re: Poker & Private games against public games
Another reason that it should be easier to do well in a private game is that there is usually a money-added prize fund. For example, today there was a cardschat buy-in tournament for $5.50 with $200 added. Approximately 40 people entered, so the prize fund was $400. Assuming playing in a poker tournament is gambling (which it's not) and everyone had an equal chance to win (no matter how good or bad they played), I think that means you have an expected value
of $4.50 just by playing. Of course good players have an expected value of more than that, as long as there are bad players to go along. If everyone was good, but equally so, we are back to an EV of $4.50.
However, most places that run public tournaments only payout the prize pool but make you pay an extra 10% or so fee to play at their site (the rake). Therefore, if everyone had an equal opportunity to win, your EV would be -10% or -$0.50 for a $5.50 tournament.
So I don't know about you, but I'd rather play in a tournament that had a higher EV.
Of course, sometimes public sites have guaranteed tournaments that don't get sufficient entries (I think that's called an overlay), so playing in those makes sense, too, if you can find them. Most sites are clever enough to figure out what it takes to get sufficient entries, whether by allowing late entrants or allowing re-buys and add-ons, and how much prize to guarantee based on traffic patterns for that time of day or week.