I’ve gotten out of playing ring games several years ago - it’s not a style that suits me and I’ve had some suspicions your way. I’ve consistently made a small amount of money over the years in $5 and $10 SNGs, though.
It’s nowhere near where it was. I’ve heard of many people returning to the game commenting that the 25NL is now tighter than the 200NL used to be. I run Poker Tracker and once had a .05/.10 NL table without a SINGLE PERSON that had a VPIP above 18.
I’m not an amazing poker player but I limped along 4-tabling the 5NL tables and made about $1.80/hr for my troubles. Even then 10NL was too tight for me. From those I’ve heard that DO still play most mention that Rake-Back programs and bonuses are pretty much a requirement if you want to make money anymore.
ETA: I think one of the big problems is multi-tabling is really popular. It makes it ultra easy to wait around for big hands so play is really tight.
I played online as a means of making a living from roughly 2003-2005. It has probably changed significantly since then. Cheating is not a big a problem as you might expect, but it can be difficult to spot the more subtle stuff, especially if they break the pattern every once in a while just to throw you off the scent.
There is lots of hud software, which gives you a lot of analysis and statistical tools available to your fingertips. I don’t like the fact that it’s out there, but it won’t turn an idiot into a good player - you have to understand what you’re doing with that data.
The quality of play online is absolutely high. I live in Vegas and play in the local games, and there are more skilled online players per capita by a gigantic margin. The competition online is much more cut throat and it’s harder to beat people. But… you also have the option of playing many tables at once and grinding out a small rate on each of them, which is the predominant way that professionals play the game now.
It’s difficult in general to be a winning poker player - only around 3-8% of poker players are long term winners (depending on limit, rake structure, game structure, etc). Lots of people delude themselves into thinking that they’re small winners or break even players, but few actually are. If you are actually a winning player in the games you choose to play, then there’s plenty of money to be made online, even though it’s difficult and if you go the multitabling route pretty boring and mechanical. I hate it personally.
If you go the multitabling route, the amount of rake you pay is truly absurd. It costs the site maybe a cent an hour to run a table, if even that much - and yet if you play for mid level stakes on 4 or 8 tables, you could easily be paying them over $10,000 a month in rake. For some reason people tolerate that, but imagine if you had a monthly subscription to a web service where you had to write $10,000 checks to them every month. The very idea is utterly ridiculous, but there’s collusion to price fix combined with idiots not understanding the true cost of rake that maintains this racket they’ve got going.
It’s the percentage of (Hold 'Em or Omaha) flops you pay to see, in the simplest possible terms (ie., calling from any position except the big blind or raising). In non-tournament poker a good player will see less than a quarter of the flops (assuming that the game uses standard blinds and no antes, which is how 99% of cash games are set up). 10% or below is grandma-tight; above 25% means “loose cannon, take my money”.
Actually, in tournament poker a good player will see less than a quarter of the flops too, but you’ll quickly go broke playing less than one hand in ten in a tournament.