Online to Live: Seven Rules for Making the Switch

Isaac Haxton
Everybody's doing it.

So you've mastered online poker, you crush your game for 5BB/100 and everyone on 2+2 thinks you're the man.

Maybe it's time to try your hand at those juicy live games you've heard so much about? How different can it be?

Yes, the rumors are true - live games are incredibly juicy.

But if you can't adjust to the subtle intricacies of live poker, you won't be as big a winner as you should be (or think you should be).

Below are the major differences and how to adjust your game:

1) Games are Slower

The biggest change, and it will hit you right away, is that live games are slower. Much, much slower.

Not only are you forced to play just one table, but the game itself takes much longer to play out.

While you may get more than 80 hands per hour per table online, you'll be lucky to get 30 live.

Fewer hands mean a lot more folding. And a lot more boredom.

But don't just shut your brain off - use your free time to observe your opponents,

If you can stay sharp, watch your opponents and break down their playing styles, when you end up in a hand with them a few hours down the road you're going to have a huge advantage.

Donkey hat
Average tables are much, much softer.

2) Average Tables are Much Softer

Making up somehwat for how slow the games are is how much softer your average table is.

When you play online, you may consider it a good table if there's one full-stacked fish.

When you play live at $5/$10 and below, your average table consists of two real fish, two gamblers (the fishy kind), four super-tight "regulars" and maybe two good players (including, you hope, you).

The whole table is softer. The fish are fishier and the regs are more predictable.

There are even players that are so tight you can guarantee any time they raise it's either KK, AA or the nuts.

These players would be eaten alive online, but because there are so many more fish live they can still beat the game.

As easy as it is to wait for the nuts and relentlessly value-bet against the fish, it's just as easy to raise the tight regs and push them around.

When they push back, fold. It's an easy game.

3) Games are Loose-Passive

If you've come from the online six-max arena, it's going to be shocking to you how passive these games are.

Online, it may be profitable to four-bet shove/call shoves with AK from any position pre-flop. If you do it live, you'll find AA-KK every time and you'll get killed.

Light three-betting is almost non-existent. When most players re-raise, it's almost always for value.

Watch your opponents - they may go a whole session without a single three-bet. Some players even just flat-call QQ and AK, opting to play poker on the flop.

If you're regularly getting AK in pre-flop 100bb deep (or more) in a live game, you're going to have a tough time booking wins.

Guy Laliberte
Limp, limp and more limp.

Moving past just pre-flop play, the whole game is much more passive. Rather than raising with draws, players will just call and hope to hit.

They'll also slow play monsters rather than build a big pot, and they'll miss obvious river value-bets.

4) Pre-Flop Limping is Rampant

Connected to #3 above, there's a ton of limping pre-flop in live games.

Online, you can tell who the fish are by who limps. Live, it isn't the same.

Everybody limps - and limps a lot.

If you tried to isolate every single time someone limped, you'd just find yourself taking 4- and 5-way flops regularly.

Live players like to see the flop.

So, rather than iso-raising with T 8 off the button, you may just be better off seeing a flop 6-way.

5) Pots are Contested Multi-Way

Online, 90% of pots are heads-up to the flop. Live, your average pot is usually 2- or 3-handed.

With more players comes more chance someone has a real hand.

As the pre-flop raiser, you should continuation-bet less.

You'll also need, on average, a better hand to win at showdown.

6) Games are Deeper

If you're a winner online, you've mastered play with a 100bb stack. But when you play live, you'll find yourself 200bb deep (or more) very often.

Tom Dwan
Just play your game.

Adjusting to deep-stack play can be very difficult.

You'll often play hands where, if you were 100BB deep, you'd just happily get it in on the flop. But if you're 300bb deep, it's no longer profitable.

Should you choose to call, you'll have to call large bets on the turn and river as well.

7) Just Play Your Game

Whether it's live or online, your goal remains the same: either make your opponent fold before showdown, or have the best hand at showdown.

Watch your opponents, study their playing habits and play your poker game. The rest is just experience.

So get up from your computer, go be sociable for a bit and take advantage of the softer games.

You may be surprised with what you've been missing.

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bill 2014-03-27 03:30:25

in real life, you can expect way way less miracle cards..............people that play weak hands will be eaten will begin to realize the cards are not real online

in real life you can believe you hand will hold up..................unlike online...........where good hands are suck out hands..............

online poker is not the same game as real poker

Panda 2012-03-19 10:29:59

Intresting --this explains why I hear alot about 3-betting but I have very rarely seen it live

Mike K 2010-01-21 00:16:56

Great Article, I mix my game play between live and on-line, one thing I have been unable to find is the delineation between 6max and full table, I would love to see an article on this, pot sizes, hand strength, whether 6max on-line is more profitable, do you see more flops. I know that things like pocket pairs and suited connectors have more value then FT


Sean Lind 2009-10-10 07:17:00

Bennie, this article was actually written by my friend and co-worker here Daniel Skolovy, but it is a good article!

As for heads up, if you're playing correctly, especially at six-max, 90% of all the pots you play will be heads up, since you will almost never play without first coming in for a raise.

bennie99 2009-10-09 09:40:00

Good artcile again Sean but I don't think 90 per cent of pots online are heads up to the flop at all! I don't play any higher than 1/2 dollar when I play cash games, but certainly I don't find that at all. I presume, however, that when you move up the stakes, this is the case.

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