Well fellow blogger Dibble had posted a comment the other day about what i thought the differences with live poker and online poker were. I think its huge. I have actualy never been good at live poker and online poker at the same time. I have to focus my game on one or the other because they take such different mind sets. I cant really say which is better because as my game changes sometimes it fits one better then the other, i will try to break it down as much as i can. Two things you should know are that right now I am playing only live poker for the last 6 months so some of my online points may be a little off. Also I live 10 miles away from a large card room so travel expenses are very small for me.
To start out online poker is much easier to play. All you need to do is to turn on your computer and you are in a game with in minutes. There are no travel expenses to or from the casino and also no hotel expenses if you cant make the drive in one day. Also when playing online poker the rake is always smaller because there is less overhead for the house. You don't need to toke any dealers when you play online either. People can multiply their winning rate by playing more then one table at a time. Although their over all concentration will drip very slightly with each table it is a very easy skill to master. Each player has time limits on every action they make or their hand is folded. This drastically increases the number of hands per hour a player can get in at one table. With more tables they can get 10-20 times more hands per hour. This means that a cold streak in cards will often be measured in minutes. If you go 45 min with out a good hand that would be considered a long time. However if you tilt for just 5-10 minutes you also play way more hands then in live poker and can lose a chunk of any bank roll. If you are at a table and don't like the cards or the players in the game, it only takes seconds to swich games. You could even take a 5 min break.
Online poker is also great for the beginner player. People who have never played poker before or someone looking to learn a new game wont have to worry about when its there turn or how much to bet because the program wont let you make a mistake. It will even tell you if you are about to fold when you can check instead. The program will keep you from folding winners on the river also. Sometimes you are so focused on one part of a hand you don’t notice you hit a straight also. A hand you may have folded in a live game will automatically be turned over online and the pot pushed to you.
Some of the negatives of online poker are that you obviously cant see who you are playing against. Personally for me I am very good at getting reads and player profiles just from looking at a player. Because you don’t have this visual information it will often take you much longer to make accurate reads on players. As players move around so often you don’t have a lot of time to take advantage of any information you may pick up on a player because either you or they will change tables or leave the game in a matter of minutes. This means that its almost never worth calling a player down just to see what they have. Even one bet is usually not worth it, if it does not make you a bet later.
Many online players use poker tracking software to improve their game. Now I think it’s a great tool to analyze their own game I think a lot of people can use the information incorrectly and it will make them play incorrectly. You really cant rely on the information until you have played over 500 hands against someone and it should really be over 1000. It also does not take into account what they are feeling TODAY. You may have played against the guy all week and he never made a bluff, but today he has been on an all night bender and boozing it all up because its his 21st birthday. But like I said before, I really like the software for the use of improving my game, not predicting others play. If I find that I am losing money I can go back and see which hands were the big losers. I can also look at my stats and have the confidence knowing that even after those large losses I an still up money. Woops, I am getting off topic a lot.
Live poker demands a lot more patients. Live games are played at a much slower pace with people dramatically acting to save face and manual dealers who make mistakes. Then you have people asking for deck changes or extra shuffles which slow the game even further. Right when you walk in the door you usually have to wait in a short like just to get on a list. Then you have to wait until they call your name to get in the game you want. This isn’t seconds like online but could be hours. Once in the game you could start off on a cold streak that is measured in hours not minutes. On really cold days, I have been known to go 5 hours with out winning a hand. Then once you do you feel obligated to throw the dealer a toke as if he tried to help you that hand. Where online games can get from 60-100 hands in an hour live dealers can only get from 30-70. On top of that you have to pay time every half an hour even if you don’t win a pot. Or in raked games you pay almost double that of online tables. If you are factoring in your hourly wage as a professional poker player you should include the drive in your hours of work. Also subtract the other expenses like hotel or gas to find out how much you really made. Like I said in the beginning I live 10 miles away so I have very little gas money and don’t need to worry about the hotel expenses unless I am going across the country.
Live poker has a lot of very major advantages. The skill difference between a beginner and the best players is larger in live poker then it is online. That is because not only do you need to be in control of your game at all times you also have to be worried about your emotions. Every movement or word one says can be analyzed and possibly used against a player. All the perks that make online poker faster and easier also limit the number of variations a player can have in their game. These variations are where information and tells come from.
The attitude of players in live games are very different then online. I am probably wrong when saying this, but I would for the most part say that people don’t go on vacation to play online poker. People do go on vacation at a casinos. They are in a better attitude and willing to lose money. Casinos offer free alcohol and players are more likely to drink because of it. You can take advantage of this because unlike online poker where you may not know if they are drunk, in live games its easy to tell. The slower pace of the game and longer slumps make it easier for a player to go on tilt. This is good and bad because this could be you as well. Information in live poker is much more valuable then online poker because players tend to sit in one game for hours. This means you have many more opportunities to exploit a players weakness. This means when a player first sits down sometimes it is worth calling them down with nothing just to see how they are going to play the rest of the day. Just make sure you are going to be there for a while also.
At this point I am kind of rereading the post and I find it to be a poorly constructed article. (I didn’t major in English in college) but I also don’t want to start over because I am a little hung over from last night. So I will simply say sorry if it is choppy or dull.
Back to the point. Its really not my place to say which is easier or which is better especially because it changes for me all the time. I usually make much more per hour in live games (almost 3x more) but I like to play 4 tables at a time online. My variance online is much higher then in live games. I can lose up to 4 buy ins online where I rarely ever lose more then one in a long day of live poker. The things I have noticed when switching from online to live is that people try to force too many hands into winners. They feel like they have not won in a long time and then get stuck in hands with good second best hands that they never should have called in the first place. When I switch from live poker to online poker I tend to peal to many cards off of the flop. In live poker sometimes you can tell when you are going to get two cards from a checked turn and then its worth a call. But online you cant get that read. Finally from what I have seen, all the crack downs in online poker have greatly slowed the number of new players (fish) in the games. Leaving a lot more sharks eating each other at the table. From when I started 6 years ago it constantly gets harder for the simple fact that if they are good they keep playing. If they go broke they stop. So more and more good players are fighting.
Well that’s about all the rambling I can do right now about online poker and live poker. I would love to hear what others think. Feel free to disagree with any point I have made above.