Main Differences Between Live and Online Poker

Unsplash/ Chris Liverani

Once upon a time, there was no internet. Hard to believe, I know, but the only way to play poker back then was to play live, against actual humans sitting around the table. You can still do that, of course, but now that we’re on the information superhighway, millions of people are playing online poker every day – and it’s glorious.

If you want to get really good at this game, though, you should play both live and online. Let’s take a closer look at the key differences between these two formats, and how they can work together as part of a healthy and complete poker diet.


From a practical perspective, the biggest difference between live and online poker is how easy it is to lock down your seat on the virtual felt. There’s always a cash game or a tournament waiting for you to join. Sign up for accounts at multiple poker rooms, and you’ll have an even wider selection of games at your fingertips; this will give you even more freedom to choose your preferred variant (Texas Hold’em, Omaha, etc.) at your preferred stakes.


As important as studying and practicing off the table is for any player, there’s no substitute for experience. Online poker allows you to play a great many more hands per hour than live poker. If you’re at a single 6-max cash table, you might get to play 100 hands per hour, or about three times as many as live players do. Add more tables, and/or play a “fast-fold” variant, and you can get in even more volume.


This is where live poker gets its groove back. Tells are a thing in online poker, as I’ve discussed earlier in this series, but it’s much easier to get a read off your opponent when you can actually see them. Where are they looking? Do they seem nervous, or disinterested, or maybe not that bright? What clothes are they wearing? Are they trying to “angle-shoot” you by fake-pumping their chips? The better read you get on your opponents, the more tells you’ll discover, and the more money you’ll make.


Even though the internet is everywhere and all around us now, the online poker world is still populated by smarter players on average. You’ll generally find softer tables in the live arena, and if you happen to find yourself among older players, they’re less likely to have put in the required volume of hands to become as poker-savvy as the online generation.

Unsplash/ Michal Parzuchowski


If you want to make the really big bucks in poker, you’ll have to go live eventually. Nosebleed games are less and less available online, partly because many of the online wizards from the Moneymaker Era have found other pursuits like cryptocurrency, and partly because of security concerns. High-stakes cash games in live poker are getting a bit more difficult to access, too, but tournaments are still open to just about everyone, and the prizes keep getting bigger, as they expand from high-roller events to super high rollers and beyond.

There are several other differences between live and online poker to consider, including the cost of travel, the ability to network with other players in person, and the legality of each format across different jurisdictions. But if you can wrap your head around our “Top 5” list, you can get the most out of both types of poker, and become the best poker player you can be.