Often overlooked, this fundamental question must be answered before you can pursue your dream of becoming a long-term successful poker player.
A poker players’ decision as to where he/she is going to play poker is perhaps the most important decision affecting the players’ enjoyment of the game and his/her bankroll. Generally speaking, a player has four possible venues to choose from, they are:
1) Online poker sites
2) Casinos/Local Poker Rooms
3) Home games with family & friends
4) Local Charity/Fund-raising tournaments
Each of these four venues has their own unique ‘pros and cons’ to be considered. One venue may be best for Player ‘A’, but not necessarily a good choice for Player ‘B’. The correct venue is relative to your personality, bankroll, and skill level.
Lets’ take a look at each of the four venues more closely, and discuss the characteristics of each. I will be speaking in broad generalities which are consistent wherever where you live, but you should realize geography plays an important role in venue selection. Gambling laws vary from one locale to another, so please research the laws in your area and play within those laws. With that caveat in place, lets’ examine online poker first.
Without a doubt, online pokers’ popularity has exploded in recent years; so much so, the Federal government has placed limits on the ability of US players to move money to and from the poker sites. These restraints pose a real problem for poker players, and several player associations are trying to fight these restrictions. The future of online poker laws is uncertain at this time slot online. A full discussion of the legalities of online poker is beyond the scope of this article, but I encourage all poker players to do their research before you jump into online play.
Pros of Online Poker:
– The best thing about playing poker online is the ability to play from the comfort of your own home any time you wish. Sites such as Poker Stars, Full-Tilt, Ultimate Bet, etc. will literally have tens of thousands of eager players online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whenever you are ready to play, you will have no problem finding an available game.
– Online play allows the player to play a wide variety of games. If you would like to take a break from Texas Hold’em and have the urge to play Omaha, Stud, Razz, Horse, or virtually any other game you can think of, the online sites will accommodate you.
– Another benefit to playing online is that you can play any stakes you are comfortable with. If you are conservative, or just starting out, you can play for as little as a few pennies a hand. If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, you can play for as much as several thousands of dollars. The sites will offer a wide variety stakes in between these two extremes as well.
– Finally, because the online sites keep the games moving quickly, you can improve your game by playing a high volume of hands in a relatively short period of time. More experienced players may play multiple games at the same time. These players are seeing an extraordinary number of hands per hour.
Cons of Online Poker:
– Online poker can quickly become addictive. Online poker addiction can have severe negative consequences for the players’ physical, emotional, professional, and financial well-being. An addicted player will often start staying up all night playing while ignoring his need for sleep. This may lead to emotional problems and ultimately lead to a strain on the players’ home and professional life. A player must be vigilant to remember poker is not as important as family, friends, or your career away from poker.
– The online player may also become a victim of cheating while playing online. The poker sites try to catch cheaters through the use of sophisticated software that monitors play and looks for irregularities, and I believe they are partially successful in these efforts; however, it cannot be denied some cheating goes on without be caught. The problem for the individual poker player is that he can never be certain he is not being cheated. The poker world was a buzz last year when the media reported the scandal involving Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker. Some cheating occurs between the players themselves when two or more players gang up on an unsuspecting player through the use of telephone communication while the hands are being played out. If your opponent has more information about the hole cards than you do, you are at a significant disadvantage.
– Because poker is played quickly online, the less skillful player will likely lose more of his bankroll online than if he played elsewhere. If a losing player plays more, he will naturally lose more over the long run.
For this discussion, I will consider full service casinos (which you are likely to encounter in Las Vegas or Atlantic City) and local Poker Rooms (commonly found at Kennel Clubs, Horse Racetracks, or other Pari-Mutual facilities) to be one in the same. The size and degree of sophistication may be greater at a full service casino, but Poker Rooms have come far in recent years and can offer similar services to a poker player. Each facility provides the tables, chips, dealers, and pit bosses to manage play, and each provides a comfortable atmosphere for the players to enjoy. In exchange for providing these services, the ‘house’ will rake the pots or charge you an hourly fee to play (more on this later).
Pros of Casino Poker:
– Casinos/Poker Rooms typically do a good job at offering the player a comfortable environment to play. As more and more card rooms spring up, they realize they must compete for your business; therefore, you are likely to be treated well because the casino would like you to become a regular player at their facility.
– A player can be relatively confident the games will be run by professionals. The entire staff from the dealers to drink servers know their jobs (and their tips) depend on providing the players with excellent service.
– Casinos and card rooms are generally conveniently located within a community, and they are open 12 or more hours a day seven days a week. On short notice, a player can head off to the casino and expect to find plenty of action. Texas Hold’em is king at casinos, but other games are offered when enough players are available to fill a table.
Cons of Casino Poker
– Playing at a casino can be an expensive experience. A casino has considerable expenses, and must recoup these expenses through a ‘rake’. Some card rooms charge an hourly fee to play, say $10-12 per hour per seat. Others will take a percentage of each pot, or a percentage of the total tournament entry fees. A house rake of 10-20% is not unusual and must be overcome to be a long-term winner. A player must also be mindful that good etiquette dictates the player should tip the dealers and servers for the service they provide. These tips will add to the cost of playing at a casino.
– Another pitfall to playing at a poker room is that you may be the victim of a couple of ‘regulars’ who team up to soak the new fish that sits down at their table. Players can communicate their holdings through subtle hand signals which puts the unsuspecting player at a disadvantage.