Online vs. Offline Poker - The Ultimate Heads-Up
It’s the ultimate battle – in the red corner, the old-school land-based casino who’s enjoyed a glittering career spanning decades, and in the blue corner the young pretender with better graphics, a wider range of games, and stakes to suit all wallets (but sadly, no free drinks).
So, who wins out in the face-off between live and online poker? And why should we worry who’s better anyway? Let’s take a look at 7 ways online is better – and why we shouldn’t be ditching live poker just yet...
There’s a lot of competition at online poker sites right now, especially with online traffic in general flagging, and therefore rooms are competing for new blood all the time.
Most, if not all, if not all, poker rooms will offer generous welcome bonuses for first-time real-money depositors. That could mean earning 100% of what you deposit up to several hundred dollars. For players planning on putting in plenty of hours that can really add up to some serious bucks. There will always be playing requirements, of course, so always check with your poker site on how much poker you have to play in order to trigger the bonus.
Good sites will also offer regular promos and bonus offers to loyal customers over time. Furthermore, if you sign up to a poker room via an affiliate site you can earn 'rakeback’ – fees payable during poker hands and tourneys; another reason to play online.
...But Where’s The Entertainment?
That’s great, but how hard is it to actually trigger that welcome bonus? Are you seriously going to put in the hard graft required to activate it? It’s certainly something to consider before you join up for an account.
And there’s something an online cardroom doesn’t offer – free drinks, free food, tickets to shows, entries into prize giveaways...
Some sites – like Bovada/Bodog – offer players anonymity at the tables so that they can play without being tracked, have notes taken on them, or stored for later use by bum-hunters.
Live, of course, unless you’re in some kind of elaborate Phil Laak-style disguise, you’re always known to your tablemates. Live it’s harder to pull off risky bluffs and risk being embarrassed in front of the other players.
...But Where’s The Banter?
At all online poker rooms there will be a chatbox reserved for chatting to the other players and following the action. They can, however, also be used for abuse. In a live cardroom you can do what you want - trash talk, joke around with your tablemates, or have deep and meaningful conversations with your opponents – you can even brush up on your live tell-spotting.
If you live twenty miles from a live casino offering poker, it’s not too much of a bind to get in the car and drive over for a night-time tourney. But what if your nearest cardroom is hundreds of miles away – or worse still, in a different country?
Online poker provides a convenient way to get a quick poker fix: just fire up the laptop and away you go. In 2016 you can even play on your mobile phone - online poker has never been so convenient. And which cardrooms can you name that let you rock in wearing your pyjamas?
...But Who Wants To Play During Valuable Girlfriend/Family Time
It’s true, online poker lets you play anytime, anywhere you are. But that often means – and invariably leads to – lots of hours here and there playing in front of the TV or when you should be getting some quality time in with your significant other. Online poker isn’t the most sociable of games.
The beauty of online poker is that they can host pretty much any game they like, and at stakes to suit every wallet. That’s why it’s not unusual to see cash games from as little as $0.02/$0.04. And, of course, online rooms are happy to throw away money in daily guaranteed-prize pool freerolls to help you get your bankroll off to the perfect start. What’s the smallest game your local live cardroom offers? Exactly.
...But Taking A Shot At The Big Stakes Live Can Pay Off
Just because your local cardroom or casino may only offer cash games from $1/2 or tournaments that kick off at $50 and are re-buys to boot, it shouldn’t put you off. Everyone is in the same boat, and just because the stakes are higher, it doesn’t mean the players are necessarily better. That’s why if you have a decent bankroll you can find a lot of value live with players trying to punch well above their weight.
Even though some major online poker sites have banned tracking software, you can still find plenty of online rooms letting you use HUDs (Heads-Up Displays) when playing. A Heads-Up Display sits “on top” of your game screen and records stats on your opponents so you can see how they are likely to act in any given situation, making it easier to take detailed notes on them.
...But At Least In Your Local Cardroom You’ll Meet The Same Players Again And Again
Saying that, live players – if they’ve played at the same venue long enough – will encounter the same opponents time and time again. Over time live players will suss out these regulars and learn to play against them. But what if you’re up against hundreds of different players online?
If you’re seriously of making a profit long-term in poker, online allows you to get a much higher volume in purely because of how many tables you can play at the same time. Get practising and you will soon be able to play up to 16 tables simultaneously. Not only will your ROI (Return on Investment) go up but the experience you can gain online is so much greater than live due to the volume of hands.
...But Who Wants To Lose Concentration?
While playing a live tournament can be engrossing and enjoyable, you’re pretty much restricted to playing one table at a time. But that’s OK if you want to concentrate on the action and learn in a slow, methodical manner. OK, so your profits will take longer to go up, but your enjoyment of the game will increase ten-fold. And who wouldn’t tire of a 16-table online grind after several months of the same thing?
Just as online poker rooms offer every stake to suit every wallet, so they offer every poker variant under the sun too. Whether it’s No Limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha, or Badugi, Red 2 and Razz, you’ll be able to get a game at most of the top sites. Now compare that to your local cardroom – the choice on offer doesn’t sound so great, does it?
...But Why Deviate When You Can Specialize In One Format And Crush It?
While you may struggle to find a live casino that offers more than two or three variants of poker – and even then, it may only be during special festivals – chances are every cardroom will offer several levels of No Limit Texas Hold’em. And you know what’s likely to find an abundance of fish at the No Limit Hold’em tables. So, embrace the live feeding frenzy and make your kill.
You can qualify for many of the biggest live festivals like the WPT, WSOP and EPT for just a few dollars and a raft of online satellites. Most famous of all, the 2003 WSOP champion – Chris Moneymaker – won his seat to the event via an online satellite on PokerStars. And look what happened to him: $75 into $2.5 million and a legacy born.
...Oh, You Can Do That Live Too!
But live cardrooms and casinos offer big satellites too, and oftentimes casinos will offer a number of guaranteed seats. Sometimes you can even win packages that cover travel costs and expenses.
Major sites like PokerStars run regular big series which offer events in all disciplines of poker, and at stakes to suit all wallets. The beauty of major online sites is that they can also offer huge guaranteed prizepools too.
...Erm, The World Series Of Poker, Anyone?
But when it comes to big tournaments, they don’t come any bigger than the annual World Series of Poker, held at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas. 58 bracelets were competed for in 2013, with some of the world’s biggest stars turning out. As long as you have the buy-in – or have qualified in via online satellites – the WSOP offers the recreational player the chance to rub shoulders with their heroes, and maybe just take down a few pots against them.
It’s fair to say that the Internet gaming explosion has taken many lawmakers by surprise, and as such many countries are either sitting on the fence about its legality or have been extremely slow to pass any laws ruling for or against it.
Therefore, where many countries may have specific laws outlawing the running of poker sites from within their borders, they have no laws specifying whether it’s actually illegal to PLAY at global poker sites.
The situation in the USA – where the processing of Internet payments was made illegal in 2006, but online poker itself wasn’t – has led to state-by-state legalisation of the game online.
...But Live Poker Sometimes Has Special Treatment
Live poker, meanwhile, particularly in the US, enjoys legal status, even in states where legislators are still jittery about opening the books on online gaming. For example, California boasts some of the best cardrooms in the country while the state (as of December 2016) still bans online gaming.
So, if you happen to live in a country or jurisdiction that still outlaws gambling on your PC or Mac, chances are you can get out there into the real world and play at a real-life casino today!