While online tournaments and live tournaments are essentially the same game, they provide vastly different strategies and adjustments to maximize win rates. Today, let’s look at a few of these major differences and the adjustments required. In this article, we will look at limping, 3-betting, bluffing frequencies, check-raising and folding frequencies.
Let’s start first by looking at the pre-flop differences between online and live MTTs. You will see a lot more limping in live MTTs than you will when playing online MTTs. This is mostly due to the weaker caliber of player that you will encounter. In general, there are two adjustments you want to make against habitual limpers. First, you want to do a lot of limping behind these players. Very few players do much limp-folding, so that leads us to do lots of limping behind. Many players struggle with what types of hands they want to limp behind or isolate raise. When limping behind, you want to limp with hands that play well multi-way. When you choose to limp behind, four or more players are likely to see the flop. The types of hands we want to limp behind include suited Aces and offsuit connectors like JTo and 76o. You want to limp with hands that have the ability to make the nuts, since we will be playing at a high stack to pot ratio with multi-way action. We would rather raise the limper with hands like ATo, KTs and K9s. These hands play well post-flop, but play much better heads-up than multi-way. The last adjustment you should make involves your position in the hands. I am much more likely to limp behind on the button or cutoff than from middle or early position. This is because we are more likely to be raised when we over limp from early position rather than when we over limp from the button.
The second pre-flop adjustment in live poker from online is that pre-flop 3-betting ranges change. Most live opponents 3-bet incredibly tight ranges pre-flop. They do not incorporate 3-bet bluffs in their range and sometimes only have JJ+ and AK. What adjustments do we need to make against these players? First, we can fold almost everything to the 3-bet. The biggest mistake players make against these JJ+ players is calling with suited broadways like AQs, KQs, KJs, QJs and JTs. These hands are typically standard calls versus 3-bets online, but against tight ranges, they are easy folds. They are too likely to be dominated by the opponent’s 3-betting range, and when we are not dominated, out opponent’s hand blocks our straight outs. For example, JTs is hard pressed to make a straight when your opponent holds KK or QQ since those are key cards in making our straight. I would much rather call the 3-bet with 76s than QJs for this reason against tight players.
Two other adjustments you should make when playing live poker involve post-flop tendencies. First, players drastically under bluff post-flop in live tournaments. They under bluff so much that you are incentivized to fold all bluff catchers until proven otherwise. A bluff catcher is any hand that beats all bluffs, but loses to all value hands. When players under bluff, we do not need to call with any of our bluff catchers. This is a quick and easy adjustment to make against players who under bluff in live tournaments. As a basic rule of thumb, until proven otherwise, you should over fold in most scenarios until your opponent proves they are capable of bluffing.
Against certain opponents, you can use the previous adjustment against them. Certain players vastly over fold, especially in high pressure situations such as the bubble and final table. There is a wide group of players that play way to conservatively in high pressure situations. Use this against them. Poker almost becomes a game of seeing how much you can get away with in these situations. Being able to identify how far you can push the limits deep in live tournaments is a key adjustment in maximizing your win rate.
Take action the next time you play in a live tournament and focus on these adjustments. See how far you can take the exploits and notice if you are able to build a large chip stack. Practice pushing the limits in smaller tournaments so that when you are in a big tournament, you are more comfortable implementing these adjustments.
If you enjoyed this article you can read more from Matt in his chapter in Jonathan Little’s Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em