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Online vs. Live Poker Tournaments - How to Adjust and Keep Track!

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For most people, their first experience playing poker comes from a home game that’s either a "Sit & Go" tournament or a cash game for a small amount of money.

Tournaments are very easy for new players to understand because there is a very clear winner and loser(s) while it’s tougher to score cash games.

Therefore there are going to be plenty of people who learn to play poker by playing live tournaments but haven’t actually dipped their feet in online tournaments.

Fortunately, online tournaments are potentially even easier to play than live tournaments and they’re actually a great way to learn tournament poker in general.

Multi-Table Tournaments

One of the toughest parts of playing big, multi-table tournaments can be the very slow pace. Generally, "tight is right" in the early stages of a freeze-out so you don’t really have a lot to do until you get a premium hand.

Online tournaments are superior in that respect because you can actually buy in to and play 2-16 tournaments at the same time (we’d stick to two or three if you’re just starting out).

When you have multiple tournaments going at the same time you’ll actually have something to do as you’re likely to hit big hands on at least one of your tables.

Also, if you bust out of one tournament it’s not a big deal because you can just focus on the other events you have going.

Keeping Track

In an online poker tournament, everything is recorded for the players. It takes only a click of the mouse to find the average stack, number of players left and how many chips are in play.

A player can see with a glance exactly how many chips everyone at the table. In a live tournament, each player is responsible for gathering this information.

It's difficult to get more than a general sense of how many chips opponents have without extended, detailed scrutiny, which can be distracting. To figure out the average stack, a player has to count tables and do the math himself once the total chip count has been posted.

You should be keeping track of your results to learn what you’re doing wrong.

Taking Breaks

In an online poker tournament, a player can run to the bathroom or the kitchen whenever he wants, often without even missing a hand.

Players can leave the table whenever they want to in a live poker game too, but usually food and restroom facilities are not nearly as easily accessible, which means players can expect to miss a few hands and will have to try to time their breaks accordingly.

There are scheduled breaks but many players will be taking advantage of them which means lines for food and restrooms during those times.

If you’re playing online it’s worth trying to synchronize your five-minute breaks but at the same time it’s not the end of the world to miss a a hand or two.

Live vs. Online Tells

This is something you’ll have to get used to if you come from a live poker background but there simply aren’t as many tells to be found online.

You’re not going to be able to get a read on a player based on how they handle their chips or their facial expressions.

All that said there are some legitimate tells that can be found in an online situation. One of the key tells is bet timing and sizing.

If a player bets immediately it usually means something. Really small bets on every street are usually a sign of a beginner.

As you can surmise there are numerous patterns that you can pick up on opponents while playing online poker.

Faster Pace

Online tournaments simply move much, much faster. Because there’s no dealer and no physical tables and chairs it’s just way easier to blast through a tournament.

Have a couple hours? You can easily plow through a couple 1,000+ turbo tournaments and win potentially enormous prize.

Always be watchful of your time bank and the rapidly rising blinds, however. When it comes time the player who plays the best push/fold poker will usually succeed.

Above all, make sure you don’t blind out! Make your stand when you still have enough chips to make it matter.