One of the most interesting aspects of attending the Portland Poker Championships this past Sunday was talking to some of the players. I don't spend much time in live poker environments, besides my yearly trek to the World Series, so it's fascinating to hear their perspective.
Funny enough, they generally feel that online poker is rigged. That is certainly a sentiment that gets casually bandied about by both online and live players regularly. And while some cheating, corruption, and collusion occur online just as is found live, it is my strong feeling that the poker sites put on fair games. I say that after 4 years of being around the online game. I say that despite being in a downswing presently where the suckouts and bad beats sting particularly hard. I say that after working with many online pro players who have tremendous experience with the game. And most importantly, I say that because what I witnessed yesterday at the Portland Poker Championships was exactly the same as you see online. The only difference is that online you see a much greater volume of hands and thus anomolies come up more often.
In the 79 player tournament yesterday there were numerous suckouts and bad beats. In my very small sample size of hands witnessed, I watched runner runner straights beating top set all in on the flop. I watched one drunk amateur lady get Aces dealt to her two hands in a row. The hand that broke the money bubble was a three way all in with Q's, K's and A's. The hand that created the final table had a 3 outer on the river. Somehow, in the moment, these players accept these hands and return to play again live, but when it happens online, they feel the game must be rigged.
I also found it interesting that they play significantly higher live. They can win or lose $100-200 playing 1-2 NLHE without much thought, but are loathe to deposit any money online or willing to play stakes like .05-.10 or higher.
Live players don't necessarily feel they should have to make adjustment to online play. Personally, I equate it to playing any other game. You always have to make adjustments. Each game (MTT, SNG or Cash) requires adjustments to your game. Each level you play, each game you play, requires adjustments to playing style and strategy.
Ultimately it comes down to a comfort zone. Just as I am uncomfortable in a live setting because I don't play live, these live players feel out of their comfort zone playing online. The natural inclination it so attribute that discomfort and poor results to it being rigged, but from my experience, it is not.
There continues to be a vast disconnect between live and online players. Live players will focus their experience much more to TV poker and the celebrities that are created by the mass poker media. They are relatively unaware of the online personalities and sites that are even larger and more profitable because they toil away online.
In the end, I think there is opportunity for Poker Curious to try and help bridge the gap. They are an audience that if you give them a comfortable easy to use environment with all the online poker resources at their fingertips, they might reconsider the online poker world. We shall see in the coming months...