Live Poker vs. Online Poker – Which One Holds The Trump Card?

By Robbie Strazynski
December 05, 2012
Live online poker cartoon

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Ever since the first online casinos were founded, various table games, led by poker, immediately earned passionate fans. It was an incredibly novel an exciting concept to be able to play right from the comfort of your home or office, and possibly even win boatloads of money – to the tune of five- or six-figure sums! That said, playing poker in an online casino still isn’t in the same league, excitement-wise, as vacationing in poker hotspots like Las Vegas to play in a live setting.

The fact of the matter is that it’s also significantly more challenging to play against opponents face to face and beat them at poker. Even if you happen to be the “online poker guru” among your friends, it still won’t guarantee that you’ll be successful at live poker. In fact, though you might have played hundreds of thousands of hands online, your first time playing live poker could very well have you shaking your head at the scope of your losses.

Differences in Play

The distinctions between live and online poker are truly significant. Let’s examine a couple of critical ones:

When you play poker at the online casinos, you could win or lose a bundle in literally just a few seconds. There’s no waiting for dealers, shuffling, chip counting, pot splitting (chops), or other “real world” distractions. Live poker players truly have to have a lot of patience in order to enjoy the game. In fact, if you’re mostly an online poker player you’ll probably find yourself bored very quickly and very often when playing in a live setting.

The best way to counter the boredom at a live poker table is to use the “extra time” while you’re not playing hands to study your opponents. This is part and parcel of the game to every successful live poker player.

Having a Poker Face

Those who are more successful at online play than live play most likely feel and play their best when bathed in anonymity, crushing players left and right without having to disguise their emotions. The “Internet wizards”, generally speaking, have a lot to learn, however, when it comes to having the courage and tenacity to play well against seasoned live poker players, especially when it comes to “physical endurance” and giving off and reading live tells.

Live poker players who are regulars make their bread and butter from excellent reading skills. Any gesture or movement sends off signals that could end up either saving or earning a live poker player a good amount of extra money. As opposed to online poker players, live poker players have to exercise a vast amount of self control, so as not to give their opponents costly clues.

Pace of the Game and Bonuses

Many live poker rooms will offer you some sort of comp dollars for playing there. The online poker equivalent is that a large selection of rooms will offer players things like no deposit bonuses and rakeback.

In terms of earning these rewards, online poker’s got the advantage hands down, mainly due to the speed of play and number of hands you can fit in there in a much shorter amount of time. For example, a live poker player could, at most, earn a couple bucks in comp dollars per hour for his or her play. Online poker players, on the other hand, can play at dozens of tables at a time and thus record hundreds of played hands per minute. This maximizes the rate at which they earn comp points that can be converted into cash much more quickly.

Earning Power

Both live poker players and online poker players have the potential to earn good money at the tables. However, the strategies involved and things that need to be learned in order to succeed at the live versus virtual felts are quite different indeed.

One of the main distinctions to make here though is the stakes at which poker can be played in both venues. The lowest stakes you’ll probably find for live poker are $1/$2, whereas you can play for pennies online. “Low rollers” takes on a whole new meaning. The same holds true for tournaments, where online you can regularly play sit n’ gos as well as MTTs for a few bucks, whereas the lowest buy-ins you’re likely to find in live casinos are around $25–$30.

Also playing in a live setting has bunches of other costs, which add up over time, that online poker players simply don’t have. For example there’s the cost of commuting to the poker room (driving, flying, etc.), dealer tips, higher rake, and more. Those are all things that live poker players need to overcome to emerge profitable, whereas online poker players tend to try and eke out small profits per hand, per hour, and per table to come out ahead large amounts overall.


When all’s said and done, however, both online poker and live poker are two very enjoyable forms of gambling that every self-respecting fan of the game should try. Only by trying both variants on your own will you be able to form your own justified opinion of “which game is better”.

For your own sake though, and for the sake of your bankroll, it’s probably best, if you’re new to the game, to familiarize yourself with poker online first before wading into the shark-infested waters of a live poker room.



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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]


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