What are the most important considerations in moving from online to live games? I usually play low stakes SNG with somewhere between 10-50 participants and want to try playing live tournaments with a similar number of participants.

  • Did you find a place where you can play tournament poker? Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 11:12
  • Yes, I have located one possible spot. I would have liked to have more options though...
    – T.C. Herb
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 12:39

3 Answers 3


Funny you should ask that today, i was just reading the following article by PKR's newest pro:

Live and Learn by Simon Hemsworth


Live poker tends to be significantly different than online.


Always protect your cards.

  1. That doesn't mean don't let someone grab them and run, it means cover your cards with something. Use one of your poker chips.
  2. If you don't, and are in the seats close the dealer, the dealer will rarely, accidentally muck your hand. This isn't their fault. It's yours.
  3. If a player throws their cards to fold and they accidentally land on your unprotected cards... Your hand is mucked. So, always protect your cards.

Act in turn.

If you consistently act out of turn, you're going to mess up everything. Dealers will get annoyed, players will flip out if you killed their action, and so on. Pay attention.

Never, ever talk about the current hand unless it's heads-up.

If you talk about the current hand in a multiway pot, you're asking for trouble. You are going to piss people off. Be aware that what you're saying will affect how people play the hand. And please, never, ever talk about a hand when you aren't in it.

Be aware of what constitutes a bet.

Many casino tables will have a circular line on it. If you go over said line with chips, it will be a bet. Other casinos won't classify it as a bet until you take your hand back. You can take a $100 stack, put $50 down, take $50 back, and you've made your bet. Other's will say it's a $100 bet, regardless of what you intended.

It's a good policy to always announce what you plan to do verbally. When you want to raise, say "Raise". This will allow you to figure out how much you want to bet without consequences. Don't be hasty.

Keep your big chips in front. Don't keep dirty stacks.

Always keep your biggest chips visible. I have yet to play in a casino where this isn't a rule. This is so players can assess your chip stack without having to request a count or somesuch. Don't mix and match your stacks. Stack the $25s together, stack the $50s together, and so on. This isn't a concrete rule. Some casinos require it, others don't... WSOP requires clean stacks.

If there are antes, don't make the dealer remind you to post it every hand.

Far Fewer Hands/Hour

This is an obvious difference that is picked up by most people intuitively. Online you can average 100+ hands/hour whereas in a casino you'll be lucky to get ~35 per hour with a good dealer. If you run into a new, barely trained dealer, or just a bad one, things can get bad.

Also keep in mind that Hollywood'ing is absolutely rampant in live games. You'll run into a lot of players that take 2-5 minutes per decision. This can severely affect your game, especially in tournaments. In cash games, especially $2/$5 or higher, you'll just have to accept it. But in tournaments, which you said are your main game, the only solution is to call the person on it, politely, and warn them that if they don't speed it up you'll wait 1.5-2 minutes before consistently calling clock every time they go over that limit. You'll need to do this as politely as you can because many poker players will take offense to having clock called on them. Just politely explain the blinds are going up, usually every 15-30 minutes, for everyone and it's unacceptable to have someone consistently spending 5+ minutes per decision.

Vast Differences in Skill Level vs. Online Counterparts

$1/$2 live is nowhere near the skill level of $1/$2 online, $60 tournament live is like a $2 tournament online. There are a number of reasons for this.

First, fish go broke faster online. As such, the skill level will just naturally be higher online. This is an important point: live regs are usually unprofitable fish. You'll run into a lot of them simply because these players can't possibly go broke. They likely work and play 2-5 tournaments per week at their local casino. They don't particularly know how unprofitable they are because it's spread over time. If you converse with them you'll likely hear a lot of lines such as:

  • Online poker is rigged.
  • I knew he had that.
  • I should have played my 83s, it hit.
  • Why wouldn't I call a flop 200BB jam with naked AK on 985 two-tone, it's AK!
  • I'm a "feel" player.

And so on. Any players you hear talking like this can generally be labelled as fish. They've never read poker books and usually are scornful of anyone who does. If you plan on playing daily/weekly tournaments at a local casino, this basically depicts over half the field. Things change drastically in live events. The field becomes much tougher, usually due to online players peeling themselves away from their chairs for the bigger buy-in tournaments and, depending on the event, people flying in from elsewhere for the series.


The casino staff are people. They will instinctually start to favor regulars over time. Some consequences of this:

  • A regular will walk in and "accidentally" get a cash seat or tournament ticket when there is a huge waitlist.
  • They might get free meals/drinks, bonuses for hours played/week, and so on. This isn't a bad thing but it will definitely help you label the regulars. Any information is good information.
  • Rulings will favor the regulars. More on that below.

This is a very important thing to watch for, especially in confrontations. When there is an argument at the table, between two+ players and/or the dealer, regarding the current hand, the pit boss is usually called. They are suppose to remain entirely impartial and will attempt to make the most fair judgement. If you notice a pit boss is blatantly favoring regs consistently, it creates a very difficult situation. I wouldn't throw that accusation around lightly. I would likely just file a complaint with the casino and skip the poker room staff entirely.


There are two main types of straddles in poker. The first is the live straddle. A live straddle is when the UTG player posts a bet, before he receives cards, of around twice the big blind. This will enable UTG+1 to be the first to act and him to be last to act preflop. For instance:

In a $1/$2 cash game, UTG bets $5 before the cards are dealt; he live straddles. UTG+1
calls $5, as does the button, small blind, and big blind. UTG now has the option to either raise or check and see a flop.

The second type of straddle is the Mississippi straddle. This is the same as a live straddle except the button has the option to straddle. For instance:

In a $1/$2 cash game, the button bets $5. This forces the small blind to act first, then > the big blind, and so on. Once action gets to him, he has the option to raise or fold.

They both have their merits but the Mississippi straddle is obviously far more powerful. You maximize your positional advantage preflop while bumping up the stakes while you have the button. Often, especially in pot-limit Omaha and higher stakes cash, you'll find games with a mandatory Mississippi straddle.


I know, everyone says they would never drink while playing poker for relatively significant amounts of money. But it always ends up happening. There's nothing wrong with having one beer at the end of a live session but moderate yourself accordingly. Determine what you're trying to accomplish with your poker. If it's primarily for recreational purposes, know what your monetary limit is and feel free to drink. But if you're looking to make money off poker and grind seriously, you should avoid all alcohol and drugs like the plague. This is even more important in Vegas.

Increased Operating Costs

The rake is quite fair in most casinos but if a cash table you're at becomes short-handed, usually 6 or less players, you can request a lower rake. This is important as dealers will "forget" and some poker rooms won't even do it unless asked.

Tipping. It's customary, when you win a pot, to tip the dealer $1. This adds up over the long run. You'll also inevitably be buying food/non-alcoholic drinks/alcohol. Don't be cheap. Tip the waitress.

Traveling Costs. If you live right across the street there's nothing to worry about. But if you don't you should factor in not only how much it costs you in gas/transit to get to the casino, you should factor in how much time it's taking up. Every hour you're wasting traveling to and from a casino is money you aren't making online.

House Rules

Very important. You never know what crazy rules this particular casino has come up with. Ask before you play. They'll usually have signs posted in the room explaining things. Also, if you ever have a problem with a ruling a dealer made about a hand, call the pit immediately. Dealers make mistakes all the time and the only way things can be fixed fairly is if you call the pit.

Most casinos will also have bad beat jackpots. When a bad beat occurs, usually AAATT or better in both hands, there will be a huge payout. ~50% to the person that lost, 25% to the person that won, and 25% split among everyone else at the table (table share)*. Also, many casinos will have progressive high hand jackpots. Hit quads or better and you'll get a payout. Those are only the most common ones. Be sure to ask or read what the situation is in each casino because they usually have esoteric rules for how you can claim said jackpots. You don't want to mess up a bad beat on a technicality.


This is a controversial topic. Angling is when you use conversation, physical actions, etc. to influence your opponents behaviour and/or decision making and, by doing so, gain information about their hand, ranges, thought process, etc.

It isn't allowed in casinos. But the rule is never enforced unless someone really makes a big stink about it. Lots of players, especially live players, consider it to be a vital part of playing poker. You'd be better off not doing this until you get more comfortable playing live poker.

Always be polite and friendly.

Nobody wants to hear about how someones a donkey. Or how they played bad. Or how they should have played. This not only makes other players dislike you, it makes them take joy when you lose. Thus, they'll obviously try to focus on taking your money. What you want to do is be the guy at the table everyone enjoys playing with. This is absolutely crucial. Players will avoid you because they like you. They fold hands they wouldn't against other players. They'll fold preflop because they are in enjoyable conversation with you. They'll give your raises a lot of respect. And so on. It will literally make you money to be polite and friendly.

  • I just created an account here to up vote your answer. Nice work! Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 23:11
  • Great answer! It informed me a lot, especially about the straddle (always forgotten to look that up). +1
    – Dom
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 13:15

The biggest difference you'll notice right away is that live poker is much slower than online poker. The first time I played live, after playing a few years online, I was bored out of my mind because the pace was so slow. Fortunately, you'll adjust to it quickly!

  • Any tip on how to pass time? :)
    – T.C. Herb
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 19:55
  • If you plan on going often, I would recommend getting to know the regulars and their playing styles. Also, casinos often have some different rules than online that you'll want to know... such as a straddle bet. I brought music the first few times
    – mjhouseman
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 20:12

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