In this article, we’ll take a look at the key differences between online poker and playing in a live environment. The rules of the games may be the same, but online poker is a completely different beast to its live counterpart. Read on to discover why.

Poker Chips on Laptop with Dice and Cards and Roulette
If you’re a live poker player, perhaps it’s time to give online poker a try and elevate your all-round game?

Key Differences Between Live and Online Poker

Online and live poker both have very different features. So if you exclusively play one form over the other, you could very well be missing out. Let’s jump right in and look at the key variations in both forms of the game.


The most obvious feature of a live poker game, which doesn’t exist to the same extent online, is psychology. When you are not able to look your opponent in the eye, you cannot pick up any physical tells.

There are, of course, timing tells in online poker, but these are few and far between compared to physical cues in a live game. You can easily see who is nervous, who is drunk, who is aggressive, and who is bored.

There’s also another element of live poker psychology, which is far less common online, too. Boredom. The ability to multi-table online means you are far less likely to play junk hands just for something to do. Driving miles to a physical casino only to sit and fold everything aside from Aces and Kings is simply not going to happen.

This leads us nicely into our next point…


The quality of play online tends to be higher than in a live game. Of course there is still plenty of fish, but when people are multi-tabling, they are less likely to be playing trash hands. Even so, the average live poker game is a far more sociable affair.

People want to talk with their friends, so they become distracted. Many live players enjoy a drink, so their decision-making ability is impaired. Since players tend to be more sociable in the live environment, there is often a less focused vibe. You will see many more multi-way pots where people are splashing around for the fun of it.

Live poker cliques are also far less likely to challenge each other. Online poker enthusiasts will sit around reading forums and exchanging high-level strategy discussions, whereas groups of live poker players are more often simply socializing.


Online poker players sitting at their computers can take advantage of an array of tools that are not available to live players. It’s very easy to sit with charts open on a second screen, or some kind of HUD display. Not to mention hand tracking and analysis tools.

This also partially explains why the quality of online poker is higher on average. But the truth is, if you want to raise your poker game to the next level, you need to study. People who play live poker exclusively are missing out on becoming better players.


The speed of online poker allows you to pack in many more hands than live poker games. Not only does the internet allow you to play several tables at once, but each game moves along at a quicker pace.

At a physical table, you might only see 30 to 40 hands per hour. With a human being shuffling the deck between hands and players taking longer to act, it can be a slow experience. But is that a problem? Well, it certainly can be.

The pace of a session is slower in live poker than online poker

First of all, fewer hands played means less experience gained, which brings us yet again to the point about quality. But further, variance is far more likely to come into play with live poker. If you are cramming in 10 or 12 times as many hands per hour online, you can emerge from a prolonged downswing in a matter of days. But in live games, it could literally drag on for weeks, which can grind you down mentally.


Another point to note on the differences between live and online poker is that the latter tends to run promotions, which online poker players can take advantage of. For example, Natural8 frequently runs freerolls, such as the Weekly Saturday Freeroll, Hourly Freeroll, and VIP Club Freeroll. Online poker players can utilize these freerolls to practice with a large pool of players who are seated at random.

Meanwhile, live poker players may find it hard to practice for free. There aren’t that many free live poker events to begin with, so live poker players would have to find a group of players that they can train with for free. Even then, as everyone has their own schedule to adhere to, they may be unable to practice as frequently as online poker players who can easily find opponents online. Practicing with the same group also means that live poker players are exposed to limited types of poker players, instead of the wide variety of players that they may face should they choose to play online.

Switching Between Online and Live Poker

As a general rule, it’s easier for an experienced online poker player to move into a live game than the other way around. They will still need to make major adjustments. However, since they tend to be more disciplined and experienced, they can adapt more easily.

While it can be trickier for a live poker player to change to online, the potential rewards are manifold. If you want to become a better player, you simply must log more online hands. Your discipline and focus will improve.

You will be put in many tricky spots far more frequently, thus improving your hand reading and decision-making abilities. Furthermore, you can easily track individual hands, which allows analysis and study at a later date. This will help you to plug gaps in your game.

So if you’re a live player ready to make the leap to online poker, why not get started right away by signing up for a free account with Natural8?