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Online Poker vs. Live Poker

How to optimize your playing style for both games

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Many poker players play both live and online poker, and often times their game theory and strategy will not change regardless of which game they are playing.

Even the most proficient earners in both games can optimize their play to maximize their winnings.

The two games are so vastly different, it is night and day. Developing a strategy and different awareness for each game will improve your game and increase your profits.

Table Image

The online poker world is full of stats and HUD overlays that half the table may be using.

This is especially true in recent years as the online game has gotten tougher, as many players will face a ton of “regulars”, professionals, or semi professionals at their tables.

Tools such as PokerEdge or Hold Em Manger allow players to track every hand they’ve played against their opponents, giving them a solid outline of their opponents playing style.

For this reason, trying to manipulate your table image online may be difficult as your opponents may have thousands of hands of data on your playing style.

Wildly open raising, attacking blinds, or showing down a poor hand most likely won’t get your opponents to label you as a fish. In many cases, some of the players at the table have played with you before or have a long history against you, and due to the stat heavy world of online poker manipulating your table image may not be very profitable.

Live poker on the other hand, is a totally different story. Live players are generally much worse poker players than online players and often jump to conclusions about each individual player’s skill.

Showdown a poor hand in a big pot? You will be labeled a fish forever in some people’s eyes. Show someone a bluff once? They will never believe you have a hand ever again. For the most part, each time you head to the casino you are facing a table full of unknowns (of which most play very poorly) who know very little about your playing style.

Your table image is a massive tool in a live game. Live poker opponents will often make snap judgments about your play without considering other factors, allowing you to exploit them in future hands. Utilize your table image against your opponents to maximize your profits.


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Pre-Flop Hand Selection and Implied Odds

We put these under the same heading because they are directly related to each other. Of course, depending on stack size, position, and number of opponents, hand selection and the resulted implied odds can vary wildly. Our recommendations are generalizations of the current climate of the live and online game.

Pre-flop hand selection is much more important in online poker compared to live. Due to the quality of your opponents, playing hands out of position or calling raises with marginal hands can really punish your bankroll.

Of course stack sizes at each table will vary, but for the most part your implied odds will be much worse online compared to your local brick and mortar casino. We are not advocating folding medium quality hands in position, but your general awareness needs to be much higher when playing online.

Playing well in the blinds is also extremely important, efficient play from the blinds can make a massive difference in your win rate. Position, stack size, and the quality of your opponents, are much more important when playing online.

Live poker usually provides players with a chance to open up their pre-flop hand ranges, especially from late position. In most small to mid stakes no limit games such at $1-3 no limit or $2-5 no limit, pots will often be multi way to the flop, increasing the number of hands you can play and driving up pot/implied odds.

Suited connectors and pocket pairs skyrocket in value due to the large amount of players seeing the flop. Also, due to the willingness of live players to stack off with marginal hands, you can be more liberal when calling out of position.

Aggressiveness and Bluffing

Online poker is a hotbed of aggression, as you sit at each table your opponents are already pulling up your stats and beginning to size you up as an opponent.

Aggression is at an all time high in today’s online action. Online players are regularly firing out continuation bets and will not hesitate to try a double or triple barrel bluff attempt.

Bluffing as a whole occurs much more online than it does in the live game. It is an important part of the online game, as often times the first one to bet at the pot will often take it down.

Be aware of spots that your opponent may try and run a bluff and develop a plan to combat a player that you believe is running you over. On the opposite side, choose your bluff spots wisely and utilize poker hand tracking software to determine your opponent’s weaknesses.

Live poker is generally a much less aggressive game than online poker. A somewhat weak passive strategy can be profitable in many live games. Live players are also generally less likely to bluff, making value betting, bluffs of your own, and semi bluffing much more profitable.

Do not try to run over a table though, in some live games you won’t be able to bluff your opponents and the only way you will win is by having the best cards at showdown. As always, choose your spots wisely and realize that most of your live opponents are probably not capable of making big folds.

A pot control style will work best when playing live, on dry nonthreatening boards there is no need to fire massive bets where you will be called only if beaten. There is no shame checking the turn with top pair, if you feel your opponent may have a big hand.

You can also be sure in most cases, if you are check raised on the turn on a dry board and your hand is of medium strength it likely isn’t good. Live players for the most part are unimaginative, and their raises often polarize their ranges making them easy to read.

Live poker and online poker have the same rules but are two totally different games. Understanding the differences and developing a playing style for both games will help you become more profitable and take your poker game to the next level.




Not all poker rooms are made equal and the poker professionals know it. There are more poker pros at pokerstars than any other poker room as PokerStars is the online poker room with the best selection of tournaments and active stake levels including up to NL1000 and higher.


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