Just after Black Friday I had a chat with a friend of mine who plays live no-limit in Las Vegas casinos. “You know this is going to kill our games,” he said. “The internet kids are all going to be taking every other seat, and no one’s going to beat the rake.”
It took half an hour, but eventually I talked him down from the ledge. Las Vegas is crawling with tourists, and they are really, really bad at poker. So what if there are a few more decent players in the game?
I did acknowledge that we’d probably see a few more internet kids in the live Vegas casino games than before. Six months hence, the games are still great, but yes, there are internet kids.
The thing is, these internet kids can be annoying, but I see them make a lot of mistakes. I think it’s because they haven’t correctly adjusted their internet style to the much different live games. The mistakes they make tend to be of the “shooting themselves in the foot” variety. They’re winning in the games, no doubt, but if they just took a step back and thought about their new environment, they’d win more. A quick primer on variance and Onlinecasino.ca. I want to write a few articles about what I see them doing wrong.
To understand why these mistakes are mistakes, you need a little background information. Say you’re playing $3-$6 at an online casino. A respectable winrate in that game, one that indicates that you are “hanging with the regs” so to speak, might be 20 cents a hand. That works out to $20/100 hands which is a bit over 1.5ptbb/100. With rakeback you’re making a little more.
Now look at a $2-$5 live game. Theoretically it’s slightly smaller, but the game (on a good day at least) plays a little deeper, and the preflop raises are bigger, so it’s about the same size. A respectable winrate in this game is $30/hour which, at 30 hands an hour, is $1 a hand. The live game has 5x the winrate. These numbers are for a respectable reg in these games, not for the best player at the stakes. The best players in these games could double or possibly even triple these numbers.
Bottom line is, live games are, on a per-hand basis, MUCH more profitable. Why? Because live games feature people who make absolutely horrendous errors for huge bets on the turn and river. Just two days ago I saw someone call a 3-bet river overbet shove for more than $1,000 in a $2-$5 game on a KKJK7 board. It doesn’t happen every session, obviously, but it’s not uncommon to ship it in on the river for 100BB or more and get called by an absolutely hopeless hand.
Since this is such a tremendous source of profit, live game players have to tailor their strategies to captilize on these opportunities. Sometimes this means passing on smaller edges that present themselves earlier in a hand. Internet players make mistakes that prevent these opportunities from materializing because they are used to exploiting much thinner edges online.
Problem 1. Bad preflop 3-betting.
Anyone who has played in both live and online casinos knows that there’s way more 3-betting preflop online than live. To survive in online no-limit hold’em games, you have to learn how to play a balanced 3-bet, 4-bet, and 5-bet preflop strategy. The “standard” 3-bet range online is AA-TT, AK-AQ. To this range, players add 3-bet bluffs. And in some situations they add more value 3-betting hands as well.
Why is this 3-betting so critical online? Most pots online get opened for a raise. Therefore, players are opening a wide range of weak hands. If you were to 3-bet only strong hands, your opponents could fold every time you 3-bet and play only against your middling hands. Therefore, you have to balance your value 3-bets with bluffs. When an opponent suspects you are bluffing too often, he begins to rebluff you with 4-bets. And so on.
Live games are very different for a few reasons. First, many pots are limped, so preflop raising ranges tend in many situations to be stronger than they are online. This makes 3-bet bluffing less profitable.
Second, many live players call 3-bets way too loosely. Two days ago the under the gun player opened for $20 in a $2-$5 game with a $300 stack. The next player called with a $200 stack. Another player called and it came to me in the big blind. I had AcAs. I raised to $85. Both the under the gun player and the next player called. The flop was J94. I shoved. The preflop raiser called me with 88, and the next player, the one who called $85 preflop and had only $115 left in an absolutely massive pot, folded.
Third, when you 3-bet, you muscle people out of the pot. Yes, players call 3-bets too loosely, but even tourists don’t just cold-call a 3-bet with any old two cards. Say a bad players limps and a good hand-reading LAG isolates to $25 from two off the button. The big blind is the worst player in the game and he has $1,500 behind. You cover the table and you have a playable hand. Is it better to 3-bet light to try to punish the LAG for getting out of line a little with his isolation raises? Or is it better just to see a flop with two miserably terrible players who will ship it in on the river in hopeless situations?
This is the point. Yes, the LAG is getting out of line, and you can punish that by 3-betting lighter. Online this would be a good adjustment, because often it would be the only realistic alternative to folding and making nothing from the hand.
But in a live game, you’re making cents when you could be making dollars. The good hand-reading LAG is not going to feed your $1+/hand winrate. The fish are. When you shut them out, you’re turning your massive live winrate into a paper-thin online winrate. Bad play.
So when should you 3-bet live? Most of the time, you 3-bet when players will call you with worse hands. It’s fine to 3-bet AJ if you think a fish will call OOP with hands like Jc8c.
But say a strongish player has opened and you’re next in the pot. Do you 3-bet JJ? In an online game you often do, but in a live game it’s not as good a play. By getting the pot heads-up with a decent player with the bottom of your value 3-betting range, you’re taking a good hand and turning it into a razor-thin winner (razor-thin by live game standards). Flat calling, letting two fish into the pot, and then stacking one of them when you make top full might be more profitable.
AA is a special case. There’s more incentive to 3-bet AA even against a good player because the potential to get stacks in preflop is so valuable. Even KK isn’t nearly as good to 3-bet because when stacks go in you’re against AA a decent percentage of the time. But I virtually always 3-bet AA even when fish are lurking because I can get it in against AK or QQ and have enormous equity.
In conclusion, I’m not saying 3-betting preflop is bad in live games. I do it a fair bit. But I tend to do it more for value and less as a bluff. If I do it as a bluff, I typically do it with a hand that has little-to-no value even against a fish if I called to see a flop. I’m not in a live game to play for thin edges against decent players. I’m in a live game to see flops against horrendous players, and that’s what I do.
Tags: adjusting to live games, black friday, cash-games, live-games, no-limit-holdem, online-poker, poker