A lot of players go their entire lives playing only live poker, and end up missing out on the value that can be found online. For example, you won’t find nightly $22 buy-in satellites for $5,300 events running at the local casino. Just ask Jacob Mulhern, who finished second in the inaugural partypoker MILLIONS for £750,000 after earning his seat through a satellite on partypoker.
Some players are the complete opposite and perhaps don’t feel comfortable stepping into a casino. As such, they won’t reap the value that can only be found in live games. The most successful players are comfortable no matter where they play, and know how to call upon the appropriate skillsets to prevail in both.
In an effort to prevent you from missing out on potential value, here are five ways in which the two arenas differ:
- What Time You Play
Games online run all day every day. You can log onto partypoker at any time during the morning, afternoon or night and jump into your regular cash game, tournament, or sit & go. However, your local casino likely won’t have any games running until the evening. The average live poker game runs between 8pm and 4am. Exceptions obviously include when a big live event such as the partypokerLIVE MILLIONS is running, where one can expect cash games to run alongside the tournament schedule.
Recreational players won’t be able to make it to the casino until they’ve finished their office job, showered and eaten dinner. As such, tournaments and cash games in the week don’t usually start until early evening, but the average player is more likely to want to gamble as they are there for fun, not work.
- Hands Per Hour
This is probably where the biggest difference between live and online poker lies. Because everything online is automated, that negates the need for shuffling between hands, long showdowns, counting out bet sizes and so on. At an online poker table, one can expect to see anywhere between 60 and 80 hands per hour, versus around 25 hands per hour at a live poker table.
Not only is each individual hand much quicker online, but players also have the option to fire up multiple tables at once. Additionally, most poker sites now offer a “fast-fold” variation of the game, where you can choose to be dealt immediately into the next hand if you didn’t like the cards you were dealt.
If you were to play partypoker’s fast-fold format, “FastForward,” you’d be dealt an average of 200 hands per hour, and could do so on up to four tables at once. That’s almost 32x the amount of hands in a one hour period versus the live counterpart. As such, live players are less likely to see a plethora of good hands, but are consequently more likely to gamble with marginal holdings.
Maintaining good etiquette at the table is something that online players simply don’t have to think about. Every now and then you get a warrior in the chatbox, and one can display the correct etiquette by muting and/or reporting that player. Other than that, though, you’re in the comfort of your own home and can behave however you please.
There are some things to consider at the live poker table, though:
- Stack your chips in 20’s. It makes your stack a lot easier for other players (and the dealer for that matter) to count. Online, stack sizes are displayed and is another reason hands play out more quickly than they do live.
- Make sure your high-denomination chips are visible. Imagine moving all-in for what you thought was £200, only to find your opponent had a couple of £100-value chips hidden behind. You’d have likely played the entire hand very differently. Extend the same courtesy to other players.
- Don’t comment on hand while it’s playing out. This may seem obvious, but some players get excited and choose to express their opinions at inopportune moments. Tommy Angelo, in his book “Elements of Poker” actually suggests not talking over the “hard lines” while a hand is in play. That is, to say, don’t talk across a player in the hand, even if you’re not discussing the hand in play. Once the hand is over, discussion is fair game, and something a lot of recreational players like to do.
- Don’t berate players or staff. It’s surprising how many players blame the dealer for bad cards or bad beats. Don’t be one of them. Also, if someone beats you in a pot, remember that’s how poker works. At home, you’re welcome to slam the lid of your laptop or throw your mouse across the room if you’re particularly perturbed at the outcome of a hand, but I would strongly advise against a similar demonstration of frustration at the poker table.
- Game Selection
Some online poker sites keep seated players anonymous until you’re sat at the table, meaning that you can’t cherry-pick your games to sit with someone you consider to be a bad player.
That’s clearly not an issue at the casino, meaning you can strategically choose where to sit. You can still choose the game and stakes that best fits your bankroll, but it’s worthwhile taking a walk around the cardroom to survey the games. Take a note of which games look soft and which games look tough.
Similarly, if a seat opens up to a soft player’s left, make an effort to jump into that seat, but do it in such a way that doesn’t violate any of the aforementioned cardroom etiquette, and don’t make it obvious to the player what you’re doing; nobody likes to feel like the fish.
- Hidden Expenses
What I mean by hidden expenses are all the things you buy at the live poker table that you wouldn’t need to spend money on while playing online. If you’re going to be putting in an eight-hour shift, chances are you’re going to need to eat something at some point. Maybe a coffee; it is getting late, after all. And you tipped the dealer after winning that pot (at least, I hope you did!)
All these things can add up. While your hourly rate is likely to be higher at the casino because the games are, on average, softer, it is worth taking into consideration that you’re going to send some of that back, and you won’t be able to put it on expenses!
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- Rich Salt