Online vs. Live Poker



Online Poker vs. Live Poker

In the first segment of what I plan to be an intermittent but continuing series about the online vs. live poker debate, today I'm looking into the relative advantages and disadvantages of the two kinds of poker for players vulnerable to going on tilt (playing much worse than you're capable of playing, because you are upset or angry).

The list of reasons why players go on tilt is quite lengthy, but one of the most common is a bad beat that leads to the desire to play another hand as soon as possible, so you can win your money back. A player feeling this way often has a hard time releasing a hand that should be released, because he might have to wait a while (minutes that feel like hours) for another one.

If you're a player who falls into this category, online poker might offer a nice cushion, because online games usually play at twice the speed of live games. This doesn't always happen, of course; sometimes play is slowed by players who get disconnected, or by players who are playing two games simultaneously and who are involved at their other table, or by cheats who need time to talk on the phone to their confederates.

Online Games Move Faster

But in general, the online games move a lot faster. The computer deals cards a lot faster than any human can, no one has to count out a bet, players can pre-select the "fold in turn" button, the dealer doesn't have to move chips into the pot, and doesn't have to split a pot, should a split pot occur.

Because these games move so quickly, it is easier for the tilted player to throw a hand away (at least for all but the most tilted players), because the wait for another hand won't be as long. If you're playing in two games simultaneously, this effect is even stronger, because there's a new hand coming along almost momentarily, but I don't recommend two games at once. It's too easy to accidentally hit the wrong button when you switch from one game to another, and I think it's discourteous to the other players.

Besides, if you are on ultra-tilt, two games at once just lets you lose at an astounding rate.

The Hidden "Investment" In Live Games: Your Time

Another variation on the same theme is the player who is having a losing session and whose play has deteriorated as a result. If this player has had to drive any distance at all to get to his poker game, he may quite understandably be reluctant to leave, even though he knows he tends to play worse when losing. He doesn't want to throw away the "investment" of the time it took to drive to the game and (if it's a cardroom) the time it took to get into a game.

There's no such problem with online poker, though. If you find your play deteriorating, you can just leave the game and come back to it as soon as you're feeling better; no drive wasted. And unlike a regular cardroom, you won't have to wait an hour to get back into a game. You might have to play a different limit for a little while, but you'll probably be able to get back into action much faster.

Does this mean I advocate playing online poker instead of live poker? No. I'm still worried about the collusion problem (although I have been impressed by the answers I've gotten to inquiries I've made into suspected collusion from one online room), I still like the camaraderie of a live game, and I still like being able to see or smell fear in my opponents. I think the ease of throwing "virtual chips" into a pot will lead to trouble for some players. I'm also convinced that online poker, like all forms of online gambling, will lead to big trouble for people who already have gambling problems and for people who might be borderline problem gamblers.

But the online games aren't without their advantages, and I want you to have both sides of the story.