Online vs. Live poker

This article was posted on August 15, 2007

It is often said, that online poker is so different from its real life counterpart, that the two of them can barely even be called two versions of the same game.

There are indeed differences, some milder, other more striking, but - at the end of the day - is that really a bad thing?

What exactly do you have to go through if you intend to play a game of live poker? First of all, you have to locate a casino, and if you're one of the lucky ones, you'll find one an hour or two's drive away from your home. Driving to the casino and back, means that you lose at least two hours of time you could've spent in front of your laptop screen playing poker.

That doesn't seem like much of a loss at first sight, but think about it like this: Being the kind of game that it is, Texas Hold'em is difficult to beat. If you manage to find a winning formula (locate some small edges that you can repeatedly put to work) you'll be a winner, but you'll only win small. In order to maximize your winning rate, you need to spend as much time playing as possible. If you look at it like this, you'll see why lost time equals lost money, in this game. Another way to squeeze the most out of your time when playing online is to play multiple tables at the same time. Now, there's something I'd really like to see you do in a real casino...

The time that you lose on the road however, is not all there is to it. Poker achieved tremendous popularity much faster than what the infrastructure could keep up with. You might just have to wait for a good while, until a place empties at a table featuring your preferred limit/stakes. Also remember, that operating a live poker room is not one of the most lucrative ways for a casino to generate revenue. For that reason, it probably won't represent as priority for them to develop their poker operation, when they can make more money by simply stuffing a bunch of slot-machines into the same room the poker is in.

Table selection is practically non-existent in real poker. Sure, you may have a few options every now and then if lucky, but where is that compared to the possibilities offered by online poker, in the matter of table and game selection?

Even as you take your seat at the table of your choice, you're just about to be confronted with another problem. Remember how I said you had to play for as long as possible, in order to generate maximum revenue? Allow me to rephrase: you have to play as many hands as possible. If you play faster, you'll be able to play more hands per hour, thus, basically, you'll be playing "more".

At a live poker table, you'll play around 30 hands per hour, whereas in an online poker room, you can play as many as 60-80 hands per hour, if you're not multi-tabling. The rake that you pay is bigger offline, not to mention the fact that you won't get any rakeback.

Obviously, there are certain things which live poker does better than the online variant. For one thing, skill gets a much bigger role in live poker than it does in online poker. When playing online, you'll be often faced with downright moronic calls from rookies. What's annoying though is that sometimes you'll lose on these calls just because luck is much more of a factor online.
"Schooling" is also an extremely irritating phenomenon, which blossoms online. When faced with a bunch of EV- calls, the EV+ you thought you had, can quickly vanish into thin air.

Because it's much faster, you can't really concentrate on your game as much as you should in online poker. Mistakes that you make will come about more often and they'll have more devastating effects that offline.

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