Online Versus Live Play

Jared Hubbard

The topic has been discussed before, but I hope this article will help make the difference between the two types of play clear for beginners wanting to make a switch.

Online poker is a much different game than live poker. The timing, the speed of play, the rate at which you can go broke and the quality of your opponents are all in stark contrast online to what you would encounter playing live. Playing online has a lot to recommend it, although perhaps not for the reasons you might think..

Hands per Hour

One of the most important things to understand about online poker is your hands-per-hour ratio. At a live table with a top-shelf dealer, you'll be getting around 30 hands per hour at a No-Limit game. Having a rookie dealer sit at your table can lower your HPH ratio down to as low as 10.

At a standard online table, your HPH ratio will usually be over 60. Then factor in playing multiple tables. Even if you're only playing two online tables, you're still seeing four times as many hands as you would playing live. Most online poker professionals play a minimum of four tables at once.

On sites such as PokerStars you have the ability to play as many tables as your screen will fit.

If you are playing poker properly and well, then the money you make is directly correlated to the number of hands you're dealt. This reason alone gives online poker the ability to be much more profitable than live. I'm not saying it always is; just that it has the potential.

Another benefit to online play is that the more hands you see, the quicker you're going to learn to play the game. One week of online poker can have you dealt into more hands than 2 months in a cardroom.

While we're on the topic, I want to set the record straight: Online poker is not rigged.

Patrik Antonius
Patrik Antonius built his huge roll online, and used it to buy a gigantic watch.

Online poker is legit.

Online poker is just as random as a standard deck being shuffled at your local casino.

Every time I sit down to play online poker, some bozo will lose a pot and start to complain the site is rigged, or it's a joke, or that it always happens on this site. "I don't even play trips anymore; they always lose on this site". This is ridiculous.

There are four reasons people think online poker is rigged:

1) When you are seeing over eight times as many hands in one session as you do live, you will be seeing over eight times as many bad beats and suck-outs.

2) The quality of players online is sub-par. You get far more huge calls with hands that are completely dominated. That is how a suck-out starts.

3) People remember bad beats; they don't remember that out of the last 20 sets they had, 13 of them got folded to (that's a win) and four of them won a big pot. But they do remember every detail of the last three that lost.People have too much ego. No one wants to admit they made a mistake. Everyone drives in the fast lane on the highway, because no one will admit that they are slower traffic. It's much easier to say that you lost because the site is rigged, than that it could have had something to do with how you played the hand.

Time to Act

Another reason you get dealt far more hands online is that the setup of online play forces every player to act in a very small amount of time (most sites' turnaround time is about 20 seconds).

Having a ticking clock adds significant pressure, and forces an amateur to act before they have actually come to a decision. This causes people to make more mistakes on the table. The more mistakes others are making, the more money you should be making.

Speed of Descent

Whether it's a result of tilt, exhaustion or any other outside factor, as a poker player you will start playing bad poker from time to time. When you start to play bad poker, you start to lose your money.

The speed in which this happens live is slow - you have time to think about every pot you lost between hands, you have time to realize that you're making mistakes and you're usually are able to walk away before your whole stack is gone.

When playing online, the speed at which you are getting dealt hands and the fact that you're on multiple tables can cause you to absolutely self-destruct. The speed of descent in online poker is vastly increased.

It's very common to have a little meltdown, and before you realize what went on, you've lost your stack across multiple tables online. The same meltdown that would have cost you a portion of one buy-in live can lose you multiple buy-ins online.

As dumb as it sounds, another contributing factor to the online meltdown is that no one can see you do it. People will get embarrassed if they're playing bad poker at a table, and not want to be seen being a donkey.

When you're playing online, you're alone and anonymous. It makes it easy to say "Screw it" and just go off the deep end. Another reason for this acceleration of losses can attributed to learned helplessness (click here to read all about it)

Brad Booth
Brad Booth, one of the toughest live cash players, has yet to find his online "A" game.

Quality of Players

The quality of players online can be simply horrid. The reason is simple:I If someone knows they're horrible at poker, they don't want to embarrass themselves at a casino, so they play online.

You have drunk people, and people coming home on tilt after losing a session of poker live. There are many factors, but the point is, online players suck.

Because there are so many poor players online, it means that people will be making far more mistakes. If you have multiple people all making mistakes on all the tables you are sitting on, then you don't have to do anything creative at all. All you have to do is play solid poker, not make any mistakes yourself, and they'll give you their money.

At times this can be irritating. When you're playing against all amateurs, you're not able to make any serious bluffs, no advanced plays... basically you don't get to flex your poker muscle. But remember, you're making money. That's why we play poker, is it not?


I can't stress enough how wonderful rake-back is. Rake-back is the No. 1 reason I like online poker. If you're getting a large amount of rake-back, then you will be making decent money at a poker table, without having to win a cent.

You can break even on the tables, and make money simply from rake-back. The way you should look at it, you're getting paid to play online poker. This is something you don't get live. The rake-back systems at live casinos just don't come close to the amount of money that can be made from rake-back online.

So, yes: you'll have to put up with inept, inebriated opponents, but the opportunities to pad your bankroll are irresistible. Online play will never take the place of sitting down at the green felt, but it can help you pass the time, rack up the ducats and maybe even improve the caliber of your play.

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