Ace Speaks Online 04: Making the transition from live to online
In my previous article, I analyzed some of the necessary adjustments for those who are used to playing online, and who now also want to become successful playing live. Today, I will discuss those who move into the opposite direction, the people who have quite a bit of experience in brick and mortar cardrooms, and who now want this same kind of success playing online. For them, the following things are very important:
Be aware of the technical possibilities
Those who are new to Internet play are unlikely to get the most out of it immediately. While almost all good online players know how to get the most out of the lobby (to search for the most profitable tables and / or the worst opposition), the notes possibility (meaning they can quickly analyze one's strengths and weaknesses, and attach this analysis to this specific player for future use), and also of excellent programs like Poker Tracker, where you can not only analyze your own game, but also that of all players you have ever played against while experienced online players know how to do all this, those who are new often fail to use these kinds of features properly. It should be clear that when the opposition is getting the most out of things while you are not, that you are at a distinct disadvantage, and for quite a few players who are new to playing on the Net, it may take a very long time to get accustomed to all of these possibilities.
Be aware of the limitations as well
While an important part of the good players' edge in live games comes from finding a good seat and from having good reads based upon a "feel" or upon tells that their opponents may give away, online these possibilities do not exist or not to the same degree. In order to become successful online, you will have to try to play your hands well in general, and only make adjustments when your notes on, or your knowledge of, any specific player tells you that deviating from the usually correct strategy may now be recommended. While in live poker you would almost always base your decisions on strength that you feel in your opponent based upon what you see, online your read on opponents is simply a lot less reliable, meaning that deviations from the 'normal' proper play (that are a large part of the good players' profit in live games) are less likely to have a positive effect on your results here.
Learn to adjust to the speed
This is a related subject. While in live games, the good players have all the time to focus on their opponents' habits and tendencies (because the pace of the game is much slower, because people move in and out of games not nearly as often, and because you receive far less hands per hour than online), online things go much quicker. You get to play many more hands, people move in and out of the game at rapid pace, and with the large player base at most poker sites, it is hard to get to know every one of them like you would in almost all but the very largest B&M cardrooms. As a new player, it is best to get accustomed to this new situation by starting out with playing on one table only, in order to make the transition as smoothly as possible. Once you feel comfortable with the new situation and know how to get the most out of things, then it may be time to try to improve your total hourly rate by adding a second or even a third table. What you should do is try to still make the best possible decisions despite the high speed and the inevitable loss of information that you will experience. Of course, the best way to do this is exactly the same as in live poker: through focus, discipline and complete dedication.
Some final words
As some of you may know, I have been going through this exact same process during the past couple of months. Even though I used to write for a lot of sites, I did not actually play much online: My main strength used to be playing the relatively large cash games in regular casinos. In the winter of 2004, I decided it was time to try to become the best possible player online too. So, I did the exact same things mentioned above. I started out slowly by playing in some very small games to get used to the graphics, the technical possibilities and the large number of hands per hour. When I proved successful in these small games, I started moving up gradually, and when I proved successful there too, I slowly started adding a second table. I still think that there's lots of room for improvement left, and I am certain that it will take me at least one or two years to get the same kind of edge online that I have live. Having said that, I am simply giving things my all to get everything out of it what's there basically the same as I have always done playing live. Now, if you do things the same way I do, you will probably find that the transition is not nearly as hard as you thought it would be.