OK, so after thinking more and more about my last blog, and after playing another live no limit session, I have decided to continue on with the theme and go way more in depth of why I think online games have better players and are tougher to beat than live games on average.
One major reason I feel online players are better than live players is that online players understand the concept of balancing their range better than live players do. For those that aren't familiar with this concept, balancing has to do with varying your play. A player who is capable of 3 betting preflop with AA, KK, QQ, AK but can also 3 bet hands like K5ss, 87o, J7cc, etc. is going to be much more balanced when he 3bets preflop than a player who only 3bets AA, KK, QQ, and AK. Which player would you rather play against? I know I would be much happier having the player who 3bets only the premiums to my left than a player who 3bets a more balanced range which leaves me guessing at the strength of his hand all the time. On the surface it would seem like a balanced range would be less important online since you play with so many different people that you don't need to mix up your play, but I think that's not true. Due to so many tracking devices such as PokerTracker and Hold Em Manager, balancing becomes crucial in order to get any action. If you 3bet only premiums then your 3bet stat will be so low that the times you do 3bet you might as well play your hand face up! As far as live games go I think keeping a balanced range is very imortant, but I see very few players doing this. The remarkable part is that a few of these players still get action even after they 3bet preflop. I laugh sometimes when people call them with hands that play terrible verse big pairs, like hands that can flop top pair top kicker and lose a lot of money to an overpair.
The second point that I can think of is that online players bluff/pick off bluffs better than live players. I think the main reason for this is that online players have less references to go on when trying to spot a bluff, but they think very in depth about the ones that they do have. I think that when online players bluff, they tend to pick better spots where they can tell a believable story, which in essence is exactly what a bluff should be. I think live players tend to just bluff because they feel like they need to every now and again, but don't take into account the texture of the board and their opponents tendencies to call down enough. When it comes to picking off bluffs, online players tend to rely more on betting patterns which are very reliable, as well as the story their opponent is telling. Live players seem to call often to "keep people honest". You don't know how many times I've heard at the table, "This kids an internet player and all they do is bluff, so I just gotta call him down when I make a pair." Guys, thats not the definition of a "hero call." Thats actually the definition of "eventually this kid's gonna bust me" call. A hero call in my opinion is when a player has thought through a hand in its entirety, calculated a feasible range of hands for his opponents, and decides to call based on the info he has gathered, not just "to keep him honest."
The next point I'll touch on tonight is value betting. I think that online players are MUCH better at getting max value out of hands. Online players have learned the art of the thin river value bet. An instance of this is having top pair good kicker on a flop in which your opponent can also have top pair and be outkicked. Your opponent calls your turn bet and the river completes a backdoor straight draw. After your opponent checks you should be value betting here in most cases. Internet players have come to master this, yet I still see people checking back hands that make me cringe in live poker, hands that any competent internet player would be value betting even at small stakes like 50cent-$1 NL. Because live players miss this bet so often they aren't getting nearly the maximum value that their hand affords them. The reverse is that internet players oftne "valuetown" themselves by betting too thin for value on the river. I see this as a good thing overall though, because it means that that player understands the true value there is in the thin river value bet, and over a long period of time will see a higher win rate because of it.
Lastly, bet sizing. I think internet players size their bets in a better way to both maximize profits and disguise the strength of their hand. This may be partly due to the "bet pot" button online, as well as the size of the pot always displayed in the center of the table. Still, this isn't an excuse for bad bet sizing in live games. A good player should always know approximately whats in the middle. So often I see a $20 raise preflop, 3 callers ($80 pot), a $50 flop bet which is fine with 1 caller ($180 pot), a $70 turn bet (ummmm......ok, $320 pot now), then a $75 river bet. OK, I'll agree there are times when this line is appropriate, but in general this isn't good bet sizing. Would you bet this way with a bluff to make it cheaper? Maybe. Would you bet this small with the nuts? I doubt it. This takes us almost full circle from where we started with balancing our range, to now balancing our bets. If you can't learn to balance your bets then good players will pick you apart. I think this is one of the HUGE differences between online and live players, and also a big difference that seperates small winners from big winners.
As a disclaimer, there are many live players who can do all these things that I wrote about, and do them well if not better than many good internet players. I'm speaking through my experience as a whole when I make these generalizations. Take them all for what they are worth, my opinion, nothing more, nothing less. Also keep in mind that when talking about live games I am basing this on many hours at mostly $2-$5 No Limit, but I think it holds true for some $5-$10 NL games, and almost all $1-$2 NL games I'd imagine. When you start talking about $10-$20 NL and above live, many of those players play very well and practice the concepts that I wrote about in this blog.
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Til Next Time....