Live poker & online poker – Key Differences

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  • Post category:Poker
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There are many differences between live poker & online poker. A studied solid winning online poker player, will almost certainly be able to crush live cash games at significantly higher stakes than they are winning at online. However, many winning live players will struggle to beat some of the smallest stakes online. Why is this? Let’s start by looking at some of the key differences:

Live Poker – Key Considerations

  • Players can only play 1 table at any one time.
  • Players receive 25-35 hands/hour.
  • The opportunity for face to face social interaction, can attract many fun players.
  • The fact the many live cardrooms are in casinos, can attract many gamblers.
  • Only players who can be physically present will be able to play, limiting the game to players within traveling distance of the casino, and/or tourists (where appropriate).
  • Games can be capped as high as 200bb (or even higher – in some cardrooms you can match the biggest stack at the table)
  • Straddling is possible in most cardrooms.
  • In many locations, only a few stakes offered, and only the lowest stakes run regularly – it may be impossible for you to move up in stakes in your location (due to not enough demand).
  • If players want to study spots later, they must conscientiously remember to note down hands.
  • Techniques for working out ways to spot frequency information must be learnt.
  • If players want to track their wins or losses, they must actively do so.
  • The rake is usually higher than online games, however as it is usually capped if you are playing deep it is too your advantage.
  • Table selection may be more important, due to large potential differences between tables in play.

Online Poker – Key Considerations

  • Players can play a large number of tables simultaneously.
  • Players receive around 60 hands/hour PER table.
  • The fact the game is played on computer screens, is likely to not attract players mainly playing for social reasons.
  • Even if the online poker room is part of a company offering casino games, even if weak players cross over they will go broke fast.
  • Players from all over the world can play (subject to the laws of their own country, and the rules of the poker room).
  • Games usually capped at 100bb.
  • Straddling is not possible.
  • 24/7 games at micro, low, medium, and high stakes.
  • Automatic hand histories, which can be imported into appropriate software for study.
  • Key frequency information can be seen in real time via HUDs (where allowed).
  • Win/losses much more visible than live poker. Automatic tracking of results, via appropriate software.
  • The rake is usually lower than live games, and you could even get a big percentage of the rake back via rakeback schemes (or equivalent promotions).

Why is live significantly softer than online?

You can probably see why the average skill level on a live poker table at higher stakes, is so much less than an online table at lower stakes. If you are playing online you have to compete against players from all around the world (as long as they are allowed to play at your online cardroom). With the much faster pace of online poker (more hands/hour), and the best players able to represent themselves multiple times across lots of tables, the weaker players are going to go broke sooner – leaving you with a stronger player pool. Online poker usually requires electronic deposits, thus you can see how much you are winning or losing much easier than live poker – this means losing players will be alerted faster in black and white terms. Also, players who are comfortable with playing online, are more likely to work out how to get the information they need to become a good player (all of which is readily available online for free, and is not a secret) than some live players (who may not ever have studied poker, and wouldn’t know where to start). It is also to kid yourself when playing live that you are a winning player – especially if you don’t keep actual records, and your bankroll is replenished from outside sources (such as another job).

Put another way, it can also be said that the weakest players are protected for much longer live than online. In low stakes live games, you will see a lot more limping and donk betting. The weakest players will be found out so much sooner online, they will be left in no doubt they are losing after a while, and will eventually have to learn how to play better or quit (unless they can keep replenishing their bankroll from other sources). Weak players who play live, often replenish their ‘bankroll’ regularly from non-poker sources (e.g. a job) – they may be having fun, and the feedback system for unstudied players isn’t that great (they could convince themselves they are a winning player when they are not, or if they are a losing player convince themselves they are just getting unlucky).

Should I play live or online?

This does not necessarily mean you should play live poker instead of online poker. Your aim is to have the highest average winrate per hour (bb/hour) over a large sample size. Remember you can play a large number of tables simultaneously online. This means even if you have a small winrate per table, as long as your strategy is repeatable across multiple tables, you could win a lot more per hour of play than live games. If you are confident you are winning at your stake level, it should be no trouble at all to find games running 24/7 at the next stake level online (live poker stakes are determined by local demand).

In order to win consistently at all but micro-stakes online, you will have to understand how to build a proper poker strategy. Compare this to many winning live players have through trial and error, or basic study, worked out only the tactics for beating the current state of their game. This is why the live player, who understands proper strategy, can understand how to start to deal with any type of poker game – be it live or online. However, the live player who has never studied proper strategy, and is relying on tactics, will find it hard to move up in stakes live, or win at any sort of meaningful stakes online.

At we suggest you study poker the right way, to give you the best opportunity to beat both live and online games (and be able to pick and choose between games, and still be winning) – track your results, and decide what is best for you.