How to Play Online Poker (and How It’s Different from Live Poker)
Photo by Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images. Pictured: Poker table
Differences Between Live and Online Poker
Poker is one of the most popular card games in existence. The online poker arena has become a premier destination for players looking to get in on the action. For decades, most players would get together with friends or head to their local casino, but this has all changed with the emergence of excellent online poker platforms.
Online poker is wildly different from live poker, a topic we will explore in this writing at length. While U.S. players are mostly restricted from playing via the Internet, there are still a few states that allow US-based platforms to offer their services. A large portion of the current online poker scene comes from offshore cardrooms that are legal to use, but are typically frowned upon by the U.S. government.
Let’s discuss how to play online poker and succeed in it while also acknowledging the differences between online and live play.
Online Poker vs. Live Poker
For those who consider themselves to be professional poker players, one of the hardest things to do is cross over from online to live poker and vice versa. Both present an entirely unique style of play with average skill level, the “personal” level of the game, and the ability to “read’ other players varying.
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Strength of Player Pool in Online Poker
The most glaring difference between the online and live poker arenas is the average level of play. When playing online poker, it will not take long to notice that the average player is far more well-versed in the game of poker and typically plays at a higher level than your typical live player would.
One of the reasons why this phenomenon exists is that it is much more difficult to access an online poker game than one in a brick-and-mortar casino’s poker room. This provides a barrier for the player pool and often separates the avid, knowledgeable poker player from the gambler who plays for fun.
Especially when considering that online poker is only legalized in a handful of states, the player pool has shrunk, ridding the various platforms of amateur poker players.
Lack of Information in Online Poker
Arguably the most appealing thing about live poker is the personal aspect of it as players can engage with their opponents at the table, watching their every move. In live poker, this type of thing does not exist as players are unable to see one another, limiting the information available for decision-making. Live poker play typically grants players the ability to gain information on their opponents from a qualitative sense while online basically offers just the quantitative aspects.
The argument exists for what type of information is more integral to success in poker, but the one point that cannot be argued – live poker offers more information.
More Multiway Pots in Live Poker
Live games typically play a lot looser as the player pool declines in true talent. This makes online games a lot tougher to beat in the long run than live games.
Because live players tend to be a lot more susceptible to putting money in the pot regardless of their hole cards, multiway pots are exponentially more common in online poker. These types of situations are actually quite tough to navigate for the novice player as there is much more information to keep track of.
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Faster Pace of Online Poker
Online poker is a far more cutthroat, dynamic platform for the game in comparison to live play. In online poker, players can expect to see far more hands per hour as a result. When playing live poker at a casino, the amount of time between hands can add up and this does not include the virtually unlimited decision-making time players are allotted. This dynamic does not exist on the virtual felt.
On average, players can expect to see in the neighborhood of 35-40 hands. Online, players can see three times as many hands with the possibility for more in fast-fold formats.
Difficulty of Retaining Information in Online Poker
Because the online poker games run at such a fast pace, it is far more difficult to retain the information that is observed. In live poker, the game is played in a much more personal manner where players can simply be observed as is done in daily life. The only information that most players have at their disposal is a player’s screen name.
It is very beneficial to extract as much information as possible in online play so that it can be used to one’s advantage. One strategy that online pros typically use is writing down information they have on players so they do not forget it when it matters most. Having the knowledge of whether or not a player is bluff-happy or a weak-passive player can be the difference between taking down a large pot or losing a large pot against said player.
Poker is a game of incomplete information. Getting the edge on your opponents in online poker when it comes to this facet of the game could turn a player into a winning one almost immediately.
Accessibility of Online Poker
It goes without saying that the digital age has had a profound impact on the gaming industry and the poker world is no exception to this. Live poker has seen a downturn in popularity while online poker has exponentially increased in terms of the player pool quantity in recent years.
Part of the reason for this trend is the accessibility of online poker. Playing live poker often requires players to make a trip to the nearest casino which can be over an hour away. This can provide a barrier for some when it comes to poker and players become much more likely to turn to alternative options like online poker.
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Where is Online Poker Legal?
Online poker is currently legal in Nevada, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, Michigan, and Delaware. There will likely be more states adding online poker to their gambling catalogs in the near future with the widespread move towards legalizing sports betting.