When people hear that I am a professional poker player, they usually have a lot of questions for me. One of the questions that inevitably comes up is about the difference between playing poker in person and on the internet. Since I have played quite a bit of poker in person over the last 10 years, in addition to playing more hands than just about anyone on the internet, I feel that I have a good grasp on the differences. Here are a few of them:
1. Hands. Since things such as dealing and counting chips are automated, play is much, much faster on the internet. You typically get between 80 and 120 hands per table per hour(depending on the game) on the internet vs. 30 per hour per table in person. Also, you may choose to play multiple tables on the internet, which allows you to play even more hands as compared to playing in person. This makes online play more profitable than live play at similar stakes.
2. Statistics. Stats are a very important part of poker, and the internet allows you to gather concrete data and analyze it over a more significant sample size. You can use your data to make better informed decisions about your opponents and use that data in real time. In live poker, a small sample size and limited time can skew your data gathering and since the data you collect is limited, it can be tougher to get a data set big enough to make concrete judgements about players and situations.
3. Tells. In live poker, for the most part, the reading of tells and facial expressions is limited and does not play a big role in the decision making process. There are times you can get a good tell on someone, but it is usually overruled by the hard data you have collected about the way the particular hand has been played. The part of reading live tells that is significant are what I call the obvious tells, such as when someone talks about their hand or it is very obvious that they are happy or unhappy with their hand. This happens far more often than you would think given the amount of money at stake. On the internet, it is much tougher to get those sorts of “timing” tells, so you rely almost completely on hard data.
4 . Time. Playing poker on the internet allows for a much better work/life balance. I am able to avoid time spent commuting, time spent waiting for games and can be assured of getting a good game whenever it is convenient. This allows me much more free time to spend with family, friends and other projects. When playing in person, I have to be at the casino when the games are running, and since I do not live close by, usually stay over for several nights. This is a big negative for me.
5. Profitability. There is no question that playing on the internet is more profitable and more stable for me than playing in person. The same amount of time spent playing on the internet generates a better and more consistent income for me and allows me to lead a better life then playing in person.
For all the reasons stated above, I am excited for Internet Poker to become legalized and regulated as soon as possible. It sounds as though this is a likely outcome after the election, and I am waiting as patiently and excitedly for that day. At that time I plan to return to playing on the internet full time.