While live and online poker are the same game as far as the rules are concerned, they tend to be two very different animals in almost all other aspects. This is true for all poker variants but especially No Limit Hold’em, which is by far the most played one in brick and mortar venues and countless poker sites. Recognizing and understanding these 7 key differences can be crucial for properly adjusting your poker play for the particular setting.
1. Live games tend to be much softer in comparison
If you compare the two games at the same level, be it a $200 NL cash game or a $100 buy-in tournament, you’ll find that live games are, almost without exceptions, way softer. There are several reasons for this, the main one being the fact that the range of available games online is much wider. For example, you can play for stakes as low as NL10 online or buy into tournaments for $1 or less. So, what’s usually the lowest or one of the lowest levels live is often a mid-stakes game online.
2. Live poker is way slower
One of the biggest adjustments online players have to make when transitioning to live games (or even when playing an occasional live sessions) is with regards to the number of hands per hour you’re going to see. Since you don’t have an option to multi-table and live hands take longer to complete, most players won’t get to see even a third of hands per hour they’re used to seeing online.
— Dr. Jessica Vitak (@jvitak) November 7, 2018
3. Stats play a huge role in online poker
These days, all serious online players rely heavily on various poker tools, such as Poker Tracker or Hold’em Manager. These programs collect and update the information about all the players you’ve ever played with and you can use this info to make your decisions in the future. Of course, live, you don’t have access to any of these tools and the only stats you have at your disposal are what you can pull back from your memory of previous sessions or from the poker notes on your phone, if you’re really diligent.
4. Open limping is still a thing in live poker
If you come from a background where you play games online at places like Slotty Vegas and prefer online poker in general, you might initially be shocked to see how many players are still more than happy to open limp with a wide range of hands and see what happens. This is true for both live tournaments and cash games as it is really much different from online games where people tend to either raise or fold first in, with only an occasional limp thrown in to the mix. This calls for some serious strategy adjustments and also requires you to stay focused as it is all too easy to join the fun and follow suit.
5. You’ll have to play more multi-way pots live
Because people are so keen to play hands in live games, you’ll simply have to navigate more multi-way hands. Many pots, especially in cash games where stacks are deeper, will go three or four ways to the flop, which is something you need to account for. For example, your percentage of continuation bet with air will have to be lower because with more players involved, you’re less likely to get folds from everyone. At the same time, of course, it will be much easier to get value from your big hands. Online, it’s entirely different ballgame, with players taking great care not to get involved in too many hands to begin with.
6. Having people skills can be important in live games
While playing online, you’re seated behind your screen and you try to make your decisions based on all sorts of numbers appearing on the said screen. Although you can take the same approach to live tables and expect to be quite successful, having some people skills can be very advantageous for live play. If you’re able to get the conversation going in the midst of a tough decision, you might gather some valuable information that could help you figure out what’s up (i.e., if they’re bluffing or value betting, etc.). On top of this, if you’re a friendly and easy-going person in general, people might be less likely to go after you and won’t be as keen to take your money.
7. Short-term variance is tougher if you’re playing live
Because you get to play fewer hands per hour and because games are, in general, more volatile, live players tend to experience more short-term variance. If you lose a few big pots in a row in live games, it might be a while before you get to another similar spot where you can recoup your losses. What takes several hours online can often take days or even weeks of live poker play. Because of this and because the range of available stakes isn’t nearly as wide, it is very important to properly manage your live poker bankroll.