make good decisions, study your opponents, and focus on the task at hand (winning) and you'll have as much success on line as you do live.