Have you ever wondered what the difference between live poker and online poker is? Despite one being played online and one being played in a casino, the game remains the same. Both games require players to put in their bets, to pull a bluff and deliver on it, and to receive the winnings if they succeed. A flush beats a straight in both versions, and skills learned in one format can easily be applied to the other.
On the flip side, there have also been players who have put up a good argument as to how the games are more different than they are the same. Some have likened the difference between the online and offline versions of poker to the differences between chess and checkers. Others have put forth the argument that online poker is more of a video game whereas live poker is a sport that is done in real life.
Perhaps that was true in the past when the differences between “live poker players” and their online counterparts were extremely apparent. Those who excelled at one game typically ignored the other form. For example, this is an honest review of an online poker game that details the perks of playing online. It wasn’t uncommon to see “live pros” trying their hand online and losing (then going on to grumble that it wasn’t “real” poker they played online). The reverse also held true, where “online pros” played at the casinos but ended up struggling with the handling of cards and chips, and not displaying an ounce of casino etiquette.
Gone, however, are those days. Modern-day poker games have a lot more similarities between the live and online versions, with the players of all levels crossing freely between both the live and online games. Notably, these players do have to be aware of the differences in the games, and how each game version tends to play out.
If you are a poker player at the casino who is looking to go online, or an online player looking to hit up Vegas soon, here are some of the more important differences you might want to consider before reaching a conclusion!
Multi-Way vs Heads-Up Pots
In live games, the play is often looser; meaning that a lot of calling is done by players. This results in multi-way pots occurring more frequently as compared to online poker games, where pre-flop betting usually leads to heads-up pots occurring instead.
Don’t be surprised to see a limper preflop or several players calling a preflop raise in a live game, which would then result in a multi-way situation.
Calling vs Folding
While preflop calls tend to be looser in live games than online ones, the reverse is true for post-flop calls. Online players are more prone to making larger post-flop calls than their love counterparts; even if they don’t have a very strong hand. What this means is that larger bluffs happen more frequently in live poker when compared to online games.
This could be attributed to the ease of making a “call” online compared to when in person. The lack of needing to suffer the first-hand embarrassment when getting a call wrong online makes it easier for players to make a tough call.
Frequency of bad beats
With a higher chance of running into callers online, it comes as no surprise that “bad beats” are often experienced when online poker is played. This is even more prevalent with “micros” or lower limit plays where calls are encouraged due to the small stakes at play. Calls with subpar hands that have the slightest chance of outdrawing a better hand also end with players calling. This is also enhanced by the fact that there are differences in the pace of the game.
Pace of game
The pace of the game is likely to be one of the more obvious differences between the two types of poker, with online poker having a much faster pace compared to live poker games. If you have always played online poker, you might find live games dragging on for longer than you would expect or be used to. While there might be roughly 30 hands per hour played in a no-limit hold ‘em cash game, be prepared to play up to 60 hands or more per hour in an online game. With online games, players can also have multi games happening simultaneously, something which cannot happen in live poker games. This might also be the reason why you seem to be getting more bad beats in online poker games. With more hands, the number of bad beats correspondingly increases.
Variance in Online Poker vs. Live Poker
Often used to sweepingly describe the “swings” endured in poker games, “variance” are the gains and losses you experience. A higher “variance” means larger gains or losses in a short time than the results of your long-term play. With the pace of online poker being much faster than live poker games, this leads to an impact on what your “short-term” results are. If you play more times online, your variance might seem to have a large increase when compared to physical games.
Despite the difference being artificially created, the “higher” variance for online poker games leads to faster and more marked swings online when compared with live poker games. You should take note to approach bankroll management for online poker
Online tells vs Live Poker tells
One of the other more obvious differences between live poker and online player is not being able to see your opponents in an online game. This reduces the role of “physical tells” or any other clues from their body language that you might have in a live game; hence impacting the table talk, which is important during live games but is usually absent in online games unless you count the chatbox option as table talk. Players with a lot of live game experiences have claimed that it is simpler to “profile” opponents and size them up in a live game, especially if the opponent is an inexperienced one.
The final difference would be the stakes at play in a live versus an online poker game. There are many reasons why an online game would have more skillful players than a live one, even if the games are held at the same time. For instance, a live $1/$2 NL cash game would have much easier opponents to beat than an online one playing for the same amount. This is partly because there are plenty of online games with lower stakes as compared to live games, where the stakes are usually higher.
Veteran players have suggested following a “10-to-1” guideline when making a comparison between the live and online stakes. For instance, a $0.50/$1 NL game online is likely to be as difficult as a $5/$10 NL live game. Of course, this is notwithstanding the fact that there will be players of all levels who might be good or bad in either online or live games, so this rule should not be taken as a bible.
Having read through and understood some of the more major differences between live and online poker, consider which you would prefer to play and share with us your thoughts!