Should I Go Pro? Part 2: Online vs. Live

Hat guy
Playing live has its advantages.

One of the decisions you'll have to make if you decide to go pro is whether you’re going to play predominantly online or live.

They both have their pros and their cons.

But even if you think your decision is already made, you should weigh your options closely.

Playing Online: The Pros

Online poker has some great advantages over playing live.d

Looking past the obvious, that you get to play in your own home and eat your own food, when you play online there’s always a game going.

You can also:

  • Table select over dozens of tables across dozens of sites.
  • Pick and choose the best games and really make your own hours.
  • Jump up and down in stakes almost instantly. 
Shaun Deeb
Volume is your friend online.
 

If the games at your current stakes are bad or you’re dealing with a downswing you can drop down in stakes in seconds and still play.

Not only do you already get more hands per hour on a single table, you can play as many tables as you're comfortable with.

Why play one $5/$10 game live when you can play eight $2/$4 games online? The difference in hands per hour is astounding and you realize the long term advantages of solid play online much faster.

For those who don’t know (I hope if you’re thinking of playing for a living you do know) rakeback is a percentage of total rake paid back to your account and it varies from 20%-30%.

It can make up a huge amount of your monthly profit and can’t be ignored. Sites like PokerStars don’t offer rakeback but their loyalty program basically does the same thing with bonuses.

Playing Online: The Cons

The pros are pretty good for online play but it’s not without its faults. And in fact some of online poker's cons are actually linked to the pros.

Even playing from home, when you start out it’s amazing but after a while you realize you haven’t left your house in weeks.

Phil Galfond
As Phil says, you have to have balance.
 
  • It’s extremely hard to meet new people and maintain a life when you never leave the house.

If you have an established group of friends and a relationship it’s much easier to balance poker and life, but if you’re in a new city or have never been the type of person to have a lot of friends, it’s going to be extremely difficult to meet any new people.

  • It’s also very important to have balance in your life as professional poker player.

Phil Galfond always talks about this. if you only have poker in your life, your only measurement in life is a game of poker that’s filled with variance.

If poker’s all you have, it’s all you measure your worth in and you feel the ups and the downs much more than if you have other things going on in your life.

Playing online and not leaving the house makes this difficult.

  • Online poker has also gotten harder over the years and the level of play is much, much tougher than it used to be.

This is the main drawback. If you can beat $1/$2 online over a huge sample you can probably beat $10/$20 live at most casinos.

It’s just the nature of the game. Players that play online are that much more serious.

They study the game, they play the game, and they play the game to win.

Playing Live: The Pros

Live play is not without some inherent advantages as well.

Live poker for many people is a sociable activity. People enjoy going out for the day or night to the casino, playing poker and shooting the shit.

These people know how to play the game and probably beat their friends in home games, but they’re not poker stars by any definition.

In short:

  • The social aspect of live poker will always make the games softer than online counterparts at the same stake level.
Andrew Lichtenberger, Shaun Deeb and Vanessa Rousso
With a good group of regs, it doesn't feel like work.
 

There are a higher percentage of players that play poker for fun at the casino. It’s unavoidable.

Whereas online games are extremely aggressive, live games tend to play much more passive and straight forward.

They’re just much easier to play for a profit.

The social atmosphere that draws the weaker players also benefits you in another way:

  • With a good group of regulars, it seems like you’re not going in to work at all.

You get to play poker, chat about sports and hear hilarious stories in a "clubhouse" atmosphere.

Playing Live: The Cons

Live poker has some very apparent disadvantages.

First and foremost:

Richard Swatsenberg
Not always the best vibe at the casino.
 
  • You’re getting far less hands per hour than you would online even just one tabling.

The game is slower, there’s a dealer who can make mistakes and people are talking and not always paying attention to the action.

It all eats up hands per hour, which is inextricably linked to your hourly wage.

Waiting around for a game is time you have to spend at the casino as well. It’s all technically your hourly wage.

You aren’t making anything waiting for a game or you’re making less if you’re playing a smaller game waiting for a bigger game to start up.

This happens regularly in a casino poker room.

Add to that:

  • You’re spending so much time in an unhealthy environment.

Casinos are loud places, the air conditioning is always pumping, the chairs are terrible and your healthy eating options are severely limited.

It’s easy to get into a routine of getting up grinding, eating horrible food, having horrible posture and leading an extremely unhealthy life when you play live at a casino.

It’s All Really On You

The decision ultimately comes down to you, where you’re comfortable and where you play your most profitable poker.

Both online and live have their pros and cons. You have to decide what’s important to you and what’s best for you to meet your goals.

Having a balanced life is the most important factor when you play poker for a living.

It’s easy to get caught up in the grind and have everything else fall to the wayside. You have to be able to balance that with staying healthy, maintaining relationships and making yourself happy.

Whichever option allows you to do that best is the option best for you.

Coming up next: Should I Go Pro? Part 3: The Big Picture

Previous Article: Should I Go Pro? Part 1: The Bankroll

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