Differences Between Live and Online Poker

Ever since the poker boom in 2003, players have had two options for real money poker: at a traditional casino, or at an online poker room. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, and this presents players with an important decision when they decide where they're going to start their poker career. This article will look at both online and live poker games, and present an argument as to why you should at least try both options out.

Differences in Setting

The most obvious difference between live and online poker is clearly the interactions between players. At a live poker table you're actually sitting down with your opponents, and can see them and talk to them. However, at (most) online poker tables the only way you can interact with opponents is through a chat box.

Although the setting seems like a pretty simple difference, it actually leads to many other major differences between the games. In live poker you're going to have a ton more information available to you because you're actually sitting down with the other players. Being able to see other players' body language, mannerisms, faces, and even hear them talk cues you in to what cards they're holding (if you know how to read live poker tells).

Online poker offers you less info about each situation, but more opportunities to play every single day.

Ok, so now that you know the differences, let's talk about the advantages of each variation.

Advantages of Live Poker

Live PokerThe biggest advantage of playing live poker is the wealth of information that each player has available to them. Many people underestimate how important it is to physically see the players across the table, but if you can see them, you can read them, and you can really beat them. Being able to read people is a great skill to have in poker that also applies to other areas in life, like business and social situations.

Besides the social interaction, we also love live poker because it makes you handle your money with more care. When you actually place your bills down on the table, and know that the cage is only a few feet away, it really makes you treat it as real money as opposed to playing online where your bankroll is just a number that takes days to cash out. Check out this article on "Five Live Poker Myths" to learn more.

Advantages of Online Poker

Although online poker loses the physical tells of live poker, there are still some online poker tells to clue you in on your opponents, and besides the interaction between players there are tons of other advantages of online poker.

First of all, the game selection at online poker rooms is ridiculous. At a live poker room you can expect to find 10-100 tables of No Limit Hold'em, Limit Hold'em, Omaha, and perhaps a table or two of Stud. At an online poker room however, you can expect to find hundreds if not thousands of real money tables, offering all the normal games plus rare games such as Razz, 2-7 Triple Draw, and mixed games like H.O.R.S.E.

Also, these games are offered in a huge array of stakes, starting at micro stake tables like $0.01/$0.02 No Limit Hold'em. This is something you'd never see in a live casino, because they can't afford to pay a dealer to deal that small of a game. Another good example is heads up cash tables - that's something else that is only offered online.

Another advantage is the fact that online poker tournaments run 24/7/365, as opposed to the one or two daily poker tournaments most casinos offer. Also, tournaments are offered in stakes ranging from $0.10 to $10,000, so you get a lot more variety than at a live casino. Another tournament advantage is the fact that there are literally thousands of online tournaments every day, whereas at a live casino you could play maybe one or two tournaments per day. Learn more -> Five online poker myths.

If you're a serious poker player playing for a living, you might want to check out online poker because of the simple fact that you can multi-table, and that games are much faster (60ish hands per hour live, 100+ hands per hour online). Also, online poker rooms provide players with sign up poker bonuses that help you double your bankroll pretty quickly.

If you've decided you'd like to try out online poker, make sure to check out FullTiltPoker.com. They're our #1 rated online poker site, because they have smooth software, a big bonus, and great customer service.

Online Players vs. Live Players

This is more of a personal observation I've made, but it seems to me like there are some noticeable and consistent differences between online poker players and live poker players:


I seem to notice that online players are much more aggressive than live poker players. This may just be because the games are faster, but I think it's because all the online poker forums promote a tight-aggressive style of play, and many players really take that over the top. Also, most live players read strategy books like Mason Malmuth's, and that promotes a less aggressive style of play.


This is another discrepancy I've noticed by playing with both live and online players: Online poker players tend to be much younger than live poker players. This is most likely due to young players being more tech savvy, and old players being more traditional.

Further Reading:

For more information about live vs. online gambling, check out my buddy TJ's online casino guide, which discusses live vs. online casinos, poker rooms, and sports books.

More General Poker Strategy: