Many poker players in the United States are curious about online poker and whether it’s better or worse than live poker in a brick-and-mortar cardroom. Well, there are advantages and drawbacks to each format of poker, so one isn’t definitively superior to the other. There are a number of factors you should consider before deciding which type of poker room is right for you.
First of all, it’s important to find an honest, well-run place to play. There are some juicy private poker games in people’s houses in every state, but you’re probably best off heading to a licensed casino for land-based poker so that you aren’t subject to cheating or other shady shenanigans. The various state and tribal gaming commissions check up on the offline gambling facilities located within their jurisdictions to make sure everything is legit. Of course, this doesn’t apply if you’re playing among your own friends, but if you’re reading this page, then you’re probably looking for new games with people you don’t already know.
Online, it’s equally critical to protect your funds by playing only at reputable places. Most of the offshore internet poker sites that serve the United States are regulated and supervised by the appropriate authorities in the countries where they’re based, but there are a few that are outright scams. Fortunately, watchdog sites have created blacklists of dishonest operators so that you can read up on which companies to avoid.
There are some who believe, incorrectly, that online poker in illegal to play in the United States. This is false. There are no federal laws criminalizing the activity, and the few state laws that might apply are never enforced. The bottom line is that wagering on poker over the internet is completely legal for citizens of the U.S.A.
Choosing Your Stakes
Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pro, you’ll want to find games that are an appropriate size for your level of skill and the size of your bankroll. This is where online poker tables may prove more convenient than live poker because the range of blind levels available is much wider online.
Many online poker sites spread tables as low as $0.02/$0.04 or even $0.01/$0.02. At the other end of the spectrum, games of $5/$10, $10/$20, and higher are common.
In an offline casino poker room, the micro-stakes games aren’t present. It would simply cost too much to spread penny games in a live setting. The lowest blind level in brick-and-mortar environments is usually $1/$1 or $1/$2. If you’re a high-roller, you may be able to play in bigger games live than online, but this really depends on the geographic area you live in because such high-stakes games aren’t offered at every terrestrial poker room.
Be aware that games of similar stakes are generally much tougher online than in live poker. For instance, $1/$2 in an offline casino might correspond roughly, in game quality, to a $0.10/$0.25 game online. This is the reason why some individuals who are big winners in their local games turn out to lose when they attempt to play the same stakes on the internet.
Differences in the Game Experience
Because of the fact that there’s no human dealer in online games and all betting occurs merely with the click of a button, the pace of the game is much faster. Whereas live poker players are lucky to see 30 hands per hour, it’s not uncommon for virtual poker tables to deal out 60 or more hands in the same timeframe. Furthermore, you can sit down at multiple tables online: an impossibility in a B&M cardroom. If you’re an action junkie, online poker may be the correct choice for you.
On the other hand, there’s more social interaction and a greater possibility of getting inside the heads of your adversaries when you can actually see them seated across the felt from you. While the subject of tells and sick soul reads is mostly exaggerated by the media and lay public, they are real elements of the game that are more prominent at a physical table than a virtual one. If you enjoy the psychological battle of wits that’s involved in poker, then a game spread in a casino will probably satisfy you more than one hosted on the internet.
The largest sites for poker online have hundreds of simultaneously active tables, which lets you sit in only the juiciest games that you see. Moreover, you can open up several sites on your computer at once to compare the action across all of them before deciding where you will play your upcoming session.
Table selection is much worse in a live setting because there may only be a few dozen tables going even in the largest cardrooms. During off-peak hours, this may dwindle down to only a couple of games running. Furthermore, once you get to your destination, you’re pretty much committed to playing there unless you wish to leave, get in your car, and drive to another casino.
This is changing with the introduction of innovative web apps, like Bravo Poker Live, which gives you info on what games are running and where, allowing you to make informed plans before you even leave your house. In some cases, you can even put yourself on a waitlist before you reach the casino and then claim your seat once you arrive.
The final consideration to take into account is that there may not be any legal, live poker games offered near your location. Unless you feel like exploring underground gaming dens of dubious integrity, your only realistic option in this case will be to play online. There are a few sites that exclude residents of certain states for one reason or another, but every state has at least a few upstanding organizations that provide dependable online poker games.
Why not Both?
B&M poker and online poker each have their own strengths and weaknesses, so it’s not surprising that you might prefer one over the other. Yet, you may find the most satisfaction by playing both. Even those who appreciate the social aspects of live poker might want to head online when the weather is bad or the local poker scene is dead. Similarly, online poker aficionados sometimes feel like breaking their lonely isolation by going outside and playing against flesh-and-blood opponents. Both forms of poker are waiting for you in whatever proportion you feel most comfortable with.