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>> Getting Started - Don't Learn from TV Poker

Online Poker vs. TV Poker

Written by Haunted Poker for exclusive use.


It’s a natural path: going from watching poker on TV to playing it online. With the massive television exposure that poker tournaments have received over the past 2 or 3 years, new poker converts go from the couch to the computer every day. Online poker rooms vie for your play with sponsored professionals and commercials in between action (only if you’re one of the unfortunate few who don’t TiVo them and skip over the ads). However, we’d like to give you some pointers on the major differences between TV poker and online poker. Learning from TV can be hazardous to your bankroll, so read on to see what you should take in and what you throw out.

First of all, you have to realize the fundamental difference between online poker games and the brick-and-mortar style of play that you see on TV. The (mostly) pros you see on Poker Superstars can read physical tells on their opponents. Even though experiences players are good at hiding them, there are still insignificant mannerisms and vocabulary that goes on to help them make decisions. You won’t have this advantage online where you have to read betting time and patterns. It might seem like guesswork but the pros are usually deducing more in their heads than we give them credit for.

Also, bluffing is much less of a factor online than you’d think by watching TV. Since you can see their hole cards, you’ll see all-in bluffs and aggressive moves reminiscent of old poker movies. However, it happens a lot less than you’d think – even at the big tournaments. You actually see very few of the hands played out in the tournament. You won’t see blind stealing and unexciting raise ‘n fold pots. Television networks care about ratings and thus they want to please the casual audience with excitement. You might see Chris Moneymaker bluffing half of the pots he plays on TV, but you’re only watching maybe 10-20% of the action. Plus, we must revert to the fact that most of these guys are seasoned tourney pros (Moneymaker is the exception) and know what they’re doing. If you try to bluff very often online, you’ll just get called down by the same 2 or 3 fish at the table who love to play bottom pair to the river. You simply can’t intimidate unobservant online players.

Finally, on shows like Poker Superstars and the World Poker Tour, you’ll only see at most 6 players at the table. In terms of the WPT, it’s the final table of a huge event. Because these tables are shorthanded, the strategy of the game changes immensely. You’ll see more big pots play out and more aggression because that’s how shorthanded tables work. There are fewer players holding fewer cards so the likelihood that anyone can fight back is lower. Also, players can’t risk playing as tight because the blinds will be coming around that much faster. Shortly, you’ll see play get down to 3, 4, and 5-handed. This intensifies the aggression even more. Since you’ll often be playing 9 or 10-handed ring games or tables at a tournament you can’t play as aggressively with mediocre hands or you’ll get eaten alive.

There are numerous reasons why new poker players shouldn’t use televised tournaments as a study tool; the main ones outlined above. Mostly, I watch them for entertainment and to see some advanced moves by some of my favorite players. I suggest that new players only watch these big events for fun or to help them understand the game rules and hand rankings if they’re new to Texas Hold’em. Also, new players should realize that they’re watching no-limit hold’em, which is (in my opinion) much more complex than the typical fixed-limit ring games that beginners usually start with. Go going at the small stakes and read more of our strategy articles to help you get a firm grasp on the game. Don’t forget: let those bluffs on TV go in one ear and out the other.


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