The past couple weeks I’ve had a chance to jump back into live poker. I’ll be looking for more chances to play live, because quite frankly, nothing beats live poker.
Because I’ve played primarily online poker the last three years, with very little live experience, there’s definitely an adjustment period.
Here are some observations I’ve made about my own live game, and the actions of others in live tournaments — things people might not think about when transitioning from online to live.
- Keeping tabs on exact chip counts is much trickier. It’s obviously important, especially as the blinds creep up, to know exactly how many chips each player has in order to steal blinds and re-raise preflop without pot-committing yourself with a marginal hand.
The problem is, I don’t want to blatantly stare at stacks to my left — even between hands — because those players will feel paranoid that I will attempt to steal (which I will, haha).
This is where sunglasses clearly come in handy. But I’m not one to wear sunglasses at night, or at a poker table.
- Being consistent with reactions and emotions. This is sometimes difficult without repetition. For instance, if I’m running a bluff on somebody, good players will sometimes notice my mannerisms in that situation. It’s important to remain laid back and calm during all situations so nobody can pick up a physical tell.
And yes, bad players DO give away physical tells, although I wouldn’t recommend putting your tournament life on the line because of an eye twitch or something…
- Bad players have very little concept of pot control, bet sizing, pot odds, and how much money is in the pot. Online, it’s easy to see how much money is in the pot. In live tournaments, you obviously have to do some math.
It’s always funny watching bad players bet 1/10th the size of the pot in a no-limit hold’em tournament. These same players will deliberate for minutes when somebody moves all in and lays them 6:1 to make a call.
- Bad and mediocre players don’t three-bet very often in live tournaments, and they certainly don’t know how to properly react to a three-bet. Until players start adjusting, it’s fairly easy to pick spots and pick up pots by three-betting. Just don’t do it against the calling stations, obviously.Phil Mackey is a sports radio personality at 1500 ESPN Twin Cities. He's also the editor and publisher of Minnesota Poker Magazine, and the co-founder of the Minnesota State Poker Tour. Contact Phil at firstname.lastname@example.org