The Difference Between Online Poker and Regular Poker

The Difference Between Online Poker and Regular Poker

You might first think that there aren’t many real life differences between playing poker at a table and learning how to play online poker. While there are many similarities, the truth is that there are some fundamental differences and it would be a mistake to assume that you can play both the exact same way.

There are nuances, strategies, and methods of play that vastly differ between online poker and regular poker. Randomly figuring out how to play online poker can be a fun and cheap pastime, and it can give you essential skills for playing regular poker, which is why many poker players begin their career online. However, let’s look at some of the key differences so you can avoid common pitfalls and save yourself some serious grief.


When you learn how to play online poker, the first thing you become accustomed to is the speed of play. Everyone at the table, whether they are real players playing from home like you, or virtual players automated by the game, will typically play pretty fast.

This is mainly because timers are built into the method of play to keep the game moving. If a player leaves the game but doesn’t sign out, the game has to keep going, so the game only gives you a certain amount of time to play when it’s your turn. If you don’t play before time runs out, most programs will either make you fold or call if there is a bet on the table.


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This keeps the pace energetic and online poker players quickly adapt. But when you switch to regular poker, which is filled with all the subtleties and quarks of reality, you’ll notice that it moves much, much slower. Players tend to take their time, size each other up, and are much more patient with their betting. If you’re a serious player, taking your time is a good thing.


One of the cool things when you learn how to play poker online is that there is a huge variety of games to choose from. You can start out with 5 Card Stud and easily play Texas Hold’Em a few minutes later. There is always a game ready for you, always players willing to join, and always a program ready to generate virtual players to fill the seats.

Online play means little to no waiting, and that’s just for starting a game. You can also select the betting limits and tournament structure you prefer, too. This kind of personalized reality just isn’t present in regular poker. Yes, games and tournaments can be found easily if you are in the right city, but for players who live nowhere near regular game venues, they are very limited in the kinds of poker they can play and when they can play them.


The social game in regular poker can be pretty strong. When you sit down with real people and you look at their faces while the game trudges through a few hours of play, you get a sense of who they are. Very often, after the game ends, you can grab a friendly drink with the other players and real, lasting relationships form.

There have been many studies showing that regular poker has a large social component to the gameplay. Everything you say and do is being analyzed by the other players, including how you interact with them through speech and betting practices.

The anonymity of online poker is quite the opposite. Because people are shielded by screen names and very rarely have to give their actual identifying information when they learn how to play poker online, they are much less likely to engage socially with other players. Yes, there are chat options and if you frequent the same virtual tables/rooms often enough, you’re likely to find some online friends to play with. However, you aren’t developing much of a social game with those kinds of players since you can’t register their communication (both verbal and nonverbal).


When you first learn how to play poker online, you’ll probably also be introduced to different tools that can help you with betting. Some poker programs offer algorithms that help you balance the odds to see if continuing to play works in your favor. These are similar to the metrics shown on the screen for viewers at home who are watching live poker tournaments. They are very valuable for online players and can really make the difference between winning and losing.

Regular poker doesn’t have that. There are no live metrics being flashed across your field of vision every time a player makes a choice or a card comes out. Viewers at home can see information like this, but live players at the table rely on their wits, intuition, and luck.

That’s not to say that there aren’t certain aspects that only live players can take advantage of. Tells, which are little ticks that divulge information about a player’s intentions, can typically only be seen live and in person. Regular poker means you can sit and study your opponents, learning their tells (if they have any – some people train for years to get rid of their tells), and making your decisions in the game based on their actions/reactions.


When you bust at a live tournament, it can be embarrassing. People don’t always like to do it, and they tend to play more cautiously in regular poker. Something you learn when you are adapting for how to play poker online, however, is how easy it is to go all in. This can be seen as a big move in regular play, but online, it’s just another way of betting, equated with raising. Online players are much more cavalier with their betting, which means you are more likely to see people go all in online than in regular poker.

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