Online vs Live Poker – What’s the Difference?

Live PokerMany of today’s poker players play at one of two venues – online poker on their computers in the comfort of their own home or live poker in a casino or similar venue.

Some may choose to play both, but the many of us will have a preference towards one form or the other.This may be due to many factors.

It could be that a live casino is too far away, and playing online is convenient. Or for players who live close to a casino, they may choose to play live.

The majority of older players choose to play live as some feel online poker isn’t real poker. They make up reasons that imply online poker seems like you’re not actually playing poker and that live players are much better. This argument goes both ways as many of the online players are young guns looking to prove their worth and have a fearless attitude.

Regardless of which you prefer is the best option, the fact remains that although essentially the same game of poker is being played both at online poker tables and live poker tables, both have very distinct differences.

If you’re looking to make the switch from playing live to online, or vice versa, there are a few key elements that should be taken into consideration.

Physical Reads

One reason some feel that online poker isn’t real poker, is due to the lack of physical tells. A tell is a mannerism or other physical motion that could give a clue to other players as to what cards you may have or what play you are making.

A good example of a common tell would be a player looking at their chips when the flop comes in Holdem. This usually means they have hit some piece of the board and can’t wait to bet. There are literally hundreds of tells that can be picked up on players, varying from player to player and some have more value than others.

Obviously playing online poker, you cannot see the other players faces or gestures and the lack of being able to observe potentials physical tells is one of the most common arguments why some players prefer to play live poker.

However, a smart online poker player knows there are other tells when playing online, such as observing betting patterns, but that’s for another article.

The truth is, physical tells are overrated and can easily be as misleading as they are helpful, but they do play a part in live poker. You will need to pay attention to other players more closely if you want to be able to pick up on tells.

Speed of Games

If you play poker online, you will likely play up to 100 hands per hour on one single table. The software allows cards to be dealt very quickly and pot calculations and prize distributions are instant. This makes for a super-fast game.

On the other hand, when you play live poker, expect to play less than half the amount of hands you will online in the same time period. Playing live means there’s a dealer who has to physically deal each single card to each player and in between hands he must thoroughly shuffle the cards to ensure the randomness of the cards.

All players must also perform actions physically  which means counting out chips to put into the pot and also the dealer must count the chips in the pot and sometimes perform complex calculations to distribute the prize if there are split pots and multiple winners.

Another aspect pertaining to the speed of games will be multi-tabling. Many online players will play more than one table at a time, sometimes 20 tables or more for the real hardcore players. This is easy to do online with the ability to play as many tables as you can cope with, and of course the more tables you play the more hands you can see in an hour, allowing online players to possibly play many thousands of hand a day.

Live poker of course has no multi-table function and you are limited to a single table. Even if it were permitted by casino’s the thought of a player running from table to table trying to play multiple games is just comical.

This slow pace can be quite boring for some players and is one of the main reasons players will fail to successfully make the switch from online to live. Others prefer the slow pace and argue that it allows them to fully concentrate on the one game.

Live Games are Weaker

The typical live poker table will have some of the loosest, most passive players you will find. Online players play much more aggressively than the majority of offline players with bets and raises common place online in situations where offline it would be played much more passively.

Playing live, you immediately notice players limping in and plenty of multi-way pots. This is perhaps one of the biggest adjustments to make between the two forms of poker. An online player will need to adjust to a loose game and be ready to see flops with more than 1 player on a regular basis.

Another thing you will notice is that players will rarely raise and re-raise in a live poker game without a good hand to support it. Whereas online, bluffs are a lot more common if you are playing offline and a player re-raises strong in a hand and you don’t have the goods, it’s usually best to fold.

Rule Changes

If you play online, everything is done for you. There’s no need to make sure the dealer hasn’t made a mistake or other errors have occurred during the course of a hand. The computer does all the work for you and you just focus on playing your game.

When playing live, you must have an understanding of the rules and etiquette of how to play. Dealers are human and can make mistakes, players will do the same and some may even try to cheat you, although the dealer, casino staff and also the other experienced players will be watching out for this. If you aren’t paying attention or speaking up for yourself, you could be losing money.

You will also need to know the little intricacies that go with live poker. There are certain rules one must follow, some written and others unwritten but considered the etiquette of how to act when playing poker.

You must make sure that you only act when it is your turn to do so and ensure that your actions are very clear to the dealer and other players on the table. It is usually best to clearly announce your action before you actually move any chips to ensure there is no confusion such as “I raise to $50” or “I call” Usually the dealer and other players will help you if you make a mistake or tell you if you are doing something wrong, but pay attention to what they are saying and try not to do the same again as they will probably get more annoyed if you repeat the same mistakes again.

Overall, playing live has two sides. The first being one that requires a larger attention span. The second side will show some of the weakest games you will come across. There’s no question that lower limit games in a casino will be much easier to beat than online.

However the convenience, speed and sheer scale of online poker, ensures there is always a game available to you at any time of the day or night and offers many advantages that live poker simply cannot. The truth is that there is room for both forms of poker, but each player will decide for themselves if they prefer live poker, online poker or as in a lot of cases a mixture of them both.


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