There are substantial differences between online poker gaming and conventional, in-person gaming.
One obvious difference is that players do not sit right across from each other, removing any ability to observe others’ reactions and body language. Instead, online poker players learn to focus more keenly on betting patterns, reaction time and other behavior tells that are not physical in nature. Since poker is a game that requires adaptability, successful online players learn to master the new frontiers of their surroundings.
Another less obvious difference is the rate of play. In brick and mortar casinos the dealer has to collect the cards, then shuffle and deal them after every hand. Due to this and other delays common in offline casinos, the average rate of play is around thirty hands per hour. Online casinos, however, do not have these delays; the dealing and shuffling are instant, there are no delays relating to counting chips (for a split pot), and on average the play is faster due to “auto-action” buttons (where the player selects his action before his turn). It is not uncommon for an online poker table to average sixty to eighty hands per hour.
This large difference in rate of play has created another effect among online poker players. In the brick and mortar casino, the only real way to increase your earnings is to increase your limit. In the online world players have another option, play more tables. Unlike a physical casino where it would be nearly impossible to play multiple tables at once, most online poker rooms allow a player to be on up to 4 tables at once. For example, a player may make around $10 per 100 hands at a lower limit game. In a casino, this would earn them under $4 an hour, which minus dealer tips would probably barely break even. In an online poker room, the same player with the same win rate could play four tables at once, which at 60 hands per hour each would result in an earning of $24/hour, which is a modest salary for somebody playing online poker. Some online players even play eight or more tables at once, in an effort to increase their winnings.
Another important change results from the fact that online poker rooms, in some cases, offer online poker schools that teach the basics and significantly speed up the learning curve for novices. Many online poker rooms also provide free money play so that players may practice these skills in various poker games and limits without the risk of losing real money. People who previously had no way to learn and improve because they had no one to play with now have the ability to learn the game much more quickly and gain invaluable experience from free money play.
Tracking poker play in a B&M casino is very difficult. You can easily monitor your winnings, but tracking any detailed statistics about your game requires a player to take notes after each hand, which is cumbersome and distracting.
Conversely, tracking poker play online is easy. Most online poker rooms support “Hand Histories” text files which track every action both you and your opponents made during each hand. The ability to specifically track every single played hand has many advantages. Many third-party software applications process hand history files and return detailed summaries of poker play. These not only include exact tallies of rake and winnings, which are useful for tax purposes, but also offer detailed statistics about the person’s poker play. Serious players use these statistics to check for weaknesses or “leaks” (mistakes that leak money from their winnings) in their game. Such detailed analysis of poker play was never available in the past, but with the growth of online poker play, it is now commonplace among nearly all serious and professional online poker players.