Thursday, February 26, 2009

Speaking of . . . Online vs. Live (Part II)

Relative Toughness of Online vs. Live?I mentioned here before occasionally Bart Hanson’s podcast Cash Plays which ran for about a year over on PokerRoad Radio. Hanson left PRR back in December and moved his show over to the online training site Deuces Cracked, picking things back up there in mid-January.

Hanson is calling the new show “Deuce Plays” (a title which I’m not too sure about), and it follows pretty much the same format as his previous show, with Hanson having lengthy interviews with various guests. He may be primarily interviewing Deuces Cracked pros and instructors on this new show, but as was the case on PRR, the show is still focused on middle and higher stakes cash games.

(Incidentally, it appears PokerRoad will soon relaunch the Cash Plays show with a new host, Jeremiah Smith.)

As someone who plays almost zero no-limit hold’em (particularly cash games) and certainly doesn’t even come close to playing the stakes Hanson and his guests usually play, I probably shouldn’t find Hanson’s show as interesting as I do. I always somehow find the shows compelling, though, and I think I probably pick up certain tidbits that are of use now and then.

The most recent show (the 2/24/09) features poker pro and coach Tommy Angelo, author of Elements of Poker. I believe it is the first of a two-parter. Some of you might have heard Angelo on the Two Plus Two Pokercast back last August (episode 36), where he was a big hit. If you haven’t read his book or heard him before, you might check out the new show as a good introduction to some of Angelo’s ideas.

Deuces CrackedAnyhow, like I say I shouldn’t really care for Hanson’s show but I do. Case in point: A couple of weeks ago Hanson had Sean Nolan on as a guest (the 2/10/09 episode), and about 20 minutes into the show the pair were discussing the relative merits of 20-tabling $5/$10 full ring NLHE games versus playing four $25/$50 six-max. tables. What business do I, a guy who generally sticks to playing just two or three limit hold’em games at once, have listening to this debate?

Still, like I say, I’m listening. And frankly, several of the factors that Hanson and Nolan focused on in their discussion -- variance, relative skill levels of opponents, theoretical differences between short-handed and full ring play, and so forth -- are relevant to all of us, no matter what limits or games we’re playing.

One other interesting item came up on that show with Sean Nolan -- really, this was the whole reason I decided to mention Hanson’s show. At the very beginning, Hanson talked about how six months ago he was struggling a bit at the $10/$20 no-limit hold’em tables at the Commerce Casino (in Los Angeles, where the LAPC is currently winding down). In order to “retool” his game decided to move back down to the $5/$10 NLHE tables (a 150-big blind capped game), which he found “a world of difference” with less variance and, apparently, less difficult competition.

“Then I watched your videos,” he told Nolan, referring to the instructional vids Nolan had created for Deuces Cracked, “and then I put in about 80,000 hands at $0.50/$1.00 full ring (which is 100NL).” That’s when Hanson said something I found fairly provocative:

“I think that a $0.50/$1.00 game [online] is way tougher than $5/$10 no-limit [live].”

He asked Nolan for his opinion and he essentially agreed that 10-to-1 ratio sounded “about right” when comparing the relative toughness of online and live play. I recall Isaac Haxton making a similar claim on PokerRoad Radio -- I believe it was last January (the 1/5/08 show) -- where he also suggested something like a 10-to-1 ratio between the skill levels online and live.

I wrote a post a good while back concerning the whole online-vs.-live thing, so I thought I'd make this one a sequel. As someone stuck in a part of the country with no live poker, my live experience has been quite limited and thus I can’t comment with any authority on this issue at all. Additionally, there are differences between the way limit games and no-limit games are played that would likely make it problematic simply to apply the same 10-to-1 ratio over on the limit side.

But are these guys right? Is the difference in skill levels that huge? Are $0.50/$1.00 games online as tough as $5/$10 live?

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12 Comments:

Blogger Drizztdj said...

$100NL is where you first meet the 24-tabling type grinders and people who have probably read a poker book or three.

I've dabbled in that level and amazed how many times I'd get 3-bet floated, check-raised, slowplayed versus just a few years ago.

Certainly a tougher game, and definitely better (or worse depending on your view) then the live game at similar levels.

2/26/2009 8:51 AM  
Blogger cmitch said...

I think it depends on where you are playing. In LV, you see a huge jump in skill level between 2/5nl and 5/10nl. It is surprising how often you run across people that have rarely played poker playing 2/5. I guess it follows the theory of they are going to gamble with 500 or 1k and they don't care if they are at the blackjack table or the poker table.

I would guess 2/5 plays pretty close to 0.25/0.50 online. You aren't going to find that same ratio at 5/10 in LV unless you table select really well or luck into a good table. I haven't played in LA, but I'm guessing the ratio might apply to 5/10 there b/c the games are so loose and are capped - bad players mistakes are amplified in the loose games.

2/26/2009 9:43 AM  
Blogger bellatrix78 said...

Shamus,
the 10-1 ratio changes, of course, but overall it's a nice average. Over the last few years that ratio has been increasing in my mind (partly UIGEA, partly natural evolution). In fact, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that if you can beat the 2/4 LHE games online (SH or not), you can beat the 40/80 LHE at Commerce, it's THAT drastic! This difference is not as drastic in Las Vegas, where there is essentially only one LHE game running at levels 30/60+ (Bellagio), so that game tends to be quite nitty (not overly tough, but not overly profitable).
So if you are crushing the .5/1 online, next time you're in Vegas, try the 6/12, really you'll feel right at home! :)

2/26/2009 1:03 PM  
Blogger F-Train said...

I will second the comments on limit hold'em. The $1-$2 games on Full Tilt are much tougher than any $10-$20 game I've ever sat in (and I've sat in more than my share). The only reason I don't play higher live is because (1) I've never taken the time to properly grind up a bankroll for those limits; and (2) I live in Vegas, where LHE is practically dead as compared to AC or LA.

Playing live you can't get nearly the volume of hands per hour (40/hr if you're lucky) that you can playing online (70/hr at all but the donkiest of micro limits). When you add the ability to multi-table, you can play five times as many hands per hour just by three-tabling than you can play live.

All that said, I have some time today to play poker, and you can be sure I'll be in either the $9-$18 or the $15-$30 at Commerce. They are both GREAT games.

2/26/2009 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Zerbet said...

Hanson has mentioned that "add a zero" live vs online formula before several times, and I totally agree.

In fact I was discussing it with a group of fellow players who I know to have both online and live experience (because I've played with 'em in both) and it turns out that the 10:1 relationship is one of the few things that we all pretty much agree on!

Different rooms in different cities at different times all may vary in some degree, but in general, average terms - no question about it.

2/26/2009 3:38 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Terrific comments, all. Very interesting to hear.

2/26/2009 5:38 PM  
Blogger smokkee said...

i've never played 5/10 NL at Commerce but the 200 NL games i've sat in on there play like an $11 single table turbo.

2/27/2009 5:37 AM  
Anonymous wvwolfie said...

Great question! I posted my thought over on my blog, www.frankwolfe.net. But in short I believe on-line play at lower stakes is much harder than live play. Thanks to UIGEA! lol

2/27/2009 10:32 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

One somewhat obvious element of this discussion that I didn't even mention in the post concerns the fundamental difference between online poker and live poker -- that is to say, there are aspects of each that are utterly unique and simply cannot be compared meaningfully.

Interestingly, that issue (that online & live resist comparison at all) came up toward the end of Hanson's interview with Tommy Angelo (in that 2/24/09 episode of Deuce Plays which I mentioned).

"The games are so radically different," says Angelo, "that any sort of statement that begins with 'Are internet players better than live players?'... I throw all of those questions out as essentially meaningless."

Angelo goes on to suggest that the difference between live & online poker is similar to the difference between playing golf live & playing golf on the computer -- and that, in fact, online poker and computer golf are more similar to one another than are online poker & live poker!

If yr interested, that conversation starts around the 48-minute mark of the show.

2/27/2009 6:23 PM  
Blogger Mike G said...

Yes the problem with this question is that there are far too many variables involved to draw an intelligent conclusion. You might as well say which is better, apples or oranges. And the idea of a ratio such as online is 10 times harder than live is laughable.

Not to mention the game is all luck anyway. I mean if you're going to go meta and take a step above the self delusional ego level.

2/27/2009 8:12 PM  
Blogger max said...

Texas Hold'em is one of the most popular card games ever, and it's really easy to understand. A poker hand is always made of five cards. In the beginning of the game you only get two cards, which you can later combine with community cards dealt later during the game. The game has four rounds where you can either bet or throw your cards away.

The first round is called Preflop round. This is where you get your two cards. Before the cards are dealt, two players must post a blind bet - as they haven't seen their cards yet. There is a small bet, followed by the Big Blind, that is usually doubles the value of the small blind. These bets are posted by the two players sitting on the left of the dealer.

The betting goes round the table clockwise. In order to mark who's dealing, a special chip is placed in front of the current dealer. If it's your turn, make your bet and place your chips in the pot. Anyone who wants to play on, must pay your bet. If anyone decides it would be too expensive, they can fold.

Betting all of your chips is called going all-in. Once you are all-in, you can't bet anything more, but also cannot fold before the showdown. In this case you will automatically be in the hand until its end, giving you the possibility to win by showing the best cards.

2/28/2009 5:47 AM  
Blogger OhCaptain said...

I think the UIGEA has a lot to do with this. When you go to the casino, you can easily grab a few hundred from the ATM and head on over (if you have it). Our online bankrolls are much more fragile. You don't know if you can get more money, thus making it scarce and more valuable.

That being said, when you multitable, you really don't want to spread your entire bankroll just to play 10/20. Divide it up at the .5/1 and grind more tables.

I play significantly higher live then I do online.

3/01/2009 12:21 AM  

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