Three Key Differences Between Live and Online Poker
Las Vegas is the Mecca for poker players. Although several Las Vegas casinos have permanently closed their poker rooms since the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still nowhere on Earth that caters so well to poker players. Every day, especially during major festivals such as the World Series of Poker (WSOP), thousands of poker players flock to Las Vegas. Some go there to seek their fortune; others want to soak in the experience of a live poker game in “Sin City.”
Many poker players frequenting Las Vegas cut their teeth in the online poker world. Online poker opened the door to scores of poker newbies, allowing them to learn how to play No-Limit Texas Hold’em from the comfort of their homes, and do so for minimal stakes if they so wished. These online grinders, of which you may be one, jet off to the Nevada desert expecting to find the same games on The Strip as they play from their laptops. Oh, how they are mistaken because there are several key differences between live and online poker.
A typical low-stakes online games plays more passively than their live equivalent. There are a handful of reasons for this. First, the lowest stakes you will find in Vegas are $1/$2 or $1/$3, whereas online players can jump into cash games with $0.01/$0.02 blinds. Second, low-stakes live games tend to be frequented by locals and poker sharks looking to take advantage of tourists and green players trying poker for the first time. These infrequent players are more interested in placing bets at Las Vegas sportsbooks than worrying about if a poker opponent is balancing their range. In general, a $1/$2 live game is on par with a $0.10/$0.25 game online.
You need to get used to the often crazy bet sizing when you step into a Las Vegas poker room for the first time. Online cash game players are used to raising between two-and-a-half and four big blinds preflop and receiving only a solitary caller. Forget about doing that on a no-limit live game. Even raising to $10 preflop will often see two, three, or four callers at a nine-handed table! The entire dynamic of a hand changes because you usually play in bloated multi-way pots against players that do not precisely know what they are doing.
Continuation bet sizes are also often strange. You will lose count of the times someone raises to $12, gets three callers, and then makes a $5 continuation bet despite the pot weighing in at close to $40. Compare this to the online world, where players tend to be more elastic in their bet sizes, betting anywhere from one-third or the pot to two-thirds.
The pace of a live poker game is something that many online players struggle with, at least at first. A typical nine-handed live cash game will see you play around 25-30 hands per hour, less if players take a long time to act or the pots are contested multi-way. The same tables online deal at around 75 hands per hour. Furthermore, it is uncommon for an online poker player to sit at only one table. If you play four tables at once, that equates to 300 hands per hour or ten times less action than when you play live. This often leads to an online specialist becoming bored quite quickly. Use the extra downtime to study your opponents and make mental notes about them and their play. Join in the conversations and enjoy the one thing that makes live poker special: the social experience.
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