Live Poker vs. Online Poker - What's the Difference Between the Two?

Some people play poker exclusively online, and some live players never join in a game online. For those of you who only play one style, what are the major differences in the two options to get in a cash game or tournament? 

Live Games Move at a Much Slower Pace

This is the most glaring difference between live and online poker games, especially for when a player switches from one to the other for the first time. Not even the fastest live poker dealers in the world can keep up anywhere close with the speed of an online game. This means you are able to see many more hands per hour, but you have less time to make decisions than live games.

This ties to so many differences between online and live poker, like the fact you can have a higher win rate in live games, but make more money per hour online due solely to the speed.

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Some people play poker exclusively online, and some live players never join in a game online. For those of you who only play one style, what are the major differences in the two options to get in a cash game or tournament?

Live Games Move at a Much Slower Pace

This is the most glaring difference between live and online poker games, especially for when a player switches from one to the other for the first time. Not even the fastest live poker dealers in the world can keep up anywhere close with the speed of an online game. This means you are able to see many more hands per hour, but you have less time to make decisions than live games.

This ties to so many differences between online and live poker, like the fact you can have a higher win rate in live games, but make more money per hour online due solely to the speed.

Another thing that factors into the slow pace of play in live games is that a portion of the players are there for the social aspect of the game. They are more likely to talk, joke, and have a good time; and this slows down the pace they play the game.

You'll Play More Multiway Pots in Live Games

Because the speed of play is so much slower, players in a live game get involved with more speculative hands and draws partially due to boredom - especially if they are undisciplined players. Online players can fold and move on to the next hand in a matter of seconds sometimes, so they don’t have to wait as long for playable hands.

You Can Take More Liberties with Bet Sizes in Live Games

This is another aspect of live poker where impatience can be tied to your opponents playing undisciplined poker. Players in a live game enter a pot based more on the strength of the hand they waited so long for rather than the size of the bet or raise they are facing. You can experiment with your bet sizes to see how much you can push this advantage against weak opponents to pick up extra chips in many hands.

Online Tells vs. Live Poker Tells

While almost anything can be considered a tell in a live game where you can physically see your opponent - giving you the advantage of watching and listening to your opponent to glean extra information - you get none of that in online poker. Some players may chat more than others online, but they rarely do so during a hand. This means you have to use more nuanced tells like bet-sizing tendencies and the time it takes your opponent to act as limited tells to work with. This also gives you less ability to take advantage of your table with false tells than you would have in a live game.

Reads Can Play an Important Role in Live Games

The availability of physical tells in live poker games adds another layer of strategy to the game for you to watch, and ideally to help you win. While some players  try to shield their eyes with sunglasses or the brim of a hat pulled low, you can still pick up on when players are nervous or frustrated. It is much easier in person to tell if a player is going on tilt. Some players slam their chips or even breathe heavier when frustrated, while some players talk more - or less - when they have particularly strong or weak hands. It is up to you to pay attention and analyze all that extra information when you decide to play in a brick-and-mortar poker room.

Online Poker is More Convenient and Usually Charges Less Rake

Online poker does offer the advantage that it can be played any time you want from the comfort of your own home. In a matter of seconds you can find a game depending on your internet speed. If you want to play live poker you first have to drive to the casino, and then usually put your name on a waiting list to get a seat at a table. You will also usually have to play late at night or on busy weekend days if you want to find the best games. 

The rake percentage is usually higher in live games where the costs of employing the room are higher than an online client where the software runs everything automatically once the website is built. 

Live games have the advantage of better atmosphere and camaraderie so personal preference or current mood usually dictates if you will want to play live or online. Both forms of poker have their advantages and drawbacks between each other.