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e4 isn't as popular because when you play e4 black can actually defend his extra pawn for quite some time, but with e3 if black is keen on actually defending his pawn he will lose material and will be left with a worse position due to (1.d4,d5 2.c4, dxc4 3. e3, b5 4. a4, c6 5. axb5, cxb5 6. Qf3!) and white wins a piece or a rook.

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