THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2007-03-18, by TwoGun, OzoneMyth #1: Real-money online poker is easier than live poker
It is not clear how this myth began to circulate, but it was probably started by people with a huge financial interest in online poker. At equivalent stakes, live poker games are almost always easier than online poker games. There may be a few casinos in the world whose games are tougher than the average online poker game, but they are few and far between.
Live games are easier than online games for several reasons. First, they attract more casual players. In a brick-and-mortar casino, people can just wander by the poker table from the casino section and decide to give it a try. Also, since people cannot multi-table at a live casino, it reduces the amount of tables sharks can play at. This greatly increases the fish to shark ratio. More reasons why multi-tabling greatly increases the difficulty of poker games can be found in our Poker Ecosystems strategy article.
Finally, if the online poker room accepts US players, the games become tougher. Recent banking regulations have made it more difficult for Americans to deposit at online poker rooms. A large percentage of Americans playing at these sites are sharks, since they are the ones that will jump through the hoops to get their money on these sites. (Note: PokerTips.org does not review sites that accept real-money US players.)
The fact that live games are easier does not always mean that they are more profitable. Some live casinos' rake structures are so bad that their games are rendered unbeatable. A standard brick-and-mortar casino rake is 10% up to $4 or perhaps up to $5. At this rake, any game lower than $5-$10 limit or $1-$2 no-limit is difficult to beat. A rake higher than this may make the game impossible to profit from. Last week, we wrote about how most small buy-in tournaments at brick-and-mortar casinos are -EV, largely due to the fees charged to play.
Myth #2: I can't win because of all the bad players
One of the most popular myths among losing poker players is that they can't win because their opponents are so bad. This myth is particularly appealing since it allows people to blame others for their losses instead of themselves, which is where the blame belongs.
There are many reasons why people lose at poker, but bad opponents is not one of them. People who believe this myth might be unable to adjust to a looser games (loose-passive players are the most profitable to play against, but you need to know how to defeat them). Another possible explanation is that their opponents are actually good, but they seem bad because they are very aggressive. Yet another possibility is that the rake is too high and no one can win. However, in most cases, people who believe this myth just aren't very good at poker.
Myth #3: Everyone goes bust at some point
"It happens to everyone, from time to time, everyone goes bust."
--John Turturro, Rounders
This phrase has been used to comfort busto poker players for years. Like other oft-quoted lines from that movie, this one is a complete myth. Although untrue, the line is certainly an effective defense mechanism to keep bad poker players from realizing that their time at the table is costing them money.
Claiming that "everyone goes bust" is essentially equivalent to claiming that "everyone utilizes poor bankroll management," which is simply not true. Most poker players lose at the game in the long run, which means they will inevitably go bust if they play too much or for stakes too high.
However, a significant number of poker players are long-term winners. For these players, avoiding going bust is not difficult, provided that they continue to play well and exercise proper bankroll management. Nevertheless, many "good" poker players are degenerate gamblers at heart. These people sabotage themselves by failing to employ all of the elements (such as bankroll management) necessary to avoid going bust at some point in their playing career.
When John Turturro's character uttered that line in Rounders, he was consoling Matt Damon's character, who had just lost his entire $30,000 bankroll in one hand! Certainly, if everyone sat down with their entire bankroll at a no-limit table, then the myth that "everyone goes bust from time to time" would be much more believable. However, most good poker players are not that foolish.
Myth #4: Online poker is rigged
It is human nature alleviate one's sense of fault by blaming his shortcomings on something which he cannot control. Losing online poker players frequently question the integrity of online cardrooms as a possible reason for why they are losing money. One common defense mechanism is claiming that online cardrooms rig the outcome of hands or manipulate hands to creating big pots which increase the overall house rake. There are overwhelmingly strong arguments to refute all of these ideas.
The major online poker rooms are owned by massive corporations, many of which are traded on public exchanges. It's no secret that these businesses generate massive yearly profits. It would be unspeakable for any of these companies to intentionally structure their random card generator in a way that wasn't mathematically sound. The consequences from such a decision would turn their organizations, valued in the hundreds of millions, to nothing more than a shady, untrusted, and far less profitable band of criminals.
To think that no one would notice an inconsistency in the random number generator of an online cardroom is ridiculous. Even if online cardrooms wanted to rig their action, it would be quickly noticed because of poker database software. Some programs allow players to track the statistics of literally millions of hands dealt at an online cardroom. Even the slightest mathematical inconsistency would stick out like a sore thumb over a sample size of a hundred million hands.
For further points on this subject check out this Weekly Shuffle.
The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.
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