When you’re playing poker regularly, you may wonder if your main playing location is the best place to be in order to win the most money. If you’re playing at home, you may wonder if you’re missing out on the high roller casinos. If you’re playing the at the casinos, you may look at your watch and wonder if this game is taking ridiculously long compared to the digital dealer at FullTilt.com or PokerStars.com. Here is a roundup of the main differences between live and online poker.
1. You’re Less Likely to Get Scammed Live
Let’s just get this part out of the way. You can never fully prevent fraud, collaborating, or even blatant theft in poker. There was a friendly small stakes tournament from a year ago that still has me wondering if someone stole one of my black chips while I was in the bathroom.
That being said, it’s always a safer bet to play live. You can check the casino out, and weed out obvious collaboration. If you’re not familiar with collaboration, it’s when there is a “mark” or victim at table and other people playing conspire to screw him out of his stack of chips by sharing hands and strategically betting so he’ll lose. There can, of course, be just two people collaborating against a table of five, such as in the movie “Rounders,” but at its most effective, there is just one or two people being swindled.
With live poker, you need to have a tremendous amount of skill and organization to pull something like that off without the mark noticing. On the internet, very minimal preparation is needed. In online poker games, all there needs is to be three laptops in a frat house basement and you have a scam going for every new player that wanders into the poker room.
There are ways to help prevent this, but you’re always safer when you can see the players right in front of you.
2. You Can Play More Hands Online
One of the biggest advantages of online poker is that you can play many more hands than you would at a casino or tournament. The dealer’s speed (or lack thereof) in handing out cards can dramatically affect how much money you can win at a given time. I’ve seen some fast dealers, but few have ever been able to match the artificial ones online.
Beyond just the dealer, you have distractions in the room, people ordering drinks, and confused players who are still baffled that a 2-Pair can be worth less than a Three of a Kind.
Added to that is the simple commute to the casino or tournament. You can play a small stakes game on your iPad in a doctor’s waiting room, but it’s always somewhat of an ordeal to physically go to a casino.
3. You Can Read People Better in Person
I’ve shadowed some of the best players in online poker and they all have great methods for reading people. How they usually explain it is something like this: “See, this guy folds whenever that guy raises, so I can tell that he’s going to be timid if I raise on this hand.” In other words, you only have betting history to go by and nothing else. Also, since many people online only play a couple hands, you may not even have that to go on.
Betting history is important when playing, but to have that as your only way of reading people is severely limiting. It’s much better to have facial expressions, tonality, body language, and everything else to determine what kind of player someone is.
4. Your Schedule is More Flexible Online
Simply put, when you play online, you can take a break whenever you want. You can go to the bathroom, make a sandwich, or take a telephone call. You can technically take a break at casinos, but it’s less convenient and you can’t really unwind like you would on your front porch with an easychair and lemonade.
Also, whether you’re an early bird or a night lark, online gives you the ability to play whenever you want to. Some of us just aren’t as sharp after 10 pm or before noon. There’s no question that you have total flexibility with online poker.
5. Unless You’re a Hermit, Life is More Fun
At the end of the day, there’s no question that the fun factor is an important part of poker. While some people love playing online, the idea of spending up to eight hours a day by yourself staring at a screen is just lame to most people. In person, you get the thrills, the chills, the drama, and everything else that makes poker exciting.
Plus, you get the whole storytelling potential that is completely lost online. Even non-poker players love hearing stories of exciting games, enormous bets, and shocking turns and rivers. However, even if the exact same scenario rolled out in an online game, you would be hardpressed to find any non-player who would listen with any interest. It becomes the difference between talking about a bear attack in the woods versus killing a pretty nasty boar in a World of Warcraft game.
So should interpret this list as three points for live and two points for online? Not necessarily. However, I can probably simplify the decision with the observation that live poker is better for quality and online poker is better for quantity.
With most things in life, such as restaurant food, sex partners, and friendships, people tend to side with quality over quantity in importance. I’d challenge you to really consider whether this applies to poker for you. If you can make $5,000 more a month from online poker, it may not matter to you how bored you are with your laptop. If you have a 2 year old at home, an online game might be the best you can get. Always consider your own personal situation whenever making decisions about your poker gaming.