Is your local weekly or monthly card game getting stale? Have you out-skilled your mates and they now avoid your invitation for the home Hold'em game? Are you looking for a professional player's environment? Are you looking to speed up your playing development? Are you looking for a way to exploit your prowess at the table and increase your bankroll? Or, are you just simply looking for a change of pace? These are all questions that can and will lead players headlong into a decision between online poker play and live casino play.
What we will do for you here is to present the options that you have available to you and outline the pros and cons of each. No matter which avenue you take to step up your game play, you will be faced with a different experience than you are used to having seated around the home table. It is important to note that whatever the pros and cons are, that you need to look at what you are hoping to accomplish in your own personal poker game play.
Whether you're making a quick trip to Sky City Auckland, dropping by Macau to rub shoulders with the high-stakes players hoping to breathe the same air, or you're heading to the other side of the globe to hit the felt in Las Vegas, you're going to walk into a bustling hive of gambling and entertainment activity. As you walk into a live game room you will be faced with a multitude of game-play options spanning the whole gamut of poker variations. With the play variations will come a multitude of potential distractions as well, from big-screen TVs, to constant movement of patrons and staff, to food, drink, music… Getting a feel yet? Casino play gives a look and feel you're not going to find anywhere else.
Each casino will offer a different selection of games and stakes that should fit most play tastes and stake/skill levels that a player might have. If you're looking for Hold'em, you'll no doubt find an active game at most times during the day to fit your needs. While, they don't offer games in quite the array of stake levels that an online game room will, they will offer stakes for the beginning, moderate and advanced player.
Most live rooms will also offer a separate lounge for more exclusive high-stakes play. Here, you may catch a glimpse of the occasional WSOP personality or other celebrity stacking chips. If your tastes are for a less popular poker variation, your options might be a bit more limited as tables and/or seats for those games might be in short supply. Live card rooms will also offer daily tournaments, but again the game selection and stakes will vary as will the start times.
A big aspect of live play is that it is in a very active and social environment. This can be a good thing for a player. In addition to the charm of playing with actual cards and chips, the undeniable benefit to live poker play is being able to see your opponents across the table or next to you and being able to analyze their actions/reactions for potential tells or clues to their playing strategy. This fact alone is enough to make some players swear by live play. Being able to look directly into another player's eyes and watch their hopes shatter as you break their straight with your Kings-full and stack their chips is a rush.
While live play gives the observant player an advantage, for some players this overly social atmosphere can be too much for them to focus on the game. There will be live dealers, obnoxious players, observers, pit bosses, waitresses bringing food and drinks, TVs broadcasting sports and other updates, the lure of entertainment and many more people and sights begging for attention, to say nothing of all of the details of each player at the table that you need to be aware of.
At peak times, the room may be crowded and seats limited causing you to wait for play and not be able to make the best use of the time you've set aside for your trip to the casino. When you get to the table, you need to be constantly aware of your opponent's play style and chip stacks, be quick to assess the pot size, and other issues like guarding your cards and not giving other players information about your hand or play style. Suffice it to say that there is a lot going on around you when you sit down at a live table, some that you need to be aware of and some that you will need to block out.
Another major consideration when looking to play in a live poker room is the effort it takes to get there. If you're lucky enough to live around the corner or across town from your casino of choice, it's probably negligible, but for most of us, it takes quite a bit of time, effort or money just to get to a location where we can sit down at a table. With this issue of convenience it typically means that you will have to limit your trips to a live poker room because it requires a lot each time you go. Some players allow this fact to affect the way they play. It can lead a player to play a bit too aggressively or at too high of stakes as they try to maximize their time at the table while they have it.
The Internet is calling you and you decide to take the plunge and sign up for your site of choice. The first thing you notice is your surroundings. No, we don't mean on the screen, but the room around you. You're at home, on your computer, quite possibly in your underwear. That's okay because your trip to the card room took exactly 15 steps from your bed to the computer. In fact, you didn't even need to do that because you could've used your mobile or tablet and played without ever getting out of bed. The point is that online play could not possibly be more convenient. There's no need to request off work, no need to coordinate a weekend away, no 2… 4… 12 hours of driving or expense of plane fare and a hotel stay, and no need to get dressed. In just a few seconds more than it takes to turn on your computer, mobile or tablet you can be at a table looking at your first flop.
Once you log into the site and hit the "lobby," you will have a myriad of choices of games and stakes at your fingertips (or mouse click). Hold'em tournament? Check. Low-stakes Omaha? Check. High-stakes sit-n-go game? Got it. Oh! Did you say you were wanting to play at 3AM? No worries. There will be games available to suit your needs whenever you want them. It's hard to overlook the importance of this. It allows you to play at your skill/stakes level and build your experience and bankroll at your speed at a time that fits your schedule.
Another feature of online play that many players come to rely on is how the user interface gives a player all of the information he or she needs right in front of them. What this means to players is that they don't have to constantly be figuring out another player's chip stack or pot total as the game progresses. In online play, that information is right there on the screen. You know that AucklandSiren23 has $215 in her stack and you know that the pot currently has $175 in it.
Therefore, your pot-sized bet will no doubt cause AucklandSiren23 to fold or push all-in. And, you know this with just a glance and not after taking time to count or estimate chips. And being hidden behind a computer, mobile or tablet screen AucklandSiren23 will not see you sweating bullets because you made your pot-sized bluff holding Ace-6 and decides she probably ought to fold her over pair to your apparent flopped set. She also won't see you doing that embarrassing dance as the program drops those digital chips into your growing stack.
Arguably, the biggest benefit that online play offers over live play is the speed of play and ability to register hands played at an amazing rate. On average, online play will generate hands at about twice the speed of live play. Part of this is due to being able to see your hole cards and click the "Check/Fold" or "Fold To Any Bet" option with your unappealing cards. When you or another player checks this option the dealer/game will auto-muck your hand if checking is not possible and the game moves much faster. In addition to this, the online game will have a time limit for making a decision. In a live game, a player may posture and ponder his trash for a minute or two before folding.
Online, there is a limit to the amount of time a player can take with his/her decision. Adding to the amount of hands you can see is the ability to play games at multiple tables at the same time. Players can split their screen between 2 or more tables greatly increasing the number of hands they see and maximizing their chances of increasing their bankroll. Of course, this means a player could lose his bankroll faster as well. Add this to online deposit bonuses and it offers players a great way to push up their winnings.
Online play is not without its drawbacks. A couple hands later, you will not notice AucklandSiren23 spit coffee across her screen and giggle as she slow plays the flopped nut-flush into your set. There are betting nuances that you will be able to pick out from players, but for the most part, tells are all but removed from the online play experience. While casino play offers an array of distractions, the online player is not immune either. You will have annoying roommates, the TV playing, and the doorbell ringing right as the river hits, to say nothing about the cat which decided to walk across the keyboard and inadvertently fold your pocket Kings.
Just because you decide to play at home doesn't mean you will be without the potential to have your attention pulled from your game. Another factor of online play that makes some players shy away from it is that it just doesn't feel "real". This comes into play in a couple of ways. First, there's a certain charm to the sound of the shuffle and to fingering the chips and hearing the "click" as they bounce into the pot. (And those fancy chip tricks are much harder to pull off with electronic blips!) Another aspect that can cause new online players problems is that the money doesn't seem as real when it's in digital form. This can cause loose play and the potential for making ill-advised bets or calls which can lead a player to deplete his/her stack.
The decision between online and live poker play is one of preference for most players. Some players are committed to live play while others never venture away from their computers. If you're looking for the hustle and bustle and real-life interaction then live play is for you.
If convenience, speed of play, variety and availability of games is more to your preference, then online play is the direction you should look. With all the benefits at our fingertips, we tend to prefer to log our poker hands from the comfort of our homes and from our own computers, mobiles and tablets. After all, what's not to love about making money without ever needing to roll out of bed in the morning?
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