BY RUSS SCOTT
NOVEMBER 18, 2008
TEXAS READER MIFFED AT MIXED ONLINE POKER RESULTS
A reader in Dallas wonders why he is having trouble winning at one online poker site but doing well at another. Let’s try to help.
* Russ, I usually win or place on Absolute Poker, especially the six-player, one-table no-limit hold’em tournaments with $40 to $60 entry fees. I have actually won three times in a row. But I can’t win on PokerStars at any level and I have trouble finishing in the money. What gives? — Big Marv in Dallas, Texas.
My usual answer to this, Marv, is that normal variance in poker can produce quirky results from hand to hand, game to game, and even site to site.
However, this question and others like it pop up regularly in readers’ e-mails and I’m beginning to think there’s more to it. So, let’s consider some additional factors that could be affecting your results:
DIFFERENT STRUCTURES — One reason for the mixed results could be differences in the blind structures and the length of the betting levels.
I haven’t tried Absolute Poker, but I know that antes kick in at PokerStars after several levels. Antes affect how a hand should be played. For example, you should be more inclined to try to steal pots pre-flop when both blinds and antes are out there. If you don’t, your stack dwindles too fast, putting you at risk.
Of course, the down side is if you try to steal your fair share of blinds and antes but get called or re-raised, your stack can shrink even faster!
My suggestion: Carefully compare the betting structures and levels between the two sites to determine the differences, then assess your style of play to see if you should adjust.
DIFFERENT COMPETITION — The days of plentiful soft games online are pretty much gone, Marv. The worst players have given up and the rest are tougher to beat.
It’s just a theory, but the huge pool of players at PokerStars might mean you face a tougher mix of savvy opponents there, including plenty of pros and semi-pros. This especially could be true at the limits you play, which are higher than most people try but are attractive to “action players” and strong opponents.
My suggestion: Use the sites’ software feature that lets you label your opponents’ style (tight-aggressive, loose-passive, etc.), then use that information to your advantage. Also, track your results for free at sharkscope.com or keep your own detailed records looking for trends.
COMFORT FACTOR — There could be subtle reasons causing you to be more comfortable playing on one site versus another.
For example, perhaps there are occasional disconnect problems with one site that affect your trust and cause you to play differently than you should. Or maybe, without even realizing it, you prefer the betting mechanics on one site more than the other.
My suggestion: Size up the pros and cons of the overall playability of each site to see what might be affecting your playing enjoyment.
In the end, the answer still could be nothing more than normal variance which, if the math prevails, will work itself out over time. As you know, all we can do is play our best and hope not to get unlucky.
* My dad taught all of us how to play poker at an early age, but I’ve never tried to make anything professional out of it. After watching poker on TV and seeing it played everywhere, I’m considering it. How do I get started? — Charlie, no hometown given.
Lots of good players try to make a living at poker, Charlie. Some succeed, at least to a low level, but most don’t.
If you’re committed to trying, I recommend you take it slowly and never stop learning how to play better. You should visit poker-training Web sites, read at least three good poker books, play online and in live games at stakes you can easily afford, then carefully work your way up from there.
For every unknown player who hits it big on TV, there are tons more who struggle or go broke. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with being a really good recreational player who shows a profit most years.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2008 RUSS SCOTT
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