There are many poker players who are still trying to decide whether or not to play on line. If you are one of them, I’m not going to try to convince you one way or another. Instead, let me provide you with a simple comparison so you can review the basic reasons to play or not to play on the Internet.
For me, this is the best reason. Even if a casino or poker room is right down the street, you are going to be limited in the games that you can play. With limited game selection comes limited options for making money. You will often have to choose between a game that is not very profitable and not playing at all.
On the Internet, on the other hand, you have an almost endless variety of games to choose from. You can search around until you find a good game – which should be the goal of any serious poker player. Being the eighth best poker player in the world is worthless if you are limited to the one game with the seven better players.
Game selection is terrific because you have the ability, at the touch of a few fingers, to move around within a site and from site to site looking for good games. Unfortunately, most of the Internet players I know don’t take advantage of this prime advantage – content to play in the same game every time they log on.
The rake for Internet casinos is usually at least somewhat less than the rake in a casino. Where the standard casino poker room rake these days tends to be about 10% of the pot with a $4 or, increasingly, a $5 maximum per hand; on line rooms are frequently 5% with a $3.00 maximum – or even considerably less in the very low stakes rooms. In fact, in the micro-stakes rooms with betting limits of $.10 per bet or less, there is sometimes no rake.
Players frequently pay too little attention to the rake. But it can be devastating. On line rooms, with their minimal overhead, not having to hire dealers, rent a large space, buy tables and the like, can afford to charge less. But this doesn’t mean they’re making less money per hour. Quite the opposite. Because the games are so much faster, even with the lower rake, they are making quite a bit more money per hour because of all of the extra hands per hour that are raked. This need not hurt you, however, since if you are a winning player you should be winning more money per hour for the same reason. The net result should be that if you are playing against identical players as in a live game, your win rate should go up since the rake will be a lower percentage of your winnings.
The Internet is as close as your nearest computer. Funding it is as simple as transferring money into your account. No need to drive, to park, take public transportation, or walk. There’s no waiting in line a game (you can always find an open game), no worrying about carrying large amounts of cash to or from the casino, or buying gas for the car. Just stumble into a chair in front of the computer, fire it up, and start playing real money poker.
The convenience factor extends beyond the proximity of the game. When you go to a casino you have to get dressed, shower (at least you should do so), and deal with the public. When you play at home you don’t have to do any of those things. In fact, you can do many other things while you are playing. I’ve cooked dinner, carried on phone conversations, typed an article or two, and read the morning paper all while playing and making money in online poker games. Others like to watch television, listen to music, commute to work, or even play in a home game while logged on. Having your poker game with you on a computer screen gives you the advantage of being able to carry on your life while still being in a game.
On-line poker has spawned something that never existed before in poker – the ability to literally play more than one game at the same time. This has a huge potential upside for the player who is a consistent winner with a well-defined style of play. Though he may give up some profit in each game he plays by limiting his ability to “play the players”, he can greatly multiply his hourly win rate by playing many games at once. This can be an enormous example. Imagine, for example, that you are a winner of two big bets an hour in your live games. Now imagine that you can play eight games at once – winning only one big bet an hour – having to give up your full advantage because you can’t tailor your play to each individual player. That still leaves you with the ability to earn eight big bets an hour – four times your live play rate. Is it any wonder that so many of the hottest poker players these days make their money chiefly on line?
A good player often notices tendencies of his opponents that help reveal what cards they are likely to hold. In a live casino it is very difficult or impossible to record those impressions immediately. But in an online room this is simply a matter of typing in some brief notes on a pull down screen. These notes can be retained for as long as an opponent plays under the same screen name. This advantage is itself augmented because of the ease of locating these players in the future. Most online poker sites have a “find a player” feature that allows you to type in their screen name and locate, immediately, where they are playing. So if you’ve noticed that a player is a loose passive opponent, you can look for him again in a future game and adjust your play accordingly. If only “fishing” were always so easy in real life.
Many players reveal a lot about their hands by their unconscious but observable traits at the poker table. These “tells”, such as how you physically bet, breath, talk, hold your cards, or otherwise react to situations as they develop during the play of the hand, give experienced players extra information from you that they can use to exploit. When you play on line, these traits become invisible, eliminating a disadvantage you may have had in a live game.
That’s it for the advantages I’ll list here – though I’m sure someone with a creative mind could think of others. In Part II of this Online Poker Considerations mini-series I’ll identify the Disadvantages of Online Poker versus brick and mortar play.
Written by Ashley Adams