Online Poker and Live Poker

Naked. Unshaven. Food & drinks all over the place. Music on the loudspeaker instead of stuck in your ears. If that’s how you like your Hold’em Omaha or Seven Card Stud, online poker is the way to go. You can even multi-table as many as you can and chat with your friends over Facebook or any other social app while taking another pot – or a bad beat.

Poker is like jousting:  you can’t really feel the excitement unless you’re actually in the lists, smelling the atmosphere, hearing the roar of the crowd and watching your stack of chips grow rapidly as you stare down your rival through your sunglasses-tinted view.  On the other hand, the knowledge that every tick you have, every muscle you twitch, may tip off your opponent even before the flop, can be a deterrent to be reckoned with.

You could say that live poker and online poker are twins that are not identical:  the game itself maybe the same (in its many variants), but in a way, completely different. “The devil is in the details,” goes the saying, and this time the devil is playing poker.

The advantages of online poker

Aside the much looser dress code, all-you-can-eat self-served buffet and your choice of location, is the opportunity to enter live tournaments through promotions and freerolls. The best example of this would be the WSOP – dozens of online poker websites offer promotions to win seats at the most prestigious event of the year, for a fraction of the standard $10,000 buy-in the pros normally pay. There’s multi-tabling (can you see yourself running from one table to another at a casino…?) as well as many other tournament seats up for grabs all over the world, and you don’t have to travel to compete for a seat. Just remember if you win a seat to the WPT event, for example, make sure the curtains are shut so no one sees you dancing in your underwear.

For micro-stakes players, online poker is heaven. Whereas the lowest limits in live poker are usually $1/$2, in online games there’s plenty of $.01/$.02 tables, not to mention freerolls. On the other hand, you have at your disposal odds calculators, hand trackers and other handy tools that you can’t take with you, say, to the WSOP Main Event.

Advantages of playing live:

If you’ve played already live poker, you’ll know the advantage of being able to try and “read” people, something you can’t do with people’s avatars on the screen. A cough, a stare, a head scratch, a fake laugh, a stare at the ceiling, re-tying shoelaces…etc.

As far as the game itself, online poker is usually a lot faster than live poker. There’s less limping in – you won’t be seeing as many flops as in live games.  In live poker you’ll seldom find players raising preflop, while in online poker not only is it much more common, but you’ll also find more players going ‘all-in’ preflop.  Online, you’ll need to ‘tighten up’ more.

Live poker is s-l-o-w-e-r, and sometimes a lot more passive.  Look at the number of hands you’ll be playing: roughly 60 hands per hour online vs. 25-30 live. So, there’ll be fewer blinds to steal and defend. Thus, the amount of money you’ll be able to rack up by successful blinds-play will also diminish. There’s also the actual feeling of the chips and fulfillment as you watch your stack grow and your opponent’s stack dwindle.

Table Antics

Of course, what would a game of poker be like without the shenanigans of the players at the table: who wouldn’t want to sit back and watch a Phil Helmuth wrathful outburst up close & personal? Or listen to a Humberto Brenes gleeful soliloquy as he moves his shark around the table…? Those experiences are hard to come by online.


Tournament structure is also different, obviously. A lot of online players trying to play live tournaments make the mistake of trying to ‘shove other players off’ by raising hands pre-flop. Players used to online poker shouldn’t expect to use the same kind of pre-flop aggression. Live players love to see flops so it would be more prudent to call more in position with hands you would normally three-bet.

‘Bonuses, bonuses! Step right up and grab your bonuses…’

Another big difference between online and offline is the bonuses. Live player may get comped with meals, hotel room discount tickets, etc. Online poker rooms, however, will usually entice players with huge cash bonuses. These, of course, usually come with a caveat, such as certain qualifying criteria, so the key phrase to memorize is T&C – Terms & Conditions…

How can you tell…?

Online, when someone takes his time and then shoves in a lot of chips, it’s usually a sign that he is notbluffing. Offline, there are several ‘tells’ that can give a hint to what type of hand your opponent has – if you pay attention closely:

Watch players closely after they made their bets.  Did their hands slightly shake when they made the bet? Are they trying to do their best impression of The Sphinx – staring straight and not moving a muscle? Do they drink beer when they have a big hand, or when they’re bluffing? Be suspicious of the talkative or relaxed player – he probably has a big hand. Also, remember Doyle Bronson’s saying: when people have a big hand they often can’t help but look at it twice