Can an online poker player be good at the table?

I was watching NBC’s “Poker After Dark,” where one of the players was a person who originally played online. I didn’t see the whole show, so I don’t know how well he did. So, I want to know how well online poker skills translate to playing at the table with real people? Is the lack of human interaction a detriment or an asset?

Hey Moderator,

Just realized I posted this in General Questions. Could you please transfer it to the Game Room? Thank you.

Yes. Obvious example is Chris Moneymaker, an online poker player who showed up and won the WSOP main event a few years back. Most of what makes a good poker player is calculating odds and pot amounts and odds and such. Actually reading people’s faces and mannerisms is a small part of the game. It’s played up on TV because it’s far more interesting than math.

The most reliable way to get a read is based on how much they bet, and when, and how they have bet in previous situations, all of which transfers from online to real life just fine.

It was probably Tom Dwan (Durrrr)who you saw. His online exploits are always mentioned and constantly debated, as far as whether he is a “legitimate” live player. I don’t really understand the argument - either he’s a winning or a losing player; venue is immaterial, in my view.

Disclaimer: I am a rank amateur at poker. I play online occasionally, and even more rarely at a live table. But I found the transition easy, and I seem to actually play better live than online. Part of this is because of the nature of low-stakes online tables; there’s often a lot of very wild play that quickly gets frustrating and I start wanting to play back at the nutters, trying to adopt a style of play I’m not really comfortable with, and I end up losing money. I haven’t noticed so much wildness at the live tables I’ve played; I think people get more serious when real tangible money is involved.

In my case, since most of my play is online where I can’t see faces or read body language, it means that I don’t attempt to do such at a live table, and therefore I don’t get caught up in trying to play complicated head games because the guy on the button put his chips out with his left hand and I think he only does that when he bluffs. I suspect that most poker players learn more about their opponents by observing betting patterns than by discovering that his left eye twitches sometimes. I suppose there is always the danger that you might have a tell of your own of which you are unaware, but I think the importance of such quirks is much less than most people believe.

I have often wondered why the brick-and-mortar casinos appear to object to online poker. If I had not had the opportunity to learn the game online, anonymously and from the comfort of my own home, I would never have entered a real live poker room. I would think the Harrah’s and Wynn’s of the world would welcome the huge number of new players who now spend money in poker rooms they might not have previously.

Along with Moneymaker, Joe Cada (2009 champ) and Greg Raymer (2004) champs are mainly online players. Another famous online player you will see on TV quite often is Hevad Khan. He usually finishes quite high in the money, but doesn’t usually win.

In addition to Tom “Durr” Dwan, I believe Patrik Antonius plays on Poker After Dark. Both have started to play live more though.

Players usually have little trouble making the transition. As mentioned, most “tells” have more to do with betting patterns and how different players tend to play hands than a facial tic or “the way they held their eyes.”

It is somewhat funny though. With online poker sites sending so many people to the Main Event now, they say the event is fraught with poker players who are brilliant, yet are have trouble knowing when to bet, proper betting rules, etiquette, etc.

Although the extent of Chris Moneymaker’s “skill” is hotly debated. :wink:

That’s a pretty poor example to pick, since he’s not really any good. Generally, winning any tournament isn’t a good indicator of skill. It usually indicates you aren’t horrible, but that’s about it.

Anyway, online players are better than live players. Flat out. I say this as a currently exclusively live player who played online for 4 years. It’s not even close. (Winning) online players have a far greater theoretical understanding of the game. When I have some old live pro who has 20 years of experience at the poker under his belt next to me, I’m not usually bothered. But put some 23 year old online player in the same seat who obviously does his homework and I’m on my guard.

The online players sometimes do fall victim to typical tells at first, most people do. It’s not an insignificant part of the game when you find a reliable tell on players, and live veterans are better at it. But the solid fundamentals of an online player will cover them until they figure that out anyway. If they can beat a certain limit online, they can probably beat 2 or 3 tiers up from that limit live.