There are a number of notable differences between live and
online poker. Although the fundamentals of the game are largely
the same either way, the overall experience you get from playing
live is simply not the same as the experience you get from
playing online. Some of the differences can actually have a
significant impact on certain aspects of the game.
In this article we’re going to do a comprehensive comparison
of live and online poker by taking a detailed look at a number
of areas where the two differ. We’ll also consider the effects
that these two options have on players, based on their
differences, and try to determine whether online poker or live
poker has the most advantages to offer.
Speed of Play
This is easily one of the biggest and most tangible
differences between online poker and live poker. Playing online
is a lot faster, for fairly obvious reasons. Much of what takes
up time at live poker tables is done automatically and therefore
much more quickly at online poker sites. There’s no need for the
deck to be manually shuffled after each round, the cards are
“dealt” in a split second, and any chip counts are done
These things all have a major impact on how long it takes to
play a hand.When playing live you can expect to see around 30
hands per hour at the most, whereas online you can expect to see
at least double that on average.
You might not think that this faster pace is a big deal, but
it really is. If you’re a winning player then playing more hands
should ultimately equate to making more money, and even if
you’re just playing for fun you’ll probably find the fast pace
games far more enjoyable. The slow pace in the live environment
can get very frustrating, particularly if you’re not getting
good cards. A lot of your valuable time may be wasted just
waiting for something to happen.
Online wins. The faster game makes for a better all-round experience.
Convenience & Comfort
Playing online poker is definitely more convenient than
playing live, especially if you don’t live anywhere near a
casino or poker room. There’s no need to make a trip, as you can
play any time you choose just by firing up your computer and
logging into whichever site you use. A lot of sites even allow
you to play from mobile device these days, so you can even
squeeze in a quick session when you are out and about if you
As a general rule, playing online is a much more comfortable
experience. The chairs in most poker rooms aren’t necessarily
uncomfortable but they don’t compare to the comfort you feel
from playing at your own home. You can sit (or lie down)
wherever you want when you’re playing online, and you don’t even
have to get dressed if you don’t want to. It’s not like your
online opponents can see you!
Online wins easily. It’s far more convenient to play and generally more comfortable.
Many live poker rooms around the world are only open during
certain hours. Even the ones that are open 24 hours can’t
guarantee that you’ll always be able to find games to join. It’s
quite possible that you could visit at a time when there’s only
one tournament running that you’re too late to enter. It’s
equally possible that you could visit at a time when all the
cash game tables are full and there’s a lengthy waiting list
made up of other players waiting for a seat just like you.
You don’t run into these problems online. Poker sites never
close and you’ll always find games running around the clock.
Some times are busier than others, so you’re not always
guaranteed to find action at your preferred game and stakes, but
there’ll always be something for you to play.
Online wins again. Game availability is much better at online poker sites.
One of the drawbacks to playing online is that you miss out
on the social factor. Most sites include a chat function on
their tables, so you can at least communicate with your fellow
players, but it’s really not the same as actually talking to
them in person.
The ability to have a laugh and a joke with opponents is a
big part of what makes poker such an enjoyable game for many
players. Some players aren’t too bothered by this aspect of
course, preferring just to focus on their game, but overall it’s
fair to say that the social factor is something that gives live
poker the edge over playing online. It just adds a little
something extra to your overall experience.
Live wins this one. Poker is a clearly a more social affair in a live environment.
The selection of games available at poker sites isn’t even
comparable to what’s available in a live environment. There’s a
massive variety of games to choose from online, whereas your
options are usually quite limited in even the biggest live poker
Most poker sites offer several different variations of the
game for starters. Texas Hold’em is the most popular but there
are plenty of variants you can play too. The larger sites
typically offer all of the following:
Seven Card Stud
Five Card Draw
Mixed Game Formats (e.g. H.O.R.S.E.)
Most of the above are usually available in both cash game and
tournament formats. You have a choice of betting structures too
with limit, no limit, and pot limit all widely available. You
can also choose whether to play full ring (up to nine or ten
players), short-handed (maximum of six players), or heads-up
(just two players).
We also cannot overlook the wide range of tournaments offered
online. In terms of size you’ll find everything from small sit
and go tournaments to large field multi-table tournaments and
there are many different types of tournaments as well.
Freeze-outs, re-buys, guaranteed, knockouts, turbos, and
satellites are just some the most common types.
Online wins and it’s not even close. The selection of games available online is huge.
Range of Stakes
One of the major advantages of playing online is that there’s
a wide range of stakes that’s suitable for all budgets. You can
play cash games with blinds as low as $0.01/$0.02 and there are
tournaments which can cost as low as one dollar to enter. There
are also plenty of high stakes available for those who like to
wager substantial amounts and everything in between is covered
This is quite a contrast to what you’ll find in your typical
live poker room. Many places are very limited in terms of the
range of stakes available and even the bigger rooms with a more
complex range don’t compare to what’s available online.
Another easy win for online. Most poker sites offer stakes to suit all budgets.
Option to Multi-Table
For any of you that aren’t familiar with this term,
multi-tabling can be defined as playing at multiple tables at
the same time. This is easy to do at most online poker sites,
but it’s essentially impossible to do in live casinos.
Many recreational players and almost all beginners aren’t
affected by this. They typically have absolutely no interest in
multi-tabling, preferring to concentrate on playing as well as
they can in one single game.
It does affect a lot of more experienced players though and
certainly those that play poker full time, as the option to
multi-table allows them to make money at a significantly faster
rate. Therefore, it has to be considered a big advantage to
Online wins. Mutli-tabling enables many players to make a lot more money.
Reads & Tells
Reading your opponents is a big deal if you want to be a
successful poker player. You don’t need to be able to literally
read their mind, but it will certainly be beneficial to you if
you’re good at figuring out what they’re doing and why.
There are two main ways that you can get a good read on an
opponent. One is by studying the way they play and analyzing it,
as this gives special insight into their overall playing style
and how they act in certain situations. The other is by studying
them physically and looking for any tells in their body language
that might give something away about the cards they hold or how
they are about to bet.
The first method mentioned above can be used in both a live
environment and online. The second method can only really be
used when playing live though. This highlights one of the very
significant advantages that live play offers over online play;
the ability to physically observe your opponents and gain
information on them. This simply cannot be replicated online and
for some players it’s absolutely vital to how they play the
Live wins. The ability to gain physical reads on your opponents can be invaluable.
Another notable difference between playing live and online is
that there’s no automatic record of your hands in a live
environment, whereas at poker sites all your hands are recorded
and available for you to review upon request. This might not be
a difference that many people think about when comparing these
two options of playing poker, but it’s actually a very
significant aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The record of the hands you have played (which is commonly
referred to as your “hand history”) can be a very valuable tool
when it comes to developing your game. It enables you to study
and analyze all your past play, which is something you really
should be doing if you want to improve your skills. Unless you
have a truly incredible memory, you won’t be able to do this
analysis on your live play.
Online wins. It’s much easier to analyze your own game when playing on the web.
Bonuses & Rewards
This difference is a very simple one and relevant to a lot of
players. Virtually all poker sites give their players some form
of extra value in the way of bonuses and rewards, while live
poker rooms generally do very little by comparison. Some sites
can be quite generous to their regular players, but some do
nothing at all. As a general rule there’s far more extra value
available to earn online.
Online wins comfortably. Poker sites give away far more extra value than live rooms.
Final Score: Online Poker 8 – Live Poker 2
From the differences we’ve discussed here it seems pretty
clear that online poker has more advantages than live poker. The
issues of convenience and availability are the biggest
advantages in our opinion, closely followed by the much greater
variety of games and stakes available online.
We wouldn’t go as far as to state that online poker is
indisputably better than live poker though. We’ve demonstrated a
number of advantages it has when comparing the two, but which
one is “best” is ultimately a matter of personal preference.
It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to choose one or the
other, as it’s perfectly possible to enjoy playing both!
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