Normally when people find out that I work in the poker industry, they will have a host of questions about it. Sometimes it is the casinos, sometimes it is the players, and sometimes it is about the game itself. One of the questions I get the most is “What is better: online or live poker?”
That’s a difficult question. While both are the same game per se, there’s tremendous differences to them in their actual play. There are pros and cons to both formats and only through experimentation can one find out if one is more acclimated to a person’s style than the other. With that thought, however, I have been able to come up with a few pros and cons, looking at the online game first.
Advantages to Online Poker
One of the great advantages to online poker is it is always there. If you live in an area where there isn’t a casino or poker room, then you always have a game at your literal fingertips. There have been people who are isolated at home that, through the ability to play online, have been able to keep in touch with the world.
You also don’t need a huge amount of money to play the online game. In the online game, you can play for stakes that you would never see in a “brick and mortar” casino or poker room. Do you really think that you would see the Bellagio spread a $.01/$.02 No Limit Hold’em cash game? Is the Borgata going to run a $1 rebuy tournament for its players on an hourly basis? One of online poker’s great pros is that you don’t have to be rich to play (but we will see this can be a bad thing too).
Because of this cost aspect, you can also work on your game without losing a tremendous amount of money. Say you want to work on playing out of position – you just get involved with hands where you are out of position against other players (of course, they have to come along and help you!). Or let’s say you want to try a different approach to the game – and “loose-aggressive” pattern rather than a “tight is right” game. This is a relatively inexpensive way to see if the strategy can be used with the game skills that you currently have.
Finally, if you are agoraphobic or you just don’t feel like putting on clothes, online poker might be the best thing for you. If you’re online, nobody sees that you aren’t “dressed up” but sitting there in your PJs. You’re sitting at home and can be as relaxed as you want, which can also be a huge assist to your play.
Disadvantages to Online Poker
Like most things in life, there are downsides to the world of online poker also.
First, it is a MUCH faster game than what you will see in a casino or poker room. In a casino or card room, you might get thirty hands an hour in. When you play online, you’re going to get at least double that if not triple. This difference in the pace of play is something that some players have a difficult time with (and that can be said both ways, whether going from online to live or vice versa).
In the online game, the pace of play just moves quicker because you don’t have to wait for things. You don’t have to wait for the dealer to shuffle, don’t have to wait for players to make decisions (a clock in online poker will count down and muck people if they don’t play) and you don’t have to wait for blinds or antes to be put out. All of these things make for a faster pace of play and, yes, more hands going across the table.
Because you are playing more hands, you’re going to see more “weirdness” happen. You’re going to see big hands beaten more often by people playing absolute rags. You’re going to see Aces versus Kings or other coolers more frequently. It isn’t the online room “rigging the cards.” It’s simply a fact that, in an eight-hour session in an online poker room, you could possibly see up to 800 hands…there’s going to be some oddities in the mix.
Two, it is a sterile game. It used to be that online players (for better or worse) talked to each other through their chat windows. That is nonexistent today. So, if you like the social aspect of poker, which is one of the pros of going to the casino or poker room, the online game is NOT going to give you that part of experience.
Three, it is sometimes a hassle to get money on and off. For myself, I am always more worried about how I get my money OFF the site – if you’re a winning player, that should be your concern. If you have to jump through hoops to get money on the site and have LONG delays in getting it off (this can also reflect the reliability and trustworthiness of the site), then online poker might not be for you.
Finally, you’ve got to just get used to the thought that people in an online game are going to play what they’re going to play, and it sometimes goes against the grain of poker. I’ve personally always thought that, because the inter-personal relationships between players have been removed – you’re not looking directly at a person, you’re not getting any “tells,” you’re not laughing and joking (or looking to metaphysically kill your opponent) – people will do weird things. They’ll play that 8–3 off-suit, simply because YOU are in the hand, and they remember how you were in a hand with a J-4 because four players limped to your big blind and you crushed their pocket Kings. There’s no reasoning for some of what happens in online poker.
Online poker is an enjoyable game. But there are some things that people just can’t get into with that style of game. It depends on what you’re looking for in poker as to whether online is right for you.