A lot of people have a regular poker game that they never stray from. Maybe it’s a weekly game at a buddy’s house, maybe it’s the Sunday grind online.
Either way, if you’re looking to expand your horizons by switching from live to online or vice versa, it can be nice to orientate yourself beforehand.
To that end, the team at WPT Global has put together a quick guide for anyone who needs to adjust to the differences between live and online poker.
Live Games Are Much Slower
Online poker moves at the speed of mouse clicks and microchips. By comparison, live games are slow. Be prepared for this, as many of the differences between live and online play are knock-on effects of this simple fact.
An online nine-handed poker table can get through around 60-75 hands per hour. Six-handed tables can bump that to around 100 hands per hour. Zoom can push that further, peaking around 200 or 250 hands per hour. And that’s without factoring in multi-tabling.
A live poker game might get 30 hands an hour if the dealer is experienced and on the ball. Inattentive, inexperienced, or showboating players can combine with clumsy dealers and slow a game to a miserable five or six hands an hour. You want to pick your games accordingly and prepare for a very different kind of challenge to your ability to focus.
Live Games Are Looser Pre-Flop
This one varies from game to game, but in general live games play much looser and more passive pre-flop.
This could be because the slower play means more bored players looking for reasons to play a hand. It could also just be that live players are, on average, less talented players than the online average.
Whatever the reason, the result is more multi-way pots, something players will want to factor into their pre-flop strategies.
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Live Bet Sizing Can Get Weird
Online play has pre-set buttons for bet sizing. With a click of a button, you can bet three times the big blind or exactly half the pot.
Offline, not only are these pre-sets not available, but a lot of players are unfamiliar with good bet sizing practice. They bet big when their hand is good or they want to bluff, and small when they are weak or slow-playing. These players treat a $10 bet the same whether there is $5 in the pot or $100.
For players like this, bet sizing is a tell, allowing you to read them. But it is also something you can exploit with your own bet sizing. You can save money on bluffs or induce calls with bet sizes that would be madness online because live players don’t react in the same way.
Live Tells Are Real
It isn’t just weird bet sizes that can give you info on a player’s hand in live poker.
In both online and live games, betting patterns, more broadly, are your biggest source of reads. However, everything players do at the table gives away information. Body language and table talk can give away a bad player’s hand in an instant.
You can also use your own body language and table talk to give off false tells, misleading your opponents or just rattling them.
During live play, you can also make more sense of a player’s thinking time. Online their time in the tank might be due to anything (too many tables, too much Mountain Dew, a distracting household pet). In live poker, you know if it’s because they are distracted or are wrestling with a tough decision.
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Reading Hands Matters More
The combination of more thinking time, more information, and more bad players means that hand-reading can create huge opportunities. A perfect spot for a bluff can be betrayed by talking too much or not enough.
As a result, you want to make sure you are paying close attention to players’ patterns, body language, and shifts in mood that might indicate a more fearful or careless outlook.
If you can make a few big laydowns or calls in a session, it can have a huge knock-on effect on your hourly rate.
The information is out there, make sure you’re using it.
Live Poker Costs More
Live poker has a much heavier rake than online poker. This is a generalization, rake varies from venue to venue and site to site. However, on the whole, live rake tends to have both a higher percentage and a higher cap.
This is something you need to factor into your win rate when you choose where to play. Are the games soft enough and the additional advantages great enough to counteract the increased rake and lower rate of play?
If you just play for fun, this matters less. After all, live poker has the advantage of social contact. And if you play a home game, that rake can drop as low as zero!
Now you have a sense of the differences between live and online poker, you shouldn’t be too thrown when you switch from one to the other.
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