7 Crucial Differences Between Online Poker and Live Poker

Live poker and online no-limit holdem function in the same way. The blinds are posted, the button moves accordingly, and each player is dealt 2 cards. Betting takes place, and hand ranking determines winners and losers. However, both games differ in dynamics, default assumptions, and available information. In this article, I will discuss the major differences between live and online poker and how adjusting to them can improve your win rate.

#1 Live Games Tend To Be Much Softer

Playing NL200 or higher stakes online can be tough. The dedicated grinders at these tables know their strategy and rarely make mistakes. It takes a lot of work to succeed in these online cash games. However, live games at the same or similar level are much easier. A decent NL10 online grinder can be a favorite in most NL200 live games. This is because most casinos don't spread anything below NL200, so players are forced to play these stakes or higher. On the other hand, online poker offers the option to play as low as NL5 for recreational fun. Many players choose this option.

#2 Safety

The establishment is responsible for the safety of the game participants, but still, an upset player can wait at the entrance or do some dirty tricks. If you play live poker online, you are protected from emotional players. However, live poker online has other risks.

Hackers very often try to rob poker players and use any tricks. The current solution is using a VPN to play online poker. If you combine VPN and online poker, you get a pretty reliable combination. Using a VPN, you can stay safe in online poker from most cyber threats. A powerful VPN for online poker can protect against phishing, data interception, cookie or cache leaks or tampering, account hacking, DDoS attacks, and identity disclosure. As an example, VeePN has a ton of tools to protect anonymity, privacy, and security. This way you remain incognito.

#3 Access and Convenience

Online poker offers accessibility and convenience. It allows players to join games from any location with an internet connection, which is in contrast to live poker. Live poker requires players to be physically present at a poker venue. Online poker rooms are available 24/7, providing flexibility in terms of playing time. This flexibility is not always possible with live poker venues that may have specific operating hours.

#4 Playing Multiple Tables

Online poker is known for its fast pace, which is typically quicker compared to live games. The digital nature of online poker enables rapid card dealing, automatic chip counting, and quicker bet placement. Moreover, online poker players have the unique advantage of playing multiple tables simultaneously, a feature that is absent in live poker. If you install the free VPN extension, you can even play on one site from several accounts. You share traffic, change IP, and are difficult to detect. This ability to multi-table can significantly increase the number of hands a player sees per hour, impacting strategy and concentration in profound ways.

#5 Bet Sizes

The sizing of open-raises in live games is typically much larger compared to online games. In online games, an open-raise size tends to be around 3-4x, with some min-raises or 2.5x raises from later positions. However, in live games, it is not uncommon to see an open-raise that is 5x-7x, and even a 10x open-raise in splashy games. This significant difference in open-raise sizes affects the effective stack sizes, especially when there are straddles in your poker game.

Another aspect to consider is the bet sizes used by opponents post-flop. Online games usually involve post-flop bet sizes in the 2/3 pot range. In contrast, live games exhibit much more sporadic bet sizes. This could be because live players struggle with simple math to determine 2/3 of the pot, or they may not have a good understanding of what constitutes a proper bet size. It's worth noting that facing 1/4 pot-sized bets live is more common and does not always indicate weakness, as many online players would assume.

To summarize:

  • Live games often feature open-raise sizes that are twice as large as those in online games.
  • Live players do not typically default to using 2/3 pot-sized bets post-flop.
  • Smaller bets in live games do not necessarily imply weakness, contrary to the assumptions of many online players.
Dealer handles cards at a green felt game table

#6 Available Information

In the world of poker, players gain information in different ways. Live players rely on physical cues, commonly referred to as "tells," whereas online players harness the power of a Heads-Up Display (HUD). Both methods offer unique insights, but they can also lead to disadvantages if mishandled.

An interesting observation is that online players may struggle to conceal their emotions during hands since they are not accustomed to developing this skill. Conversely, live players may find themselves at a disadvantage when playing online since they may lack proficiency in using a HUD effectively. To become a well-rounded player, it is crucial to not only gather information through sources like tells and HUDs but also to master the art of withholding information. Learning the basics of reading tells and improving HUD usage are vital skills for excelling in both forms of the game.

Remember, understanding the dynamics of poker goes beyond a mere grasp of rules. It hinges on the ability to gather, interpret, and shield information effectively, ensuring success in both online and live play.

#7 Speed

Online players are accustomed to juggling multiple tables, seeing a multitude of hands every hour. But, live games limit you to just one table, which also means a much slower pace than any online game you've ever experienced.

At most live games, you can only expect to see 30-40 hands per hour. There are several reasons for this. For one, it takes time for a live dealer to shuffle, deal cards, collect chips, and distribute pots. Moreover, many live players take their time and aren't solely focused on playing, especially at lower stakes. They're there to enjoy themselves, share laughs, and chat.


Some of these differences are quite obvious. However, you must understand them and adjust accordingly if you want to excel in both live and online gameplay. Personally, I engage in both formats and appreciate the distinct opportunities they offer to showcase my expertise. You might discover that one game resonates better with your skills. If that's the case and you prefer to focus solely on live or online play, that's perfectly fine. Just ensure that you always strive to perform at your best and continuously enhance your poker skills to maximize your winnings at the tables!

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