A reader's lament: Why I suck at online poker
The other day I asked the all knowing Google why I was winning poker player live and a losing one while online. The answer I found scared me. "Because you are not as good as you think you are." It began to scare me more when I heard an elaboration on that comment "it is because the speed of online poker allows for so many more hands over time that your true statistical nature of suckage is more obvious than in the much slower live games."
I am a physician who recently started a private practice in Las Vegas during this struggling economy. Live NL cash games and tournaments have brought me a steady income that has made my life slightly more comfortable and profitable enough for my wife to tolerate my absence after an already busy work week. Although poker is recreational for me I take it very seriously and constantly work to improve my game. I play live poker 8-10 hours a weekend and average close to $1200 a month in earnings. It's a good thing my live play brings home money since I probably burn $400 a month online in about 8 hours a week play. So I experience 1,000 live hands a month versus around 2,000 online.
I think those are both reasonable enough sample sizes to state there is too big a disparity between my results to chalk it up to really just sucking.
So is it that online players are better? Is it that I am playing the wrong games online? Am I on the wrong sites? Am I playing at the wrong times? Are they rigged in any ways?
Although those may be valid questions that can affect my profitably (or lack thereof) I believe at the end of the day it is because I don't take it as seriously. Live, my focus is on the game. I'm not much of a sports guy so there are usually no distractions for me. I am more comfortable with tight aggressive play and can adapt my style well as I learn my opponents. I do very well at live low limit ($1/$2) NL cash games and have recently found I am getting better at larger tournaments.
Online I lose enormous amounts of knowledge that I pick up on live. Let's face it...I am never just playing poker online. I am doing work, writing email, have my kids on my lap, have my wife calling, video editing, messing around on Facebook or CNN, watching TV, etc... Very rarely just playing poker. In fact, as I write this I am playing online. Sometimes I'll catch myself watching poker on TV while playing online and have to remind myself what an idiot I am concentrating on TV games.
In addition to having lost so much information I am a cowboy much more so online than live. Online I take many more risks and push the boundaries of my creative play regularly. I treat my money with less respect online since I play with smaller buy-ins than I do live. It is, in a sense, now monopoly money. Sometimes I just have much less patience and do stupid things.
I'm not going to quit online poker. The more I play online the more I learn. Training through obstacles of distraction among decent players helps build my discipline online and afford me new skills to bring live. Randy Pausch once said "When you don't get what you want, what you get is experience." I get a lot of what I don't want online but I apply what I learned when I'm live.