Do Online Poker Players Make Good Live Poker Players?

min read
Online poker on laptop with two black dice, playing cards, and casino chips
BetMGM Nov 19, 2023, 4:33 AM

Love playing online poker and wondering if your skills can translate to the felt tables of a brick-and-mortar casino? You’re not alone. Many online players contemplate taking their game to the live arena but may be concerned about whether their poker face is up to scratch.

So, can those who play poker online make a success of their skills when playing live poker, too? In short, the answer is yes. Read on for the details.

The Transition: From Online Poker Tournaments to Live Poker Tournaments

Online poker has revolutionized the way people learn and play poker. It’s often easier for beginners to start online because of the wealth of resources at their fingertips. After all, you have access to guides, video tutorials, and forums to help you up your game — even while you’re playing. Plus, practicing against a computer means you can play hand after hand without feeling rushed or judged, and you can do this whenever and wherever you want.

The secret to a successful transition from online to live games, according to many poker pros? Try virtual reality (VR) or live dealer poker games online first. These games are a hybrid, allowing you to play against real people with a live dealer, bridging the gap between solo online play and a traditional casino table. It can acclimate you to some of the social and timing aspects of live play before you dive in.

Key Differences Between Live and Online Poker

Pace of Play

Online poker operates at a lightning-fast pace compared to most live games. In the digital world, you can play at multiple tables and see 60+ hands per hour on each. In contrast, a live game might only deal 30 hands per hour. The slower pace can test your patience and affect your strategy.

Physical Tells

One of the most obvious differences between live and online poker is the presence of physical tells in live play. Online, you might pick up betting patterns, but live play adds a layer of psychological warfare. An eyebrow twitch, shaky hands, or a forced smile can give away the strength of a player’s hand. As an online player, you might not be used to guarding against these or looking for them in others.

Social Interaction

In-person poker is inherently social. You’re sitting with other people, chatting, competing, and observing. Online players might find this aspect intimidating at first. It’s a dynamic that can impact your game and requires a different level of focus and interpersonal skills.

Bankroll Fluctuations

The stakes can feel different in a live setting. Even if you’re playing with the same amount of money, the tangibility of chips and cash can psychologically impact how you bet and manage your bankroll.

Range of Experience

Online, you might be used to a certain level of play based on the stakes. In a live setting, especially at lower stakes, you’ll encounter a wider range of skill levels, from seasoned pros to absolute novices.

Skills Transfer: What Works and What Doesn’t

Mathematical and Analytical Skills

Your ability to calculate odds, analyze betting patterns, and make strategic decisions is fully transferable and just as valuable in a live setting.

Emotional Control

Online play might have taught you emotional discipline, preventing tilt (emotional frustration that leads to poor play). This discipline is even more crucial when playing live, where you can’t just click away from a table.


If you’re used to adjusting to different types of online games and formats, this skill will serve you well live, where you might face a range of playing styles and situations.

Strengths and Weaknesses: Online vs. Live Players

Online Player Strengths

  • Volume and experience: Playing many hands online quickly builds experience.
  • Multi-tabling skills: If you’re good at playing several games at once online, you’re likely adept at making quick, accurate decisions.
  • Use of technology: You’re probably comfortable using software to analyze your play and improve.

Online Player Weaknesses

  • Lack of physical reads: You might not have much practice reading physical tells or hiding your own.
  • Social game: If you’re not used to the banter and distraction of a live table, it could throw you off.
  • Adjusting to pace: The slower pace of live play can be a challenge, potentially leading to impatience or loss of focus.

Live Player Strengths

  • Physical and psychological insight: Live players are usually better at reading opponents and using this information to their advantage.
  • Patience and endurance: Sitting at a live table for hours requires a different kind of stamina and focus.

Live Player Weaknesses

  • Fewer hands, less experience: Live players may not have as much experience since they play fewer hands per hour.
  • Technology gap: Traditional poker players might not be as familiar with using software tools to analyze and refine their game.

Making the Move to Live Tournaments: Practical Tips

  1. Start small: Don’t jump into high stakes. Begin with lower limits to get used to the live play dynamics.
  2. Observe first: Spend time watching games to see how the dynamics work.
  3. Mind your tells: Be aware of your physical behavior and maintain a neutral demeanor at all times.
  4. Be social: Engage with other players. Not only can it be enjoyable, but it can also give you insights into their mindset and patterns.
  5. Practice patience: Remember that live poker is a marathon, not a sprint.
  6. Manage your bankroll: Managing the bankroll during live play is more challenging due to the slower pace. Ensure you have enough of a cushion to handle the variance.
  7. Study up: Read books on live play and watch live poker games to familiarize yourself with the nuances. It might even be worth it to find a mentor.

Ultimately, online poker players can indeed become successful in-person poker players. The poker game rules are the same, and online skills are largely transferable. That said, there is an adjustment period. Recognize and work on your weaknesses while leveraging your strengths. With the right approach, you might find the real-world tables are just as rewarding as the virtual ones.

Remember, poker is poker. Whether you’re clicking a button or sliding chips across a table, it’s about making the best decisions with the information you have.

Play Poker Online at BetMGM

Looking for the best online poker site to practice your online poker skills before transitioning to traditional poker? Choose BetMGM. Along with online poker tournaments and live dealer casino games, you’ll also find an ever-expanding menu of online slots and various other casino table games to explore.

Register when you’re ready to try your luck.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.