Although the two ways you can play poker – online and offline – have never been more similar than today, beginners are still regularly surprised to realise that skills they acquired playing in a brick-and-mortar casino can’t be readily transferred to an online format – and vice versa. That’s because of a number of differences between the two games. In this article, we take a look at the seven most prominent ones.

1. Speed of the Game

Playing poker in a brick-and-mortar casino is significantly slower than playing online poker. So much that many seasoned online poker players find the live version intolerably dull. In online poker, there isn’t a live dealer to shuffle decks and deal cards. Instead, the whole process is performed automatically (and lightning-fast) by eGaming software. Also, if we analyse playing poker online vs. the live experience, we’ll quickly notice that players in a physical casino get more thinking time as they face their opponents. Some players might view that as an advantage, while those who prefer a faster pace will argue that online gamblers never get bored while waiting for the next round to start, as they can play two or more tables simultaneously without getting distracted by others in the room.

2. Profiling the Opponents

Sitting across your opponents and facing them while they try to pick the right strategy gives you the chance to study their behaviour. The most important “live poker vs. online poker” difference lies in the fact that the latter doesn’t allow you to analyse and interpret other players’ physical and verbal tells. While playing online, you do meet other players (under their aliases) and can chat with them, but that can’t compare to having your opponent right in front of you, talking to them, and reading their facial expressions and gestures in an attempt to discern if they’re bluffing or not. There are tells in online poker as well, of course, but they’re completely different from those in live poker and include things like table count, stack size, and the time your opponents take for their actions.

3. Game Variants

The starkest difference in the online poker vs. live poker comparison lies, without a doubt, in the number of available game variations. Not even the best casinos in Vegas and Macao can offer as many poker game variations as an online venue can. Pai Gow poker, Five-Card Draw, Omaha Hold ’em, Omaha Hi-Lo, Seven-Card Stud, Badugi, HORSE, Raz, Chinese poker, Short Deck, Pineapple, and many, many more await players at the top poker websites.

4. Bonuses and Promotions

In an online vs. live poker comparison, online venues definitely take the cake when it comes to incentives aimed at attracting new users. The most common poker promotions are freerolls, but many sites also offer matched-deposit, no-deposit, and other bonuses, as well as rewards for loyal customers.

5. Bet Sizes

Even though both ways of playing poker can be equally enjoyable, bet sizes in live and online poker tend to differ. Namely, statistics show that players in live games and tournaments bet bigger in the openings. While in most online games, players will open for as low as 2x, 2.5x, or 3x the big blind, in live games, it’s not uncommon for players to open for five or six times the big blind, or even more.

6. Variance

Variance – the difference between the biggest gains and the steepest losses – is one of the most significant factors players consider when choosing where to play. If we compare live vs. online poker in terms of variance, a live poker game has less variance than an online poker session simply because it’s slower, so the number of hands played during one session will be smaller.

Variance is also affected by the players’ skill levels. In general, the better the player, the lower the variance, as skilled players make fewer mistakes. Finally, the size of the pot also has an impact – the bigger the pot, the higher the variance.

7. Strategy

Finally, there are notable differences in the live vs. online poker strategy. In live poker, players may be able to see each others’ chips, giving them an advantage over online players who can’t see what their opponents have in front of them. Aside from this, live poker players usually play less aggressively against other opponents. Online poker players are more likely to make postflop calls with marginal hands, while live poker players will typically fold in the same situation.

Which Is Better?

There isn’t a single answer to this question in the “online poker vs. live poker” debate.

In live poker, players can see and interpret each others’ physical tells, which can make the game more exciting and poker strategies more complex and nuanced. Live poker simply provides a degree of interaction and socialising that online poker does not.

On the other hand, online poker offers lucrative promotions and more poker variants to choose from. It may also be more suitable for people who prefer fast-paced games and aren’t that interested in the psychology of the game.


Is online poker better than live?

It all depends on what you’re looking for in a game of poker. Live poker is the better option if you are looking for less variance and a slower pace, which gives you more time to deliberate on your next move. It’s also great if you wish to interact with your opponents and interpret their behaviour. However, if you are looking to try out more game variations and play faster, online poker is the way to go. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference.

Is online poker harder than live?

You can argue that online poker is more difficult to play than live poker. This is because some online players are a lot more technical; many are used to playing at multiple tables simultaneously and making fast decisions according to the available information. If we compare online vs. live poker players in terms of the number of hands, we’ll see that online players have almost double the hands per hour. However, making a wrong call in a game of online poker is generally a far less stressful experience since players are practically anonymous.

Is live poker more profitable than online?

It depends on several factors, especially on your initial bankroll. Stakes in live poker tend to be higher, which means you need more money to begin playing live poker but you also stand to earn more money. You also need to cover other expenses you’ll incur by playing at a brick-and-mortar casino, such as travelling costs, which is not the case with online poker you can play without leaving your home. Additionally, in online poker, you can play at multiple tables at the same time. Online poker vs. live poker profitability also depends on what type of player you are – if you find it difficult to “read” other people, but are well-versed in the technicalities of the game, you’ll probably make more money playing online – and enjoy it more.