Online Poker Offers Advantages For Gamblers Over Live Casino Play
Online poker offers players a few advantages over live poker. The most obvious one is hand volume: the online platform allows for over three times the amount of hands dealt per hour. Thus, those with positive expected profit observe a higher win rate over time.
Additionally, it's easy to have solvers/tables up for quick reference while playing online; in a casino, you're seldom allowed a cell phone on the table, and regardless you'll be thrown out if the floor sees you with any poker aid on your phone.
Still, live poker offers its pros: you can easily distinguish between splashy recreational players just there to have fun versus the more dedicated crowd focused on profiting from online poker, and you also have a physical sense of the money in front of you.
The biggest issue with online poker these days is regulation and legality.
For clarity, "online poker sites" are not the ones that allow you to host a free game for some friends.
These are sites that match you with random players and take a rake, a percent of each pot to make money (and thus technically operate as a "casino.")
Online poker is legal and regulated in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Delaware, and only in those states will you be able to play on a site that is controlled by some gaming commission.
On those platforms, you can be sure that the cards dealt are random and that there is little to no cheating/collusion or bots. With that said, there are a plethora of unregulated (but still well-known) sites for people who don't live in the legal states.
The issue is, with unlimited websites, one cannot be sure that the platform is legitimate.
For example, some unregulated sites are suspected of feeding action cards, cards that give several players a better hand, increasing the betting/pot size, and, therefore, the rake that the site earns. These non-random distributions of action cards can screw with the odds that players consider when debating to raise/call/fold facing a bet, and it can make for some frustrating coolers and bad-beats.
Of course, rarely does a site skew the game so much to make it visible or not without an in-depth statistical study.
Players are well aware of this drawback of unlimited sites, and the result is that you hardly see higher stakes games played online. When a lot of money is on the table, people still prefer live poker over the uncertainty that comes with unlimited sites. It seems that most online sites' business model is volume-driven; they bank on hosting hundreds of tables and dealing hands fast.
In the last few years, appetite for online poker has partly been picked up, partly because online gambling is relatively new, but also because people realize how much more time-efficient playing online can be.
Online poker has also proven to be an excellent spot for low/micro stakes games; at the same time, casinos typically don't offer games smaller than 1/2 (due to casino chips usually starting at $1), online tables can start as low as 0.02/0.04.
With COVID, live poker has been almost entirely shut down for the past few months, and a lot of live regulars are moving to online poker, to the extent that some sites have repeatedly crashed from the increased traffic. We wouldn't be surprised to see online poker revenue more than double what was initially predicted to be this year.
There are a few casinos now opening up with glass screens in between players, but the surge in online poker from COVID will ride out the next couple of years regardless. People will still be scared to enter the closed, crowded environment of a casino and realize that online poker is an excellent next-best (if not better) option to live poker.
Written by Arjun S. Madan
Edited by Gihyen Eom, Thomas Braun, Alexander Fleiss, Jason Kauppila & Jack Argiro