The most common fallacy about Internet poker

“No one on the Internet pays any attention to how you play or what cards you play.”  I’ve seen variations of this advice a thousand times.  It often comes from people I know to be very smart about poker, yet I am convinced that it is completely wrong.  Even my buddy Matthew Hilger has written about it.  However, my observation and experience are almost completely opposite.  I find that most everyone uses PokerTracker and a significant number of them use some kind of real-time statistics display like PokerAce.

When I’ve told other people that I believe that your image is actually more important on the Internet than it is live, they usually disagree with me.  The most frequent claim I get is that it may be true at the limits I play, but that it isn’t so at lower limits.  I recently played some small stakes holdem for a project I’m working on and I now believe that it is simply untrue at virtually every level today.

I think you can usually safely assume that the guy who is playing every single hand probably isn’t a model of thoughtfulness, but (sadly) this guy is no longer a common sight at every poker table.  I do believe that most people are paying some attention and many are paying a lot of attention.  As an example, consider the $0.50/$1.00 table I was playing for over 300 hands.  I found the table to be somewhat tight, so I was raising liberally.  I raised 37 hands pre-flop and won the blinds 6 times or about 17% of the time.  The other 31 times, an average of 3.7 people saw the flop with me.  There were three rocky players with PFR averages of less than 5% of the time.  They collectively raised 29 times and won the blinds 16 times or 55% of the time.  The other 13 times, the an average of 2.3 people saw the flop.  It was abundantly clear to me that the table recognized a difference between me and the ultra-tight players and adjusted their play accordingly.

I will freely admit that the adjustments that they made were sometimes terrible, but they were adjusting.  There were a number of players whose obvious strategy was to call my raise pre-flop and fold the flop if they didn’t improve.  This is a horrific strategy, but quite common.  This means that they are going to pay 2 SBs for the privilege of folding the flop 67% of the time (more or less) and they are going to get in trouble with second best hands when they do hit.  Of course, they are very easy to read and get themselves in big trouble with this.

At one low limit table I played at, there was a total maniac who raised virtually every hand.  When he left the table, there was a spirited discussion of just exactly what his VP$IP and PFR was for the run.  I counted five people who talked about it.

At this point, it is my belief that internet poker is tougher in every way than live poker.  The players generally have a better understanding of the basics of poker strategy, they have better tools to observe and track your play and they make fewer stupid mistakes.  There are exceptions, of course.  Most players have mastered the essentials of pre-flop play but still make countless major post-flop mistakes.  It is still a very profitable game, but the idea that no one is paying attention to you is an idea that should be banished from your thinking.   You should focus on how to use your image to your advantage.  More on that later.

By Nsidestrate

I'm a hard-core limit ring game poker player who is becoming a degenerate sports bettor. I'm sure it will all make more sense if you read on.