Will online success carry over?

Updated: March 24, 2006, 2:29 PM ET
By Steve Rosenbloom | ESPN Poker Club

Editor's note: Send your poker questions to Steve Rosenbloom. He will answer as many as he can each week.

From Burt in Boston: I was playing in a tournament and went all-in. I got called by a player who said that he does not have to show his cards. We were the only two players in the hand. I thought I had a right to see his cards as I paid to see them and if my hand pocket aces won he could muck his hand and I never would have seen his cards. My aces did lose to his A-Q as he hit a straight. What is the correct ruling?

Rosenbloom: Checking "Robert's Rules of Poker'' (http://www.lasvegasvegas.com/poker): "Any player who has been dealt in may request to see any hand that has been called, even if the opponent's hand or the winning hand has been mucked. However, this is a privilege that may be revoked if abused.'' Strict interpretation of that rule allows you to see your opponent's cards, but that rule -- notice how Chiaffone calls it a "privilege'' in the second sentence -- was put as a way of preventing collusion.

Frankly, the correct ruling is whatever the house says it is. You and me and the rest of the world get used to having every hand turned up when it's two players and there's an all-in and a call. But that's just for television. That's all showbiz. Man, is it ever. I mean, you should see how ESPN camera crews barrel around the tables when a dealer yells, "All-in.'' I have covered tournaments where dealers were ordered to not just yell "All-in and a call,'' but to wait until a camera crew -- sometimes two -- could get to the table and be properly positioned to shoot the players' faced and the dealer's burning and turning. But putting aside the collusion rule cited above, the only real rule regarding showing a hand is that you must turn up all your cards in order to collect the pot.

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From Bob in New York: I recently went to Foxwoods to play my first couple of nights of casino poker. I was playing the $1-$2 tables and my toughest loss of the night was when I picked up pocket 3s in the big blind. Before the flop, the player two seats in front of me raised to $12. I called, as did one other player. The flop came 3-10-9 rainbow. I thought I was in great shape flopping my third 3. I checked, the player to my left bet $20, and the initial raiser called. I thought about just calling, but with only $65 left in my stack I decided to raise all-in (there was about $84 in the pot). The player who bet $20 folded, and the player two seats to my right called. I thought maybe I was up against two pair or an overpair. Much to my dismay he turned over two 9s for a higher set, which held up. Did I play this hand correctly or should I have considered folding before the flop?

Rosenbloom: I'd have folded to the first raise, but that's just me. I hate small pairs. Same goes for T.J.Cloutier. I'm not saying I'm right or wrong -- or T.J. is -- I'm just saying I hate small pairs and refuse to call a raise with them unless I'm short on chips and figure this is the best way to reload. With more than one player in the pot and a raise and a call, I think I can find a better spot to get my money in. I'll play them if I can limp and then see whether I flop a set and how the betting goes after that. But if you're going to play them, and if you trust your read that your opponent had two pair, then I think you made the right bet to try to win the hand right there. Poker analysis is filled with all kinds of second-guessing, and your scenario is ripe for that. Some players will say in hindsight that you should've given your opponent credit for having some kind of hand when he raised preflop and that your set might have been vulnerable, which it was. But your all-in raise put pressure on someone holding 9s to reconsider whether he was up against a set of 10s and might have forced him to lay it down. Guess he thought his 9s were good, and unfortunately for you, they were.

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From Andy in Chicago: I've noticed that I'm a more successful tournament player than a cash game player. I think there are a few reasons for this, particularly the fact that I find it easier to focus on and read the other players during tournaments. What differences in people's playing styles between tournaments and cash games can you point out that would help me find success in cash games too?

Rosenbloom: Barry Greenstein will tell you -- well, he has told me, anyway, and I wrote it, and it raised a stink -- that cash game players are better than tournament players. I don't know what leaks you have in your cash game compared to your tournament play, but if you're able to focus on your opponents in tournaments, you ought to be able to apply the same skill set to ring games. It also depends on what limits you're playing in cash games and what kind of buy-ins you're playing for in tournaments. Generally, the higher the limit in cash games, the better opponent you're facing. It also has been my experience that cash game players take more chances with what I consider lesser hands because they can always reach into their pockets and get more money.

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From Ed in Atlanta: I am a very tight player who plays cash games. I buy in for the minimum ($20) and lately have lost more than won. My biggest problem is, in some hands, I fold what ends up being the winning hand because someone bets big, forcing me to decide to put most or all of my chips in or folding. I seem to be too timid when I have a strong but not great hand. Any suggestions?

Rosenbloom:You're getting money-whipped, plain and simple. Some people suggest buying in for less than the maximum as a way of forcing you to focus on being disciplined. Others suggest buying in for the maximum and having 100 or even 1,000 times the big blind to give you the cushion to focus on making the best play, period. Sharp opponents will bet big into small stacks, regardless of what they think their opponents have, simply because they believe they can run the small stack out of the pot.

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From Chris in Washington, D.C.: I have been playing no-limit poker for three years now online. About five months ago, I started consistently finishing in the money when playing in large tournaments and would like to start playing in more casino events. Should I expect my success in online poker to carry over to a casino tournament?

Rosenbloom: Seems to be the thing to do these days, doesn't it? You'll never know until you try, is all I can say. Some of the biggest differences between online and live tournaments are the number of days you might have to play live in order to cash, the number of hours you might have to play each day, the time at each blind level, and the additional dynamics of being face-to-face with your opponents.

The World Series of Poker main event, for instance, is scheduled to run two weeks. Even with some days off early, that's a long time to sit. What's more, you can expect to do that kind of sitting for perhaps 10 or 12 or 15 hours a day. How does that compare with your online tournaments? Erick Lindgren notes that many players aren't mentally and physically equipped to handle those long stretches and give in to frustration near the end of each day, taking a stand with a bad hand.

The structure of live tournaments might have 90-minute levels. Online events might have levels of only eight minutes. Patience can be devalued online, whereas it becomes more acute in most live events.

Perhaps the biggest difference between online and live tournaments is what you look like when you play. Tells. Online, you're focusing mostly on the bet -- whether you're making it or facing it. That's still the biggest part of live play, as well, but sometimes it's how you make the bet that gives a live opponent a clue. Of course, it's entirely possible that you don't have any tells, but you still have to account for that additional part of live play.

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Steve Rosenbloom's book "The Best Hand I Ever Played" is available at bookstores everywhere. A regular contributor to ESPN.com, he is also author of a syndicated column for the Chicago Tribune. To leave Steve some feedback or ask him a question for his column, check out his mailbag.

Steve Rosenbloom has been contributing to the ESPN Poker Club since March 2005. Along with his contributions to ESPN.com, Rosenbloom writes for the Chicago Tribune and is the author of "The Best Hand I Ever Played."

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