In recent years online poker and particularly the Texas Holdem variant of the game has come to dominate our television sets. I’m often asked to comment on the differences in play between online poker and land based rooms which I look to set out in this article.
1. Speed of online poker play is roughly twice that of land based poker play. The number of hands per hour in a land poker room would be circa 30 per hour at best, perhaps as low as 20. Typical online poker game would see 50-60 hands per hour, and anything up to 120 per hour for short handed “Turbo” play.
2. Rake collected by an online poker room will be 5% or less of each pot whereas land based rooms will be 10% or even higher. In this regard online play is the better value option. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom have laws against the taking of rake. Instead they either charge by the hour or by the tournament. This is the reason that Caribbean Poker is favoured over Texas Holdem in land based casinos in the UK.
3. The quality of player found in an online poker room will generally be lower than that in land based rooms. There are many reasons for this but to actually go to a land based smoky room sitting down at a table of 10 takes an element of confidence that you don’t need in an online poker environment. Land based players are often better in that they usually understand the game before playing it. By way of contrast your average online poker newbie has just watched the World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel or ESPN. The only exceptions to this that I’ve found occur in Las Vegas where you get the full range of extremes from holiday makers trying their hand with the best in the world.
4. Online poker players can pick and choose the time of day they play as they can play 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week and do so from the comfort of their own home. Land based players must plan ahead and get to the venue at the due starting time.
5. Online poker players have more choice, in the number and variety of games to choose from, ranging from free play to cash games to tournaments of all sizes. If you want to win a seat at the upcoming 2006 World Series of Poker (WSOP), then you need to be looking towards online poker tournaments where a far greater range of choices await such as satellite entries from as little as $5.
6. Poker Tells between online and land based poker play are very different. Land based players spend more time observing body language and voice tells through opponent questioning than they do observing time delays between bets and bet size relative to the potential odds of higher hands. Online Poker Tells have more to do with timing, bet size, and table position rather than the judgement of facial expression.
7. Poker etiquette is more disciplined in land based poker rooms. The online poker experience can often be spoiled by drunken fools who believe they have Phil Ivey’s skill level even though they clearly don’t. Catch a lucky card in an online poker room and you may find yourself on the end of some verbal abuse (through the typed chat system). Phrases such as “you’re an idiot” and worse would not be tolerated in a land based room but go largely unchecked online. You always have the option to turn off player chat but my preferred playing style is to goad the offending player into playing on tilt (usually a simple thing to do). One recourse you do have against abuse is to report the player to the pit boss and they will be either banned from chat or thrown out of the room altogether.
8. Online poker gives you the unique ability to play more than one room at a time. Clearly this is not an option open to land based players. I know of people who play up to six tables simultaneously.
As you can see both environments have the potential for a really good game of poker. Different experiences to suit different player needs. Personally I don’t have a preference between the two. I value the convenience of online play, but still enjoy the interaction of a live room.
Graham Easton is the author of this article. He is webmaster at https://pokerdiy.com
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