The differences between online poker and live poker

Whether you play poker in a casino or on a computer, it is still the same game with the same poker rules. A flush beats a straight whether you are sitting at a real poker table or a virtual one. Players in both games bet, bluff, and get bad beats when things aren’t working out so well, and many of the skills that have been developed in one format can easily be transferred to the other.

On the other hand, many players have convincingly argued that the games have significant differences nevertheless, with those between over-the-board chess and online chess often being offered as a comparison. It could be argued that Online Poker is a kind of video game, and live poker is more related to a sport. One is virtual and the other is real.

Not too long ago the contrast between live and online poker players was pretty strong. Many professionals belonged to one group and essentially ignored the other. There were stories from live poker players trying out  online poker tables, claiming that it was not real poker. Online poker players, on the other hand, had problems playing with real cards and chips, and struggled with the etiquette of live poker.

These days, everything is a bit different, and most poker pros play both online and live.

So, what are the differences between live and online poker? Let’s see…

Bet sizes

We could be forgiven for thinking that bet sizes should be around the same level regardless of whether poker is played ‘live’ or online, but there tends to be a marked contrast, in fact. This is particularly evident when it comes to preflop raises. In an online cash game, for example, players are given the option to raise 2x, 2.5x, or 3x the Big Blind with a single click. For the vast majority of players these raising values are the norm, and it’s usually a simple matter of simply deciding which of these is most appropriate. In a live game, on the other hand, it is not uncommon for players to bet 5xBB, 6xBB or even more.

This disparity is not the same, however, when comparing the two formats regarding tournaments. Here the conventional approaches seem to apply regardless.

Multi-way vs heads-up pots

A noticeable characteristic of live poker is that players generally play much more loosely than their online counterparts, while they also make more calls than is the case online. One consequence of this trend is that more multi-way pots are found in live games, whereas online tends to see the preflop betting lead to more heads-up situations. Indeed, someone used to the online game who plays a live cash game session for the first time will be surprised at the comparative regularity of family pots created by multiple players wanting to see the flop.

Variance…More hands – not more luck

Of course, there are bad beats in both online poker and live poker. However, due to the speed of the online game leading to our getting through many more hands, we’re bound to experience far more bad beats than in a live game. Clearly, in real terms, the frequency in relation to overall distribution of hands played will be the same; it jut seems more of a rocky ride online.

The pace of the game

As has been mentioned, an obvious difference between the two environments is in the pace of the game. Online poker is played much faster because, instead of having a dealer do all the work that goes into a hand – shuffling, dealing, policing the game and so on – and the players in a live game being allowed more thinking time, everything is automated. The software online is so quick that we can expect at least twice as many hands played per hour per full-ring table, and even more with short-handed tables. Given that online poker fans also have the facility to play two or more tables simultaneously (thus further increasing the difference in volume), it’s easy to understand why they can get bored and impatient waiting for a new hand to start in a live game.

Tells about players

An obvious difference when playing online is that you cannot see your opponents (and nor can they see you…), so you’re not afforded the opportunity to observe potentially useful physical and verbal tells. Of course, there is a Chat facility in many online poker rooms, and it is possible to glean information from what players write, but it is dwarfed by the amount of info we might pick up live. Experienced live players claim that it is much easier to ‘profile’ opponents when they play live, especially the less experienced players who tend to give away a lot of information about themselves and their hands.

The value of money

One of online poker’s advantages – namely convenience – can also work to the detriment of its fans. For example, an online player on tilt can react to losing by simply seeking out whichever table or new game they convince themselves will help them chase their money the quickest which, as we know, is a foolhardy approach that tends to make matters worse. In a casino the practicalities don’t allow for such compulsive behaviour. Furthermore, the ease with which we can play multiple tables simultaneously online can cause us to underestimate the value of money, and reinforce in some people the aforementioned video game mentality.

Rakeback and other promotions

Herein lies the extent to how the same game carries with it serious differences from one set-up to another. Player-friendly deals such as Rakeback, bonuses and other promotions (which, by joining an online poker room through YourPokerDream you’ll be able to take advantage of) simply aren’t there in a casino.

The convenience factor

Perhaps convenience is the biggest factor of all in determining why so many players prefer to remain online. ,Here is another big difference. There’s a lot to be said for being able to play online poker in bed(!), at your work desk, in your living room, on your phone in the park 0r, indeed, anywhere (even naked in the shower if that’s what you want – but we wouldn’t recommend it). At a casino there might be strict dress codes, the ‘space’ must be shared with lots of people, it can be very noisy, and then there’s the hassle (and cost!) of getting there and back! Of course there are people who enjoy the charm and atmosphere of a casino, while others find the experience frustrating… it’s quite natural to just want to lie comfortably on the sofa at home and play poker…

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Daniel Berger

Hi Guys, I am Daniel the chief content manager of YourPokerDream.
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The last changes of the page “Online Poker vs Live Poker” was made by Daniel Berger on February 08, 2021