My participation in 2011 Greek Poker Cup was my first experience in live poker tournaments and I had the chance to compare live poker with online poker. Even though the game remains the same, that is Texas Hold’em No limit poker, there are big differences. My verdict is that I prefer online poker at least 100 times more. Maybe the conclusions that follow might change your opinion too.

Online poker is hands-down faster in terms of hands per hour

As I was getting dealt cards at the Greek Poker Cup tournament, I was wondering – the game’s pace is slow enough to allow that – what is financially beneficial for a poker player: to play cash games online or to play poker live. Given that each player can play at one game and obviously at one table in the casinos, that is approximately 20-30 hands per hour. The difference with online poker is instantly clear, especially if we take into account the existence of 6-max and heads-up tables, as well as the possibility of multitabling, increasing dramatically the number of hands per hour.

If you are capable enough to play in 10 6-max tables at the same time, you play 30 times more hands per hour.

So, if you are a relevantly good poker player with a winrate of 1BB/100, you must win 30BB/100 in live poker to achieve the same results. If now we add the winnings from rakeback, which are approximately 1BB/100 more, you should be playing only against the worst opponents at live poker for making the same kind of money!

Should smoking be allowed at live poker tournaments?

The above thinking combined with the lack of smoking-ban at live poker’s cash tables discouraged me from participating in one of them and to focus exclusively on the tournaments.

greek-poker-cupAt this point it is worth mentioning the Greek smoker’s mentality, which was also characteristically stated both at the main event as well as at the side event. Since the tournament was following the international rules, smoking was forbidden. Still, Greek smokers expressed their objections numerous times. In addition, smoking strangely enough was allowed at the cash tables nearby, which caused quite of tension inside the poker room.

Some people claimed that to forbid a smoker to smoke is like creating a technical disadvantage for this person. I don’t doubt that when the conditions that each player is accustomed to change, this affects their game. Yet, we should, at some point, respect other players who find smoking annoying, especially when the cigarette is left in the ashtray for a very long time. The non-smoker has no alternative; unless getting up and leaving the table till his smoker opponent finish his cigarette sounds rational! The smoker on contrast can smoke at the intervals.

One of the worth-mentioning things that I witnessed during the tournament, was smokers leaving the table ten minutes before the 15 minute break to smoke at a nearby stand. By following this tactic, they lost all the hands dealt till the break. Remember, we are talking about a €1,100 buy-in tournament!

Are you feeling tired when playing poker?

Another issue at live poker tournaments that I honestly did not expect to deal with was fatigue! Especially in the case of the main event having intervals every two hours, it was really necessary for a player  to stand up quite often to walk a little after the 3rd or 4th break. The continued sitting position was causing tingling at the legs and, for some people at the back. At first I didn’t like watching opponents getting up many times during the game; now I understand that moving around like that was more than necessary.

Yes, you still get tired when playing lengthy online poker tournaments; yet you can control it easier by changing positions, lying down or doing simple exercises that would otherwise embarrass you if performed in a live poker room!

Expect significantly weaker competition in live poker tournaments

live-poker-tournaments-jim-makos-greek-poker-cupOf course the competition was quite weaker compared to online poker. Limping (calling the big blind instead of open-raising) seemed like the standard opening action, draw chasing was a frequent phenomenon, while just a few players stood out for their aggressiveness. Concepts like pot commitment and “M” must be unknown words for most people at the live poker tournaments. In addition, with so much overbetting taking place by several players allowed a straight-forward ABC game, since there was no need for setting up any kind of trap.

At the side event being card dead for 2.5 hours, me with 5.5K stack (blinds 200/400/75 antes) I raised all-in with JT from UTG+1 running into QQ.

A couple of my opponents asked me if I were tired or if I were feeling sleepy. For them it was like I had decided to end the tournament at that moment. I shrugged and left the table, leaving them to hope for a distinction that probably never came. How could they after all, as they kept on folding with stacks of less than 4,000 chips!

It’s not all grim in live poker tournaments though! I must admit that the atmosphere of a live tournament is undoubtedly magical and has absolutely nothing to do with spending one more Sunday in front of the computer, playing 5, 10 or even 15 tournaments online. I would say that it is a great opportunity for holidays, if this word in fact exists in the vocabulary of a player who makes a living playing poker. Otherwise, I can’t see how live poker is really worth the effort!