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What Are the Main Differences Between Live and Online Poker?

differences between live and online poker

5 minutes

Posted by: David

Poker is a very versatile and layered game. On the surface, all formats may look similar, but there are often some very important differences between them.

To be a winning player, you need to first be aware of these differences and then adjust accordingly.

For example, there is no doubt that playing live poker in a canadian online casino is a completely different experience from playing at a live venue.

In this article, we'll look at the differences between live and online poker and see if you need to change your approach to the game or adjust your strategy.

Live and Online Poker: The Essence of the Game Remains

As long as you stick to the same poker variant (be it NLHE, PLO, or whatever else), the rules of poker will remain exactly the same.

Live or online, hand rankings, betting rules, and other important parts of the game are unchanged.

This also means that your knowledge of strategic principles will be applicable across both environments. That said, there are still certain differences between live and virtual tables that will require you to make some adjustments.

Main Traits of Online Poker 

Fast Pace

Online poker is generally played much faster than live games. You can expect to see twice or even three times as many hands in the same amount of time. This creates a difference not so much in strategy but definitely in the dynamics of the game.

Higher Level of Play

Most amateur online players already have at least a good understanding of the basics, and many use poker strategy resources and training courses to improve their game.

Online poker is also very attractive to the top pros because they can make a living at it by putting in the necessary effort.

More Reasonable Pre-flop Action

In online poker, the size of the pre-flop raise is usually between 2 and 3 times the big blind, sometimes going as high as 4 times.

There are mathematical reasons for this, but intuitively it makes sense. This raise size is large enough to force players to give up their bad hands, but not so large as to force them to fold everything but their very bad hands.

playing live vs online poker

In a live game, it is not uncommon to see players raise to 5 or 7 blinds. It's also not uncommon for many callers to pay that price to “peek” at the flop. This often leads to many hands being played multi-way.

Ability to Multi-table

Playing online allows you to play multiple games at the same time, and the display of most software is optimized to allow you to see all games in progress on a single screen. This reduces variance and allows more hands to be played each hour.

More Reliable Results

Variance in poker exists and induces larger swings when it is higher. If a decent player plays a large number of hands online over the course of a month, they are unlikely to lose because of the sheer volume they can put in playing multiple tables.

On the other hand, even an excellent live poker player can end up with a losing month since it is harder to play so many hands. Thus, variance has a stronger effect on your long-term results.

This short-term variance that live poker players experience often makes them more result-oriented. Online players are more focused on making the right decisions in the long run.

Live Poker Features

Slower Game

The game is slower because it is all physical action. People spend more time looking at their cards, scrutinizing their opponents' attitudes, and counting chips.

Online, everything is digitized and calculated very quickly by computer, and there are no dealers. No dealer, no matter how good, can compete with a computer.

More Cautious Play in Tournaments

Live tournaments don't tend to be as fickle pre-flop as cash games. In this case, some players will want to protect what they affectionately call their tournament life. Once they're out, they can't start another one.

Players with this mindset may limp in and call pots early, then tighten up and be reluctant to go all-in later.

Detecting Tells & Evaluating Opponents

In live poker, body language, facial expressions, and tics can betray a player to others and say a lot about the meaning of their bets.

For example, a player may be more aggressive with their chips when bluffing or talk only when they have a strong hand.

Although not 100% reliable, experienced players will take these physical cues into account, and they can even make the difference when calling and folding.

Less Heads-up Play

Live play encourages a looser style of play and more calls, so you'll find yourself facing multiple opponents on the flop more often.

online vs live poker differences

Players tend to limp with a wider range of hands and hide unexpected cards that can knock out stronger hands.

On the other hand, you'll find yourself in heads-up play much more often when playing online, and the chances of your opponent having a strong hand are higher.

Less Variety 

In live poker, you usually have a choice of tournaments and cash game tables. These are mostly Hold'em and Pot Limit Omaha, with tables of 6 or 9 players. Generally, you have much more choice when playing online.

Live vs. Online Poker Summary

The rules of the game are similar for both live and online poker, so an experienced poker player can play both without difficulty.

However, switching from one to the other, in either direction, will take a little getting used to, especially in terms of game aggressiveness, stakes, and pace.

The important thing is to always be aware and to have a good overall feel for the game, not only for the cards.

If you want to switch from live to online play or vice versa, it is advisable to change your strategy.

To do this, watch games and analyze them before you start. You will certainly not have to change your strategy entirely but rather make adjustments to fit the type of game.

If you don't want to change your strategy, it can be a risk as well as an advantage. Opposing players may lose their temper when faced with unexpected behavior and give you the advantage.

At the end of the day, it's up to you!

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