The first half of the PokerStars 2020 Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) is now over and I was fortunate enough to have had paid work providing live updates for nearly half a dozen tournaments for PokerNews, many of which featured today’s highest-ranked online poker players.

It is essentially a much faster version of what I have been doing for a living on the live poker circuit for several years now, and while many things are alike, some obvious differences exist.

A Very Different Kind of Commute

There is no need to leave early from the hotel and head for the location of the tournament, which may require a walk of more than 30 minutes at times. No media credentials are required, you don’t have to open your bag for a brief inspection and then figure out if there is any table available at all near the tournament area where you can set up.

Christian Zetzsche

You also don’t have to stroll through the tournament area and check if you recognize any notable faces early on that should be tracked throughout the day. Instead, all you need is a computer and a mouse to scroll through the tournament lobby for well-known aliases and pop open their tables.

In case you miss a hand or some details of it, the hand replayer provides everything you need to know including the positions, bet sizes, community cards and all cards upon showdown. A huge advantage is the fact that we do not have to gaze three times into the stack of a player and guess whether or not those are piled up in 20s or not. Some players love to build walls or towers to keep their opponents guessing while the stack sizes at online poker are known at every point throughout a hand.

The downside comes rather quickly, too, as live poker has limitations on bet sizes whereas online poker offers a gigantic potential for randomness. As a wannabe perfectionist, I prefer to include the exact bet sizing and end up staring at the screen for 10 seconds to figure out how many digits that actually have been deep in an online tournament. Was it two-thirds of the pot, a certain preset or just a random amount based on where the slider stopped?

In live poker, you will only ever stumble over a limited number of interesting hands that warrant a post whereas online the sheer number of hands being played is gigantic. Not only as a poker player but also as a reporter the “hand selection” matters to portray what happened throughout a tournament. There can be a ton of noteworthy hands at the same time on six tables of a high stakes tournament in a matter of five minutes, whereas one single hand in a live MTT may take longer than that.

A Bittersweet Experience

There are two things I miss the most about the live poker events. The traveling that comes along with it and the social aspect. Being able to explore other countries and cultures during all the trips in the last few years certainly makes up for the long hours and near-constant stress from start-to-finish.

Heading from the living room to the kitchen and back to grab some healthy snacks during one of the scheduled five-minute breaks is not necessarily as exciting as spending more than a full day by train and plane in order to travel to the other side of the planet.

And while you can use the chat to “talk” with other players and friends that may be watching, it just isn’t the same at all as speaking with them in person. Unless the player is streaming from their home office, it is also impossible to tell any kind of emotional reaction to the action and outcome of a poker hand either. There is barely any time for that while five other tables have already dealt the next hand and beep to get your attention.

Gotta Respect the Online Grinders

One specific thing dawned on me after the first two days of live reporting. As someone who usually tries the utmost to provide as much information as possible, I had up to 10 tables open for hours and that number only increased once the field got smaller. My own online poker exploits many years ago never included more than four, perhaps five tables at the most. At the end of the day I felt mentally drained and didn’t even have to make any decision for thousands of dollars of equity.

Kudos to all those online poker professionals who can run a dozen or even two dozen tables at the same time and maintain a strong mental game if things don’t go as expected! I don’t think I would be able to do it in a profitable way, nor do I have the in-depth poker knowledge or math integrated into my thinking process to make as many quick-fire decisions over such a prolonged period.

After the first few days of online reporting I started preparing healthy snacks — fruits or salads in Tupperware containers — and grabbed some of them during the break to stock up on energy. And as part of a deal with a friend, we also decided to run a mix of short exercises during the scheduled 5-minute breaks to create some momentum throughout the evening and night shift.

Some short bike trips or running in the nearby woods will hopefully be part of the daily routine soon as well, and the only thing I still have to figure out is healthier cooking and getting rid of the extra few pounds I have gathered during the lockdown so far.

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