Transitioning from Live to Online Cash Games
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The same game is at the heart of both live and online poker. At the end of the day, a No-Limit Hold’em cash game online is played under the same rules (for the most part) as a live cash game.
The way these games play out in real life, however, makes online cash games a very different animal than their live counterparts.
You’ll have less time to act, see more hands per hour, and overall play against a much tougher player pool as you move up in stakes.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re transitioning from live poker cash games to online play.
Prepare for the Speed of the Game
The biggest fundamental difference you’ll see in online poker cash games is the dramatically increased speed of the game.
A full ring live poker game sees 25-30 hands dealt per hour, and lots of downtime between playable hands. By comparison, a full ring online cash game will deal about 60-80 hands per hour.
Those numbers apply if you’re playing just one table of full ring. Online poker gives you the ability to multi-table, as for example on PokerStars you can play at up to four cash game tables at the same time. Some other poker sites allow for even more tables to be played simultaneously.
Move to a six-max table and that number of hands per hour goes up even more. Play a fast-fold cash game like fastforward on partypoker, and now you’re seeing around 200 hands per hour at each table.
Online cash games are also played with a time bank, giving all players, including you, a ticking clock on every decision. You can’t tank or think for nearly as long in an online game.
The speed of play is vastly faster online, which brings us to our next tip.
Start With One Regular Speed Table
It’s tempting to jump into the online waters and start playing multiple tables or fast-fold games. If you’re transitioning from live cash games, however, it’s best to start with just one table and work your way into the increased speed of the game.
Starting too fast with too many tables leads to sub-optimal play. You want to pay attention to hands you’re not involved in to pick up on opponents’ tendencies. You also want to have enough time to play your own hands and not time out.
The ability to multi-table while playing winning poker comes with time. Establish a good win rate and get comfortable one-tabling, and then begin to slowly add more tables.
Begin at Smaller Stakes
A $1/$2 No Limit Hold’em cash game at a live casino is an entry-level game, as those are the smallest stakes available in live poker.
An online game at those same stakes is full of online cash crushers, who’ve worked their way up from the bottom of the ladder and have years of experience specializing in online play.
It’s a big mistake to think a $1/$2 or a $2/$5 online cash game will feature the same level of play as the equivalent stakes in a live game. Jumping into stakes you’re not ready for can be a disaster, decimating your bankroll.
This effect is multiplied by the increased speed of the online game. So even if you’re beating $1/$2 and $2/$5 live, you’ll want to start at $0.10/$0.25 or $0.25/$0.50 online. Maybe even lower on a site like PokerStars, where the cash games are notoriously tough.
To put this in perspective, PokerStars Zoom 500NL games are fast-fold games played at $2.50/$5 blinds, and are considered to be some of the toughest online games in the world. The winning regulars at 500NL Zoom will sometimes drop down to 200NL Zoom if they feel the 200NL games are more profitable at a given time.
When you’re just starting out online, that 200NL pool is not somewhere you want to be if the 500NL regulars are lying in wait.
Invest in a Good Setup
The world’s best online players have setups that allow them to multi-table with ease and play comfortably for hours.
You don’t have to invest in a six-monitor setup and a $2,000 gaming chair to win at online poker. Having at least a two-monitor setup, or laptop with one external monitor, is a great way to start.
It’s important to see every hand at all tables, and you won’t be able to do that if you’re stacking tables on top of each other on one screen.
You’ll also want to make sure your desk and chair setup is comfortable enough to allow for long sessions.
Get Familiar with the Tools of the Trade
The elite online cash game players are using all the tools at their disposal to keep an edge over the rest of the field.
These tools include tracking programs like PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager. These programs keep a database of every hand played, and the players that use them have access to in-depth stats on not only themselves, but their opponents as well.
Not all poker sites allow programs like PokerTracker, but on the sites that do you can bet that the top players are using them.
Off the table, the top online players study with solver software like PIOSolver and Simple Postflop. You don’t have to dive right into the world of solvers when starting out online, but it’s important to understand that the better players you’re up against are studying with solvers.
These players are putting in as much study time away from the table as they are playing at the table, and to really crush at the higher stakes you’ll have to do the same.