Tips for Live Players Making the Transition to Online Poker

With a lot of the western world on shutdown due to COVID-19, online poker games have been great.  Tables are filled with recreational players, tournament guarantees are being crushed, and cash game are going off.  There hasn’t been a better time to play online poker since the late 2000’s.  Today we have a few tips for live poker players looking to make the transition to online poker.

One would think that a game of poker would be the same regardless if it was played in a live setting or on one of the many online poker rooms.  The facts of the matter are that this is simply incorrect and there are many differences between the two.  In this article we will discuss some of the differences and how a live poker player can easily make the transition to online poker and be successful. 

Differences Between Live Poker & Online Poker

Online Games Are Tougher

One of the main differences in online poker and live poker is the level of difficulty.  Online games for the most part are much tougher than live games.  A winning live $1/$2 cash game player would most likely be a losing player at the $1/$2 online games.  Same thing could be said for a winning tournament player that player $500 tournaments and below.  That same player would not fair to well in $200-$500 tournaments online.

Online cash games often play on 6 max or HU tables which cause the games to be more aggressive as players are more incentivized to fight for the pots.  While it’s common to see many multi-way pots in live cash games, it’s much more uncommon in online cash games, especially at the higher stakes.  If you have not played online cash games before, you should be cautious of playing in these games as they can be much tougher than a full ring cash game. 

Use of Poker Software

Another main difference between live and online poker is the use of software.  In a live poker setting, there is really no software that you can use to accurately track all your opponents play.  For online poker this is not the case and there are many programs out there that will track you and your opponent’s play, displaying relevant stats on the screen during the hand.  These programs are known as HUD’s and while not everyone agrees with them, they are a part of the game today. 

Some people will say that HUD’s are the reason they lose and that is simply not true.  HUD’s are just another available tool that some players use to help them in their decision-making process.  You still must know how to interpret the data and when and when not to use it.  That being said if you are going to play online poker and take it seriously, you would be doing yourself a favor to use a HUD so you can have information about your opponents and track your own play.

If you would prefer to play on a room that has limited HUD use, we recommend Ignition, Bovada, or SportsBetting.

Faster Pace

Because there is no live dealer and players actions are done by pressing a button, the pace of online games is much faster than that of live poker games.  In a live poker setting you may see 30 hands per hour on the high end whereas online games may see 120 or more hands per hour.  If you start adding in multiple tables at once (referred to as multi-tabling), you could see 600 or more hands per hour.

One benefit to playing more hands per hour is that you can get in more volume which will increase your winnings provided you are a winning player.  This can be crucial for tournament players who go from playing 1 live tournament a day to playing 20 or more tournaments in a single day.

The downside to playing a lot more hands is that you will encounter more bad beats and suck outs.  It is important to note that it only appears that way because you are playing more hands than you would live.  In a typical live setting cash game setting you may see 100 hands in a 4 hour session where as if you are 6 tabling online, you may see 600 hands in a single hour, 2400 hands in the same 4 hour session.  The point being that you are seeing far more hands playing online and therefore will see more bad beats and because the human mind likes to remember all the times we got sucked out on, and not the times we didn’t, it may seem like we are taking more bad beats than normal.  Remember this is simply not true and only because of the amount of hands we are seeing.

Tips on How You Can Adjust to Online Poker Games

Invest in a HUD / Tracking Software

Using a HUD is not necessary to win at online poker, but it can and will help you if used properly.  It will allow you to identify player types and how they play.  While you can load up your HUD with all of the stats you want, we recommend starting out with a basic HUD that displays some simple preflop stats like VPIP/PFR/3B/F3B and a couple postflop stats like CB/FCB/AF if you like.  For the more advanced, specific stats to be effective you really need to have a large sample size and understanding of the game.  If you make decisions only based on your HUD, you are losing money.

Another benefit to using a HUD/Tracking software is that it gives you the ability to track your own game and progress.  This is crucial for those players looking to study and improve their game.  Poker Tracker and Holdem Manager are two of the most widely used programs which will track all your game play and give you all sorts of statistics about it.

A basic HUD in Poker Tracker 4

If you are looking to multi-table, you may also want to invest in a program that has hot keys and a way to manage your poker table arrangement.  Hot keys essentially allow you to set a specific action to just one key.  For example, you may set the “C” key to call, “F” key to fold, and “R” key to raise.  You can usually set predetermined bet sizes as well according to the size of the pot or amount of BB’s.  It’s also a good idea to setup layouts so it will arrange your tables in a way that works for you.  Some players like to tile all the tables, while some players like to have them in stacks with the only the tables needing action visible. 

We recommend using Table Tamer or Stack & Tile for hot keys / layout management.

Start out With Only 1 or 2 Tables

If you have never played online poker before, we recommend that you start out only playing 1 or 2 tables.  This is so you can get adjusted to the software, pace of game, and differences of online poker.  While some players play 24 tables or more at once, most players agree that the optimal table amount is between 4 and 8 for more experienced players and no more than 1 or 2 for newer online players.  If you play a lot of tables, you won’t be able to give your 100% focus to all the tables and it will end up costing you money in the long run.

Once you get the hand of online poker and want to start adding in more tables, we recommend you do so 1 at a time and only if you are currently playing well and winning.  If you are a losing player, adding in more tables will just help you lose faster.

Mass Multi-Tabler Randy "Nanonoko" Lew

Prepare for Your Session

If you really want to take poke seriously you should prepare for your session, this goes for both live and online games but can be a tad bit more important for online players.  If you are a tournament player that plans on playing a full day of online poker tournaments, you should have everything prepared for your day as you will most likely only get a 5 minute break every hour.  It’s a good idea to have plenty of water on hand, meals prepared, and anything else that you may need throughout the day.  Cash game players have a bit more freedom in this as they are free to come and go as they please but should still have plenty of water on hand as well as anything else.

It’s also a good idea to set goals for the session.  These could be based on a new strategy that you have recently learned or just having the goal to think through each hand, making the best possible decision you can.  Remember to remind yourself of your session goals while on break.

The next step before your session should be to get in the poker state of mind.  You can do this by going over some hands, reviewing your preflop ranges, or even just watching a poker training video. What this does is tell your brain it’s time to get serious and play poker.

Another great thing to do prior to your session is to calm your mind by practicing mediation.  Many of the top elite pro’s practice meditation and say it helps their poker game tremendously including Ike Haxton, Fedor Holz, BenCB, and many others.  If it works for them it can work for you and can be done in as little at 5 minutes.

The final thing that you should do before your session is to eliminate all distractions.  If you really want to be successful at poker you need to pay attention to the game and not what is happening on Facebook.  Some players may find this easier to do than others and if you struggle with it, we recommend that you shut down your phone completely and leave it in another room.  If you struggle with being distracted on your computer install a program like Cold Turkey that will allow you to block websites or even your web browser so you can’t visit those distracting sites.  If you live with roommates or a significant other, ask them to respect your time and not bother you while playing.

High stakes tournament crusher €urop€an has said that when he is playing he only has up the tables he is playing and nothing else including music.  This allows him to be distraction free and make the best decision for each spot.

Be Prepared for Horrible Play and Bad Beats

We have already talked about how it will seem like you are encountering more bad beats while playing online poker but it is important to remember it’s only because you are playing many more hands online than you would live.  Many players are simply unable to understand this and blame the sites for being rigged or other players cheating, don’t be that player.  Simply understand its part of playing online and the sooner you understand, they better off you will be.  If you are using software to track your play, it’s easy to go back and see that you are in fact not taking more bad beats online that you would live.

You should also be prepared to see some of the worst poker you have ever seen.  There is something about sitting behind a computer screen, clicking buttons that allows some people to just play terrible poker.  In a live setting they may not play so bad because they may feel embarrassed because there are other players there that can see and judge the play.  Online he’s just another screen name and has no embarrassment to fear. 

Playing online can also feel like you’re not playing for real money as it’s just a number on the screen and this can cause players to not play so good also.  You also must be careful with yourself in this manner, as it’s easy to play poorly because you are not relating it to real money and instead just those numbers on a screen.  This can be especially true if you are playing for money that is not that meaningful to you.

Final Thoughts for Live Poker Players Transitioning to Online Poker Games

If you have never played online poker before or have very little experience, now is the perfect time for you to jump in.  With a lot of the world being on lock down, the online games are some of the best games we have seen in 10 years.  Even if you are inexperienced, there are still plenty of bad players waiting to give you their money.  You just need to be aware of the differences between online poker and live poker that were mentioned in this article.

If you are unsure of where you should be playing, we have an in-depth guide on the best online poker rooms for American players which can be found here.

If you are looking to take your game to the next level with some advanced poker training, we also have an in-depth guide on the best poker training sites which can be found here.

Stay safe during these challenging times.  Things will get better and we will all move forward.