Online and offline poker might look like the same game but, while they have many similarities, they also differ in some big ways. Sure, the rules are the same, but the gameplay can differ hugely, meaning that players often have to learn two different strategies when swapping between the two.
On this page, we’re going to look at the differences between online and offline poker, and more importantly, we’ll give you the information needed to decide which of them is best for you, regardless of whether you’re completely new to the game, or have been playing for years.
The first thing to say is this: those simply looking to make money will find that the online world is a great place to cast their net. There are far more fish – that is, people who simply aren’t very good players – online, especially when playing in the lower stakes cash games. On the other hand, those heading to a casino to play generally have a good grip of the game and will therefore represent a much tougher challenge.
Spotting a fish shouldn’t be too tough for experienced online players – just look for tactically naïve plays, such as playing out of position, poorly sized bets, erratic calls and a tendency to overplay hands. However, as you might have heard before, if you can’t find the fish within a few minutes, it’s probably you!
One huge difference between online and offline play is the ease at which you can bluff. When you’re playing offline, you’ll have access to all a player’s tells – every twitch of their nose, dart of their eyes and subtle body movement. After a while, you might be able to notice a correlation between their little actions and their poker play. The result? You can capitalise on their tells by playing accordingly.
Of course, the fact that tells come into play during an offline game is a double-edged sword. This is because you might also have tells of your own, which other players can capitalise on. The best offline players will limit or completely eradicate their tells and also have the skill and experience needed to exploit the tells of other players.
When you play online however, tells are a much smaller part of the game. There might be some smaller tells, such as a player’s pattern of play, however there’s no watching facial expressions or scrutinising them for any twitches or physical tells. Therefore, online players have to understand the math of poker more than offline players, which brings us onto our next point…
Those who play poker online using desktops or mobile devices have to understand the math. This means that they need to have a strong grasp of the various probabilities that come to play in poker, which means learning about pot odds and expected value, both of which are talked about in our blog on poker statistics .
The reason math is so important? Because you can’t use tells, you’ll have to rely on probability evening out results. You might have a bad session, but over the course of a month or year, odds should even out and match the probabilities you’ve worked out.
So, online players have to have a head for math and figures – something many people simply don’t have. If you’re the kind of player who plays on instinct and doesn’t delve too deeply into the mathematics and mechanics of the game, offline poker is probably your best choice – although learning the math will help your offline game as well.
Practice makes perfect, as they say, and this is certainly true when it comes to poker. The problem? For years, players had to spend – and usually lose – their own hard-earned cash in order to practice their game. This meant that many people shied away from playing, as they saw getting started as a waste of money.
This isn’t the case when it comes to online poker games though, as it is possible to play for free at nearly all online poker sites, plus there are also free poker apps. Players can learn the rules, understand basic tactics and improve their skills, without ever spending a penny. They can then move slowly through the levels, starting at $0.01/$0.02 and moving higher and higher as they get better and their bankroll grows.
Even those who want to play traditional poker offline would be advised to take advantage of practicing online, as they’re a great way to practice. Sure, they don’t quite replicate the exact decisions you’ll need to make in real money poker, but they’re a great way to learn the basics.
In offline poker, you can get to know your opponents pretty quickly. However, it’s far more difficult to understand the personalities and playing styles of online players, which is why you’ll need to use the available statistics to get a picture of the other players at the table.
You’ll find that many sites offer you the ability to write notes about players, which is great if you happen to come up against them again at some point. To really get to know them though, you’ll need to use poker software. This can tell you loads of stats about opponents, giving you the information needed to know how they’re likely to react in any situation.
As poker players will know, the rake can often significantly reduce the money won. This is essentially the house taking their cut of the money on the table, in order to pay for their overheads and also usually make a tidy profit as well. There is a much higher rake at offline casinos, as they simply have more costs to cover, such as staff and building costs.
Those at an online casino will find that the rake is minimal. While some land-based casinos can take up to 10% of the pot, online casinos will take a far smaller percentage . However, they still make a lot of money, as sites can have hundreds of games running at the same time – something that isn’t possible in a land-based casino.
While there are many differences between online and offline poker, there are also some important similarities too, with one of the biggest being the fact that bankroll management is vital to both. Regardless of whether you play online or offline, failing to play at the right stakes can lead to big problems for poker players.
With the Poker Stack app, you can manually add all the important facts and figures, allowing you to keep a close eye on everything you’re depositing, winning and losing, as well as allowing you to work out the stakes you should be playing for.
Many people also worry about cheating at poker, however this is another area where online and offline play are similar. This is because you’re highly unlikely to find any cheating in either version. Offline casinos employ many different methods in order to prevent cheating on the gaming floor, while online casinos run on highly sophisticated software that ensures every turn of the cards is completely random, thus making the game fair to everyone.
Of course, there have been examples of people cheating, both online and offline. However, the likelihood of it happening at a table you’re sitting at is miniscule. So, really, there’s no need to worry about cheating at all, regardless of whether you’re sitting at a poker table or playing online.
So, it’s time for the most important question: are you better suited to online or offline poker? Well, there are certainly pros and cons for each, however for the beginner player, we’d definitely say that online poker is the way to go. This is because it gives you the chance to learn the game for free while playing at one of the many free tables, plus there are loads of other newbies there, so you should be able to stand firm and not find yourself bullied by better players.
However, if you’re a more experienced player, you should play both. Online poker gives you the opportunity to play whenever you want, plus more experienced players will find quite a few players with lower abilities, even at mid-stakes tables. It’s also the case that the huge selection of games should excite any experienced player, giving them multiple ways to play, plus it’s easy to assemble large groups online, leading to big, lucrative tournaments.
Experienced players certainly shouldn’t ignore offline poker though, as for some it’s the ultimate test of a poker player. Sure, many people can play online, but how would you do looking into the eyes of your opponents? You should also play offline poker if you’ve got the ability to read other players’ tells – and minimise your own, of course.
Hopefully that should give you a good overview of the differences – and similarities – of offline and online poker. Now all you need to do is head online or to your local casino and start playing! Don’t forget to download Poker Stack before you do though, to ensure you’ve got complete control over your poker bankroll.