Live poker is any game like Texas Hold‘em or Omaha that’s played inside a casino, cardroom, or major tournament like the World Series of Poker. It’s much easier to log on and play online poker these days, but some players still prefer a live poker environment.
After getting some experience at online poker sites, some players wonder how to play live poker. What are the differences and how can you adapt? One large difference is that everyone at the table has a full view of the other players, which can give valuable information. Players usually adopt a stoic and blank expression during live poker hands.
In this article, we’ll define the two main kinds of live poker, explain some basic strategies, and compare live poker to online poker.
The Different Kinds of Live Poker
If you’re playing cash games or tournaments in a live setting, there are a few things you can do to play at your best. Start with understanding the type of players around you, which largely depends on where you are playing poker.
Casino poker games vs scheduled tournaments: There's a noticeable difference between the crowds at casinos and tournaments like the World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour, and other events.
- Casino poker players sometimes drift to the tables from other games, such as blackjack, roulette, and even video poker. These casual players are just looking for fun and have varying levels of skill. Casino poker is very social in the afternoon and evenings. Experienced “regulars” usually make up less than half of the players at the table, but it varies.
- Tournament poker players are usually more skilled than the average casino cash game player. In general, casual players like you’d find at casinos don’t enter many live tournaments. Especially at events with a higher buy-in, you can expect serious players and stiff competition.
How To Start Playing Live Poker at a Casino
You should always be aware of the rules of poker before going to play live. You’ll feel more confident at the table and enjoy yourself.
You can watch some poker players that stream their live sessions using a camera at the table.
After you find the poker room and register your name, you might have to wait a moment for your seat. Sometimes, you’ll get to choose your table or seat, but that won’t happen if the poker room is busy.
In some cities, the casinos will host $1/$2 and $2/$5 Texas Hold 'em cash games. In cities like Las Vegas, the stakes go much higher. Pot-limit Omaha is becoming more common in casinos too, but call ahead to check out which games your local casino offers.
Here are some essential tips and rules for live poker at a casino:
- Be aware of the action and never act out of turn. You’ll quickly become unpopular if you’re giving away information before it’s your turn. Don’t make comments or any indications about your hand before it’s your turn.
- If you fold your cards, don’t comment on a hand in progress. Inexperienced players will sometimes react if they fold and then see a flop that they love. Slamming your hand on the table or commenting on the hand in any way is frowned upon in live poker settings. This is known as “influencing the action”, just like acting out of turn.
- Never splash the pot or wildly throw chips around. Smoothly slide stacks of chips onto the table instead of letting them tumble all over the place. If the dealer has to sort out your chips, you’ll waste everyone’s time.
- If you want to raise, make it clear to the dealer. A common mistake that players make is using the wrong poker chips to make a raise. Let’s say that your opponent bets $10 and you put a single $25 poker chip on the table to raise. Instead of raising, you’ve just called the $10 bet. If you had used five $5 poker chips, instead of one $25 chip, it would be a raise. If you must raise with a single chip, you should announce “raise” to the dealer.
- Place your highest-value chips in the front. Chips with big denominations should always be clearly visible to other players. Hiding chips behind your stack is considered bad sportsmanship and is often against the rules.
- Act promptly, unless it’s a big decision. Plan your actions before it’s your turn. Most poker players at casinos don’t mind giving you some time for decisions, but nobody likes it when a player “tanks” and thinks for too long. For small decisions, such as preflop actions, try to act in less than 10 seconds. If there’s a big pot on the line, you can feel comfortable taking much more time, even up to a minute in some cases.
- Don’t place your phone on the table and never use it if you have cards in front of you. If you want to stream your session, you should ask the organizers first.
The things you need to remember for live poker are taken care of by the dealer in online poker. There’s always a clearly-displayed timer, there’s never confusion about raises, and nobody splashes chips.
If you have any questions about rules or if you’re looking for strategy guides, feel free to get in touch with our support team via Live Chat.
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The best way to simulate a live poker experience online is to get friends together in privately hosted games. Start a Zoom call or use the poker app’s webcam feature, and let the online home game begin. Just like a live game, you’ll have to think about your poker face!
You can use Play Money or switch to real money for Home Games at PokerStars. You’re in control of the timers for players’ decisions, the stakes, and most importantly, who’s invited to the table.
You can select Cash Games if you aren’t sure how long the game will run, or switch to Tournaments to create your own MTT (multi-table tournament). Once you’ve set up your game, schedule a start time and send out invites to your friends.
Everyone can play in your Home Games without depositing if you want a totally free experience. If you switch to real money, be sure to collect bonuses to maximize your bankroll. Instructions are in our super-simple Poker with Friends guide and you’ll find PokerStars deposit bonuses in our complete site review.
Win Online Satellites to Enter Huge Live Poker Events
Poker sites that grow large enough usually host or sponsor live international poker tournaments. Have you heard the story of Chris Moneymaker? He turned a $39 online poker satellite tournament win into a $2.5 million World Series of Poker victory. It’s arguably one of the greatest come-up stories in poker history.
GGPoker has an exclusive partnership with the WSOP, sending hundreds of players to live events every year. In 2023, GGPoker vouched to send at least 600 players to the WSOP Main Event. The event is iconic and so is the $10,000 buy-in. Online satellite tournaments at GGPoker are the cheapest way to get yourself a seat. They start at the freeroll level, but you can buy in for more to skip a satellite level.
Partypoker Live events also have online satellites running, starting at just $0.01. You could wind up in Bratislava, Malta, Dublin, or somewhere else around the world, playing live poker with the pros. Check the current schedule by registering an account.
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What’s The Difference Between Live and Online Poker?
If you love poker, then playing exclusively at casinos and live tournaments can create tons of travel time. Lots of players, including professionals, split their time between live and online poker.
- Access to live poker isn’t always possible. Mobile poker clubs began rising in popularity during the COVID pandemic for this reason. When players around the world couldn’t go to casinos, they needed something online that didn’t have restrictions. Since club apps are globally unrestricted, for the most part, millions of poker players went to the apps.
- Forget multi-tabling. You can only play one table at a time if you’re at a casino or a live tournament. With online poker, some players operate a dozen tables at once, but three or four tables are enough for most.
- Hopefully, you don’t have a slow player at your table. Something that annoys live poker players is someone who is “tanking”, a poker term for someone who is thinking and acting very slowly. This doesn’t become a problem on online poker sites. If a player is too slow and uses their time bank, they are forced to sit out so that other players can keep the game moving along.
- You’ll get to play much more hands online than you can in any live environment. Fast-folding games became the much-needed solution to the wait times between hands in live poker. The moment you throw your cards into the muck, you’re whisked off to a new table with fresh opponents and fresh cards. Snap at 888poker is a well-known fast-folding poker game and most major sites have adopted it too.