McHaffie: MCU lesson 041 / Online play

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2005.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at

Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 41: Adjusting to online play

Poker has been greatly enhanced by the popularity of online poker. People who have never played poker before are now finding it comfortable to learn the game by playing online, where they don’t have to be observed or feel intimidated by real people. New players don’t have to experience that frightful first-time game of going face-to-face against opponents much more skillful than they are.

I think there’s some embarrassment involved when you sit down for the first time in a real-life cardroom. You feel the players watching you and assessing the fact that you don’t really understand the rules, formalities and procedures. You’re not even sure how to physically and competently handle the cards that are dealt to you, and you’re afraid that will be noticed.

In the spotlight

A first time poker experience against real-life opponents can be intimidating and scary. I know it was for me and probably was for most players. You’re not sure what to expect. Suddenly you feel as if you’re in the spotlight, everyone is watching you, stage fright grabs you and you feel stupid and inept. It’s like being on the high-dive, ready to jump, and you look down and wonder “What am I doing here?” By experiencing poker online in the beginning, you can make your first time real-world play much more tolerable.

If you make an embarrassing play online, you could just disconnect immediately and disappear forever — not that you would, but you could. That would be the coward’s way out and you’d never discover just how good you could have become.

Online initiation is probably why poker is thriving so well in the real world. The hardest sell for real-world casinos is to get first time players to sit down and risk being embarrassed. Online poker has made it easier for the casinos. The new players have mastered the main part of the beginners’ experience by first playing online and getting comfortable. Then when they feel ready to test the real-world table, they go in search of a brick-and-mortar casino.

Of course, it will still be a little intimidating, because suddenly you’re face to face with real opponents, holding real cards, and betting real chips, instead of just clicking, as you would online. Hey, but that’s menial compared to actually sitting down at a real-world table having never experienced any poker at all.

Today players go back and forth between online poker and real-world poker. Mike does that all the time. If he’s not playing at a real table, he’s playing online at Doylesroom.

Three tips

Here are three things that you should keep in mind when you switch from one arena to another:

1)      In online poker games, against many opponents, you should bluff less often, because players (who even call too often in real world) call more often online. That happens mainly because they’re not embarrassed by making a losing call and they don’t have to explain themselves to anyone.

2)      You shouldn’t be as tricky online, because players don’t seem to pay as much attention to you as an individual. Mike says you can put your personality into tricky plays in the real world. The psychological benefits don’t translate well online, though.

3)      Don’t expect your online opponents to play as sensibly as they would in real world games, since they aren’t being observed face to face. Mike says they tend to throw discipline out the window and play any hand that strikes their fancy. He says to expect to get drawn out on more often, because more opponents are trying to shoot you down. “While this can be frustrating in the short term,” Mike warns, “its pure profit in the long term. So, don’t get frustrated.”

“Those are the main adjustments you’ll want to make online,” Mike claims, “In the real-world you can be more creative; online you’re not as much of an artist — but you’ll get satisfaction out of seeing your simple strategies win.” — DM

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