Is There Really a Difference Between Online Poker and Playing in Live Tournaments?

Source: Tom “durrrr” Dwan via Facebook 

Caption: Tom Dwan is well-known for straddling the online and live poker worlds 

On the face of it, online poker and live poker almost seem like two separate games. One of the most well-known things about the card game is that players need to use psychological techniques to try to get a bead on their opponent and second-guess what they might be holding. Even poker novices will have heard of tells, and films like Rounders have also emphasized the importance of watching the other players at the table. Some of the most successful players in the world have managed to master predicting what their opponents are holding through observation, while, at the same time, concealing their own emotions. But, in the online world, you can’t even see your opponents, so how can players incorporate the same techniques? Here, we analyse the differences between online and live poker, and discuss how playing both can help players take their game to the next level.

Playing Multiple Tables in Online Poker

One of the biggest advantages of playing online is the fact that multiple tables can be played at the same time. At most poker sites, players don’t even need to switch between screens to play different games, and can instead minimize the windows to view up to four games simultaneously. There are numerous benefits to playing in this way, and most professional online poker players incorporate this strategy. Instead of playing one tournament and having to wait patiently for good hands to arrive, players have a much higher chance of receiving good cards when they are playing a few games at the same time. Sometimes, when playing only one game, players can get impatient and decide to play cards even if they go against the optimum strategy. When playing multiple tables, there is less risk of this occurring. There is also the chance of taking down more prizes and, to highly skilled players, it saves a lot of time.

Don’t be confused between playing multiple poker tables online and multiple table tournaments, though, as there is a big difference. Multi-table live tournaments are huge events which feature hundreds of players who initially sit at a number of different tables. These players are whittled down over time until there is only one table left. These live poker tournaments, which are otherwise known as MTTs, are rocking the poker world and are popular among beginners and professionals alike. Playing multiple tables online first can be a good way to get an understanding of how big poker tournaments work.

Can you Bluff Online?

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As noted above, when playing online, it is impossible to bluff in the traditional sense. In other words, players are unable to hide their facial expressions or conceal their emotions. There are, though, other ways to bluff and these methods in the online world have often been transported to the world of live poker.

The main way in which people bluff online is through their bet sizing. In simple terms, to bluff with bet sizing, you would bet more when you have a weaker hand and aim to bet less when you have a stronger hand. Players can also make use of the time bank as a way to make it seem like they are seriously contemplating a decision. There are more advanced ways to bluff through bet sizing once you have got used to playing online. One way is to mix up your betting and reveal some hands to your opponents. For example, if you receive a good starting hand like pocket aces early on, it could be a solid strategy to bet big and make people fold. Then, by revealing the hand at the end, the other players will think you are someone who bets heavily when they have good cards. By making plays like this in the embryonic stages of a tournament where the prize pools are much smaller, you can set yourself up to win so much more in the latter stages.

When bluffing online, it is unwise to do it out of position. If you are looking to bet big to take down a pot when you feel nobody else has anything, you want to be the last person to act in that round. Otherwise, the player to your left could bet over the top of you and put you in an untenable situation where you are forced to fold. Some of the most successful online players are those that realize the importance of position, and this is something which has now become more apparent in live games.

Are There any Players that are Involved in Both?

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When online poker first got big during the poker boom, there were poker traditionalists who didn’t take to it. But the rise of online poker sites brought about a whole new generation of poker player. Now, a large number of players begin by plying their trade online before entering live poker tournaments. For instance, the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event champion Scott Blumstein began by playing online tournaments while at Temple University studying for an accounting degree. Doug Polk is another prime example of an online poker player who has also had success in live tournaments. At one stage, the California-born streamer was considered one of the best online cash game players in the world. He went on to have 11 money finishes at the WSOP, with five final table appearances.
Tom Dwan is perhaps the best-known online poker player of all time, and the player who was known as “durrrr” began his career with a meagre $50 bankroll. By 2008, he had managed to earn $5.4 million, making him one of the most successful online poker players in the world. Dwan went on to play a lot of live poker games and appeared on numerous television shows, including Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker.

How Can Players Learn From Playing Online?

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There is a lot for poker players to learn from playing online, and to do well in the modern game, it is almost essential to get experience on the internet. Just like with games like roulette, there is a lot of mathematics and probability involved with poker. By playing online and not having to focus on the psychological cues of other opponents, players are able to focus more on the statistical side of the game. By doing this, they can adapt their technique so that they are always using an optimum strategy. In a live situation, it may be tempting for players to bluff sometimes even when they don’t have good cards. But, online, this kind of play is not going to lead to success in the long term. Therefore, players who have trained online and take these skills to live games can frequently prevail.

The differences between playing online and in live tournaments nowadays are not as vast as they were in the early years of the poker boom. A lot of up-and-coming players are part of the poker boom generation, and they are learning their skills online before taking them to the live games. For this reason, the game is changing and there is a lot more emphasis on mathematical skill and correct bet sizing.

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