If you're wanting to play poker, you have two options - either playing live poker or playing online poker. In terms of the game itself, the structure is the same across both. There are however some major differences between the two, a reason why some players find it difficult to transition from live to the online game or vice versa. Let's look at the major differences.
This is a big one. Live players are often surprised at how fast the online game is. It's fast and furious. You'll have less time to act than you would have in a live game. In a live environment an opponent would need to call time - you would be given considerably more time than would be given in an online game in which the time is robotic and only allows a specific amount of time.
If we consider that in a live game, there's the shuffle, counting of chips, misdeals, string bets - lots of added distractions that slow the game down. Online, the software doesn't make mistakes. It shuffles, deals and counts in a split second. Not only that, the virtual dealer doesn't tire - he's an animal. It's no surprise that a live game might see up to 60 hands per hour where as it could be closer to 200 online.
A big part of poker sits outside of the cards that you hold. Whilst the cards are important, it's more important to have reads on your opponents. This information will tell you when a raise will take down the pot or when not to bet as you're up against a big hand. In a live game, there's discussion, expression, shaking hands, sweating, looking back down at the cards - many tells that you largely lose when you move into the internet poker domain.
Online everything is virtual. No way to know if a delay is someone thinking or taking a break. You also can't see your opponents so your tells are different. It's much like a blind person who relies on other senses other than sight. Online, you can still see bet sizes, research how good people are, use HUD's, see chat in the chat box and take player notes - you just can't physically see them. There are many other more subtle online tells like the delayed check (usually weak), delayed bet (usually strong), the auto check (usually weak) which you can pick up on, but it takes a little practice.
Moving between live games and online there's also a difference in players' bet sizing. The bet sizes online tend to be 2.5-3.5x BB whereas it's more common live to see bets up to X7 BB where players have a strong hand. This is in part a bi-product of the slow game in live games. As the win rate is far slower live, players bet bigger to try to maximize their win rate. Coincidently, it's also more common to see loose calls in the live game.
Online poker can be wild and part of what makes it so wild is that it's far easier for the donks to do what they do best. Call when they shouldn't and squander chips. The protection of the virtual environment means there's no walk of shame or embarrassment through bad play. The live game tends to see more sensible play as players are under scrutiny at all times. It's far easier to be brave online.
I touched on it briefly already but thought it warranted a little more as it's a key consideration. Live poker is considerably softer. Whilst there are a LOT of bad players online, the slow pace of live poker means that there's more limping and people playing more marginal hands more often. If you're rocking out 400 hands / hour, there isn't the need to play 5-8 suited quite as often as if you're hitting 50 hands / hour when there will be a lot more temptation to play marginal hands.
It goes without saying that fewer hands per hour means a lower win rate (for a profitable player). Where you can only play one table at a time in a live environment, online you can have 20+ tables in simultaneous play. That's 1200 + hands per hour. In playing so many more hands, it makes sense to make use of a HUD and look to get a high welcome bonus which you will be likely to clear quickly
If you don't have a lot of experience playing heads up, you should brush up on your skills before going virtual. More action online ends up heads up at the river than in live games where you tend to get more players tagging along with drawing hands. The live game is looser. Check out the best sites to play heads up.
Table etiquette is important wherever you play however it's probably more important in a live arena and it pays to understand what good etiquette is. Online players can be oblivious to this.
Some people think there are less distraction online however it's actually the opposite. In the card room, you don't have the family disruptions, the phone ringing, noises outside or the countless other distractions that exist at home. Often it's the ability to multi-task (internet / TV) that causes the biggest distraction. The more distracted you are, the less attention you're paying to your game which only means you're not winning as much as you could be.
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