Online Poker vs Live Poker

Online Poker vs Live Poker

Since the emergence of the online casino, popular card game poker and its vast amount of variants have changed drastically - not only in the way the game is played but also how easily players have access to poker games. These changes have brought with them an influx of players, consequently raising the interest in casino games altogether.

Whilst both online and live games remain popular among the seasoned poker players, with many pros trying their hand at both variants at some point during their career, there is often a bias held towards one rather than the other. With that in mind, we’re here to dissect the question ‘which is better? Online poker vs real-life poker’ by breaking down their differences and outlining the pros and cons of each variant, so you can make an informed decision about which suits you best.

What’s Good About Online Poker?

Varying Stakes

Unlike in many land-based casinos, the stakes in online poker can start off with ante bets as low as 0.10p for the small blind and some offering extremely low buy-in wagers (this is dependent on whether or not the game is a No-Limit, Limit or Pot Limit game). By these means, online poker games tend to be cheaper to play as they negate the need for extravagant buy-ins, blind bets and travel expenses whilst maintaining the potential to gain a profit. Theoretically, by playing at these lower online stakes you could minimize the tangible balance you could lose whilst still building your bankroll and experience playing the game.

Hands Per Hour

Online poker, unlike its live counterpart, is relatively fast-paced. Generally, more hands per hour are dealt at online poker tables, which makes it great for those who are relatively new to the game as they’re able to build their skill and experience at a faster rate by playing a higher volume of hands within a shorter time frame.

Multi-Table Play

One of the top reasons why the volume of hands played in online poker is so high is due to multi-tabling, this means players are able to enter tournaments alongside playing cash games - boosting the chances of potentially increasing your bankroll at a quicker rate.


Arguably one of the biggest selling points of online poker is its easily accessed nigh-on anywhere, so players can enter a game whenever and wherever is most convenient for them. Most websites offer a mobile version of their poker clients, much like the casino app, making it even easier to navigate the best casino online from a mobile device.

Quicker Tournament Playthrough

Due to the fact that more hands are played per hour in online poker games, they are generally played through at a much faster pace than live poker tournaments. Therefore, players theoretically have more opportunities to do well and increase their bankroll during online tournaments, purely because the number of games played is higher.

More Poker Variants and Options

Virtual casinos are not limited by the physical space constraints applied to bricks and mortar casinos, they are able to host a much wider variety of games and tournament types than their live relative. This can include extra variants of games alongside the standard Hold’em Poker, such as Caribbean Stud Poker and Three Card Poker, which are great if the original poker style isn’t really your cup of tea.

Rakeback and Bonuses

It’s common for online casinos to attract players with cashback or deposit bonuses. These incentives present the potential for players to pocket extra cash if they play their cards right, possibly balancing out a couple of missed hands. Casino bonus promotions that pose the idea of adding extra cash to your bankroll arguably provide one of the biggest incentives to play online as opposed to playing in a live casino.

What are the Drawbacks to Online Casino?

Stronger Player Fields

Due to the increased tablespace in virtual casino rooms, the number of players in a single online tourney tends to be much higher than the ones played out in a live cardroom meaning there are generally more players with big bucks but not a whole lot of poker sense, known as big fish. Although the stakes in online games generally are lower, there are always going to be players who want to try their hand at playing at the higher stakes - these are players who generally know their way around the poker table and often prove to be tough opponents. Your table selection is crucial in online poker, you want to be able to scope out where the ‘big fish’ players are, rather than attempting to grind your way through a game with more experienced opponents.

Limited Poker Tells

If you’re a persistent live poker player and rely heavily on tells to help inform your decisions, online poker may prove to be difficult for you to adjust to. Although there are some minor tells you can use, such as bet timing and betting lines, they are very limited and you’re not going to have nearly as much information to go off as you would during live play.

What’s Better About Live Poker?

Tournament Buy-ins are Higher

If you’re someone interested in the higher value prize pots then live tournaments are probably going to be right up your alley. Live tourneys tend to require higher buy-ins but offer a similar size field of play as their online counterpart, meaning there are bigger prize pools up for grabs.

Better Concentration

Since online gameplay is accessible almost anywhere and there is the option to play across multiple tables, there are many surrounding interruptions that may distract you from that online game. In live play, you’re at one poker table and that is all you have to focus your attention on. Because of this, it will be easier to pick up on other players’ tendencies and betting habits than it would be playing online - for example, there may be a player who may tilt their head to one side if they’ve hit a potentially big hand. Altogether, with there only being one game for you to focus on, and it being within a live setting, you’ll have a much higher level of concentration.

Travel Opportunities

Live poker events and tournaments happen all over the world, so it’s not uncommon for big poker players to travel overseas to attend them. Exploring new countries and cities whilst away on the poker tournament grind is a very attractive perk of live poker playing if your standard of playing is high enough for travelling and entering.


Another attractive perk which can come alongside live poker playing are the potential freebies. Some casinos offer players free hotel rooms or meals if they play enough games, some also offer a VIP players club which awards points to players - these points can be traded in at the casino in exchange for food, gift vouchers and other free items.

Player Tells

One of the greatest aspects of live poker, which isn’t available when playing online hands, is being able to use tells to your full advantage. When playing face to face with other players you are able to see their facial expressions, their reactions to the deal, flop, turn and river, how they stack their chips, their body language and their betting habits - these are all crucial details to follow as they could be detrimental to their bankroll and pivotal to your gameplay decisions.

Cons of Playing Live Poker

Limited Game Choices

Unlike the virtual casinos, physical cardrooms are limited by space and must be selective about the games they host. Some of the bigger casinos may host Stud and Pot-Limit Omaha games but most will only have no-limit Hold’em variations available to play.

Number of Hands Per Hour

Live play generally moves much slower than online games, the average number of hands per hour when playing in a live cardroom tends to remain around the 25 mark - this is quite low in comparison to the number of hands each hour when playing in an online setup.


Unless you live in a largely metropolitan area, the chances are that your access to actual bricks and mortar casinos is going to be severely limited or possibly non-existent if you’re not within an acceptable travel distance. This combined with the limited game selection makes the choice of live casino playing a no-go for some players, location can be a big drawback to playing live poker games.

High Rake Amounts

The term ‘Rake’ refers to the percentage of the prize pot taken by the house as commission and whilst it varies from one casino to the next, it can often be extremely high, making it virtually impossible for live cash poker games to be profitable - even for pro players. It’s recommended that players do their research into rake amounts before they commit to entering a live casino game.

Awkward Tournament Structures

Many of the daily tournaments held in live casinos are played through far too quickly and steeply to allow for players to optimise their gameplay. Poker tourneys are expensive for casinos to run so the consensus for many casinos is to get through as many as they can, as fast as they can. This makes for gameplay with much higher volatility, where luck takes much more precedence over actual poker skill.

Poker Maths

In most online games any calculations, such as pot sizes, player stacks and bet sizes, are usually already made for the player's benefit. However, in live games, the player must add these dimensions to the game themselves and learn how to keep track of them efficiently to determine their odds of winning each hand.

Raise Size Increases

Again, in online play, the pre-flop raise amount is usually predetermined and tends to stick at around 3x the big blind ante in any cash games. Conversely, in live poker, if a player enters the game with a pre-flop raise the wager sizes can range anywhere between 4x and 10x the big blind - decreasing the pot-to-stack ratio of the game dramatically.

Online Poker vs Live Poker: The Verdict

Although there are many factors which must be considered when it comes to the online poker vs live poker debate, there are two things which are guaranteed regardless of which option you go for: quality and convenience. Which is “best” mostly boils down to player preference and what suits one player's style of gameplay may not suit another’s.

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