It is vital to one’s poker education to know the differences between playing poker online and in brick-and-mortar casinos; there are several substantial distinctions between each game and without a proper understanding you could easily bust out. The biggest difference by far is the speed of each game: playing online completely automatizes the actions of the dealer and makes them instantaneous, meaning online poker is much faster. Online games usually range from around 90 hands per hour in standard 9-handed tables and 120-150 hands in 6-handed games all the way to as high as 200 hands in heads-up play (2 people). In casino games you can expect around 30/50/80 (if heads up is even offered, a real rarity outside of tournament play) for the same amount of players due to again the dealer, general player interactions (physically checking cards, throwing them, actually lifting, stacking and pushing chips, etc.) and most of all shuffling the deck.
No better way to start of the game than through shuffling of cards when the 52-card deck is given a random shuffle then things start to become interesting that gives you the vibes of AmanQQ online round.
Both online and casino poker have a variety of tells but playing in person gives you many more. Poker is an information based game – the more information you have on an opponent, the more you you can manipulate your strategy to make consistently informed and correct decisions and ultimately place yourself in more spots to win. Naturally, the ability to see the person you’re playing against gives you a bevy of (in)voluntary tells that can’t be utilized online, but that’s not to say there aren’t online tells based around betting speed, stack sizes and inconsistency in their playing style. Caro’s Book of Poker Tells is an excellent guide to the physical tells made in a casino, while for online tells there isn’t really a standout source because there aren’t as many tells to cover.
Another substantial difference is rakeback: it dramatically gives edge toward the success of online players. Casinos and online card rooms alike make money from each hand in the form of “rake” – a small percentage of money taken out of each pot that at least makes it to the flop (the first three community cards). Depending on the stakes and card room/casino it’s usually just change but ultimately capped at $2/hand. Many places also have a loyalty system to reward players based on this rake to keep them playing at their casino or card room – casinos give out reward cards and time how long you play at a stake and give you points which can be redeemed for food, lodging or gifts in some store they have.
Online sites have this system in place as well, but informed players (it’s usually unmentioned on their website in lieu of their rewards program but Googleing will come up with dozens of places to sign up) will sign up for rakeback, a system which directly deposits into your account a percentage of the rake you generated, anywhere from 1 percent to as high as even 40 percent, paid either weekly or monthly in forfeiture of the prize system (or at a severely stunted point rate). Many break-even players online obtain rakeback and play such a large volume of hands that rakeback makes them profitable; casinos aren’t made for this strategy. Playing large volume leads to my next difference…
Multitabling. Online players are allowed to play on more than one table at the same time, ideally multiplying the amount of hands they can play in an hour by how many tables they’re on. Beginners of multitabling play on anywhere from 2-4 tables, but those who have figured out a successful strategy for multitabling usually have several monitors set up and can play as many as 32 at the same time. Winning players can see a dramatic raise in profits when playing on more than one table; even more so when combined with the money generated from rakeback.
Thirty-two tables at the same time might seem a little daunting but there are tools available to ease the process tools such as HUDs, or Heads-Up Displays. HUDs are additional poker software which can be run with online poker rooms; they compile information based on hands previously seen with opponents (nothing sneaky or illegal, just the information you were able to see) and display key facts and statistics next to the player’s name. Just sitting at a table and activating a HUD will record all of the hands played in that game, and suddenly you have tons of new information about whoever you’re playing against. From these hands the HUD extrapolates and displays certain percentages of a players actions, and based on these you can make more informed decisions.
There are tons of statistics you could potentially display but to get the general idea of how effective HUDs can be I’ll just explain one: VPIP. VPIP stands for “voluntarily put money in pot” – it’s the percentage of time in all of the hands you have seen with a player that he either called the blind or raised pre-flop, aka all of the times he agreed to put his own money into a pot when he didn’t have to. If a player has a VPIP of, say, 80-90 percent, then there’s no telling what kind of hand he could be playing with – he could have literally any two cards. Contrary to this, if a person’s VPIP is hovering around 10% you know this person is only playing premium hands and folding all of the junk. Based on knowing this statistic you can effectively adjust your strategy; if a person has a really low VPIP you probably shouldn’t bluff him or reraise preflop because there is a very good chance he actually has a decent hand – wait until the flop and play accordingly or fold less than stellar hands if he raised.
Statistics like this are extremely useful for players whether they’re playing on just one table or all the way up to 32. The more tables someone is concurrently playing on, the better the chance his playing style is “automatic” and he’s just basing his actions on the information his HUD is displaying. Needless to say casinos don’t have anything like this in place.
One more major difference between online card rooms and casinos is the number of players. Millions of players from around the world can play on the same site online at the same time, allowing for 10s of 1,000s of people to be entered in the same tournament – you’ll always be able to find a game online with a player base that large. Card rooms have significantly less players than that at a given time.
There are other smaller or obvious differences, such as the money saved online by not having to tip your dealer and the fact that you don’t have to leave your home to play online but need to travel to a casino to play in person, but the changes explained above are just the major ones. It seems pretty even in the end – the substantial advantage given to live players through visible tells is even with online players who choose to data-mine statistics through HUDs. It’s ultimately up to the player to decide which game they feel more comfortable playing.