If we are being totally honest with ourselves, there are some differences between live and online poker. Sure they are both mechanically the same game, and our reasons for making X or Y play are the same, but certain nuances are different and can create confusion when transitioning between the formats. In this video I discuss some of the key features, that once understood, allow online players to more easily transition into a live environment. Or if you prefer to read, check out the script for the video below!

Whether you are looking to make a full-time switch to live poker games, or just looking to play live games from time to time, there are some notable changes between these two formats. In this video I’m going to discuss some of the biggest things to be aware of to ensure your transition goes as smoothly as possible!

Playing online poker is awesome. There are so many good things about playing online; not limited to the fact that you don’t need to wear pants and you can play a ton of hands per hour. And if you’ve been playing online for awhile then transitioning to live poker can be a bit challenging. So here are some of the biggest differences:

First, is the hands per hour. Online you are usually seeing 60+ hands per hour per table. In live games you are averaging closer to 30 hands/hour. Online you have the option to play multiple tables, whereas you can’t do that in live games. So even if you were only 2 tabling online and seeing 120 hands/hr, that’s 4x as many hands versus a live player.

This creates quite a few differences. The biggest one being that it takes a HUGE chunk of time to gather a big sample size playing live poker. You would need to play 10 hours of live poker, every single day for a year to surpass 100k hands. And there are online players that play more than 100k hands per month.

10 hours * 30 hands * 365 days = 109k hands

Very related to the hands/hour difference is boredom. If you’re bored playing online you can just open up another table, or start a YouTube video on your other monitor. Playing live poker on the hand is inherently very boring for online players. There are so few hands happening and card dead stints can last for hours. I’d actually say that boredom is the biggest issue by far for players making this transition.

And even more so if you play multiple tables of 6max online. Going from 500+ hands/hour to 30 hands/hour of live fullring is tough. You just need to find something to keep your brain sharp, eyes open, and tilt levels low. Many online players bring their headphones and listen to music or watch videos during the session. This isn’t an awful idea, but is it optimal?

This brings us to another difference between live and online poker: information. With the help of software like PokerTracker 4, you can use a HUD on most sites. A hud gives you real-time statistical information on the hands you’ve played with each opponent. You then use this information to estimate ranges and frequencies. There is no such tool as a HUD in live poker, so you are 100% forced to use your own memory.

Poker heads up display

Online players can also store their hand histories and review them later, along with tracking their wins, losses, and stats. Live players need to write down hands they want to review later. And record keeping is left to pen/paper or any number of poker apps that require you input your data after each session.

So earlier I asked if it was optimal to listen to music or glue your eyes to your device while playing live poker. Online you can do this and you get your information automatically with your HUD. But in live poker if you have your headphones on and distract yourself with your phone, you aren’t collecting the information you need for the times you are actually involved in a hand.

Poker is a game of information, so gathering it is vital for your success. My goal when playing live is to turn information gathering into a game for myself, which in turn keeps my brain busy and minimizes my boredom!

Another thing to be aware of in live games is what I call “image management”. This goes far beyond just giving tells away. Online your only immediate image is your username and maybe a little picture. In live poker players see your face, clothes, and the way you handle yourself physically. Be cognizant of the way you’ll be perceived. If you are young, have your Beats headphones on, and wear a hoodie, everyone will know you played online. If you smile a lot and are quite social, people will be less intimidated by you…which can work in your favor.

spot the online player

Going back to tells for a minute, this is a big difference that online and live players always debate. First, there is value in tells. So brushing up on what certain things mean can be helpful before playing live poker. Secondly, you do want to be aware of any tells you are giving off. Players newer to live always give away more information than they should. Hiding physical information is a skill that many online players didn’t have to develop. So if you are new to live poker, heavily monitor yourself to ensure you aren’t giving too away much.

A slightly related point to this would be how you handle chips. Online players just get to click buttons to make their actions, whereas live players need to physically push out chips. Get used to handling chips, estimating chip stacks from across the table, and figuring out pot sizes easily. Many rooms don’t allow the dealer to announce the pot size (unless it’s a pot limit game), so get used to keeping track of the pot size in your head or estimating it well.

My final note is the level you play. Most card rooms offer $1/$2 or $1/$3 as the lowest game available. These levels DO NOT translate the same way as online games. $1/$2 online is a very tough game, whereas $1/$2 live is often times very soft.

I usually use the 10x scale when comparing online and live games. So 10x the online stake gives you a comparable live stake. 10x 50NL online would be 500NL, or $2/$5 live…which is pretty fair. And 25NL online is very comparable to $1/$2 live. Although sometimes $1/$2 live plays closer to 1cent/2cent online!

Online Level * 10 = Comparable Live Level

This should get you started when it comes to making the transition from online to live poker. Remember, live games are much slower you and will need to work hard to fight the boredom. You will also need to exercise your brain to keep track of everything from stack sizes to information on each opponent. And a little image management can go a long way towards understanding how your opponents will approach you!

Same as always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to let me know…otherwise good luck and happy grinding.