Sunday, October 17, 2004

Chalk and Cheese

There are many different variations of poker… 5 Card Draw, 7 Card Stud, Hold Em, Omaha, etc, and many more variations within each basic game. Examples could be the size of the blind bets, whether it’s a limited bet or big bet structure, or if the game is split into high and low pots, or just played for high. You could break this down even further. Suppose you sat at the same game, at the same limits, playing against the same people each night. Would any game be identical to another? Notwithstanding the randomness of how the cards are dealt, there are a multitude of other factors which can result in a winning or losing session. Let’s say there is a loose aggressive player at the table. Let’s call him Bill. By simply moving Bill from one seat on my right across to one seat on my left, I have to adopt a different strategy. With Bill sat on my right, I have a small advantage, as he has to act first (action always moves in a clockwise direction around a poker table). If he decides to bet, it makes my decision easier in how to respond appropriately. However, when he’s on my left, the situation is more troublesome for me. I have to anticipate whether he’s interested in the hand and if he’s prepared to raise behind me. My whole game, whilst that situation continues, has shifted drastically. And that’s only one small change!

If I had to decide which one factor which has the biggest impact on the game, I would have to vote for whether it’s a live game, or one played on the internet. Whilst they share the same name and may play to the same rules, the two contrast sharply.

I feel that in order to get a richer experience, playing in a live game surpasses anything that online gaming can offer. It’s like the difference between “flying” in a flight simulator or jumping in a real aircraft and reaching for the skies. So much information, like reading body language, is lost when playing online. In addition, there is a lack of the social element often associated with playing against someone face to face. Playing live is so much fun!

So if that is the case, why do I spend so much time playing online rather than at my local casino?

Well, the first and most obvious reason would have to be that it is more convenient. Rather than travelling the 20 miles or so into Salford in the pouring rain, I can sit in my warm cosy home and play when I like at hours which best suit me.

There are also a greater selection of games and card rooms to choose from. I have started to develop into a generalized poker player, and will play any variation of poker, at almost any level. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tournament or a ring game. If I feel I have a good chance of leaving the table a winner, I’ll play it! I’ll play at micro-limits right up to a 20/40 limit structure. I’m not as worried about how much money I win or lose, as I am about getting a good return for my investment. Online casinos are an ideal place to spot soft tables just waiting to be exploited.

It also allows me to play poker against a huge player base scattered across the globe. Some of those have been WSOP champions or seasoned professionals which I will most unlikely have a chance to play against in a live game. More importantly, opportunities open up to play many more weaker opponents.

By keeping record of each hand played using PokerTracker, playing online also serves and a useful training tool in order to help prepare for a live game. It’s very easy to miss mistakes made whilst sat down at the table. By re-examining hand histories, these errors in my play become glaringly obvious. Identification of a problem is the first step towards correcting it.

Finally, there’s always some promotion going on somewhere at one of the three sites I play at. Although I rarely enter multi-table tournaments, there is also the possibility of gaining entry into major live events via super satellite tournaments. Who knows, one day it could be me playing at the WSOP!

All that being said, I can’t wait until my next live tournament next month in Blackpool. I’ve decided to play the £50 rebuy tournament on the last day of the festival being held over that week. I’ve just sent my application form off. (Membership is required 24 hours in advance of playing). I shouldn’t have too much trouble with navigating there. I’ll just keep driving West until I reach the sea!


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