Understanding transition to online poker is half the battle

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By Tristan "Cre8ive" Wade

Poker is a complicated game; we all know this. There are a million things that can be interpreted with every hand, including stack sizes, table position, player history, blind structure and tournament payouts. However, the one thing that makes poker even more complex is making the transition from live tournament poker to online tournament poker. The game may seem the same, but what takes place within these two worlds is strikingly different.

As many players may know, live tournament poker is a slower game. There’s usually more analysis and strategy that goes into live tournament play. With the dynamic of an actual person sitting across from you at the table, reading, hand-ranging and managing table image become vitally crucial.

Also, the style of play between live and online poker players is different. It’s hard for some players to adjust to the speed and types of moves made online. For example, the frequency a player three- or four-bets or squeezes is higher online than live. However, if one can adapt and understand how the game changes then profitability and consistency will follow.

Here are a few tips to consider if you’re considering making the transition from live to online tournament play:

KNOW YOUR ENVIRONMENT: The online world is more aggressive. Players three-bet and four-bet preflop with much higher frequency. The tournament structures tend to creep up quickly as well. These are just some factors that dictate how much pressure is applied against you in certain spots. You must be able to adjust your shoving ranges and calling ranges in all aspects of a tournament. Since everyone is playing more aggressively, you have to step up your aggression as well. Certain edges you could pass on in a live tournament you simply can’t avoid in an online tournament. Don’t be scared to make mistakes while you get comfortable playing online. As long as you learn from your mistakes you will be successful.

LEARN THE HAND RANGES: If a person plays enough online poker they’ll be able to determine and understand hand ranges for specific players easier. There is no one correct way to play poker, but there are definitely spots in tournament poker where most would agree one play is optimal.

For example, I’m deep in a tournament and there’s a regular high-stakes tournament player on the button with 10 big blinds. I more or less know what range of hands he’ll be moving all-in with and therefore can play my hand accordingly. This knowledge comes from playing countless hours of online poker and studying opponents and their tendencies. If you don’t become familiar with situations like this in an online environment, you won’t be able to succeed on the virtual felt. Once you put in enough time you’ll be able to recognize the patterns and hands players have at different stages in a tournament. If you know what range of hands someone is likely to turn over then you’ve gained an edge on that opponent.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: I really can’t stress this enough. If you put in enough time playing online you’ll quickly become a better player. You’re able to play so many more hands in a smaller amount of time. It’s not possible to play 10 tournaments a day in a brick-and-mortar casino, but you can online. In poker it’s easier to slow down rather than speed up. After you increase your knowledge and experience from playing online it’s easier to apply it in a live setting. It’s often said it takes 10,000 hours to master something. I might not have reached that many hours playing poker yet, but I know I can attain it a lot faster playing online vs. playing live.

These are just some things to consider if you’re ready to step into the virtual poker world, but remember this: Play more hands, study the game and be honest with yourself. Don’t be scared of the Internet. After all, it’s only poker.

— Tristan “Cre8ive” Wade is a professional poker player with more than $1 million in online tournament winnings. He’s a member of Team DeepStacks, the No. 1 team of poker instructors in the world. You can find him and other Team DeepStacks pros at DeepStacks.com. Email him at editor@anteupmagazine.com.