The internet makes it easy for poker players from around the
world to quickly find a game and start playing. Many players who
started playing in the last decade have never played a hand of
live poker in a casino or poker room.
While there’s nothing wrong with being an online poker
player, or even an online poker pro, everyone should consider
playing live from time to time. The experience is different and
you may find that you play even better in a poker room than
playing at home.
At first this may seem unlikely, but when you play live you
have the advantage of being able to see and hear your opponents,
unlike in online play. Of course your opponents have the same
advantage against you, so you need to be aware of your actions
at the table.
Preparing for Live Play
When you prepare for live Texas holdem play you need to
consider two things. The first thing to focus on is learning how
to read your opponents so you can increase your profitability.
The second thing you need to focus on is making sure your
opponents can’t use the way you look, act, or talk against you
because this will cost you money in the long run. We cover both
of these things in this section.
Your Opponent’s Play
Even if you consistently win as an online Texas holdem
player, you may find that your results are even better when you
start playing live games. The ability to see your opponents and
learn how they play in a live environment can lead to a great
deal of profit over time if you know how to use what you see and
hear to your advantage.
The first thing you need to do is pay attention at all times.
It’s easy to get distracted or let your mind wander when you
aren’t directly involved in a hand, but you need to watch
everyone at the table so you can learn as much as possible.
The next thing to do is watch for physical tells.
Physical tells are things that players do that may give hints
or clues to the strength of their hand. Some players have
shaking hands when they have a huge hand and others squint or
blink more often than normal when they’re bluffing. Just be
careful because some good players are able to give false tells
and trap you in a big hand.
Verbal tells are another area to listen for.
Listen to not only what the other players are saying but also
how they’re saying it. The best players have learned how to
sound the same in all situations, unless they’re trying to fool
you, but most players aren’t very good at disguising their table
The more you pay attention and play the more opportunities
you’ll find to help you win more money while playing Texas
holdem. Of course you still need to focus on strong play, but
every little advantage helps you make more money in the long
It’s not a bad idea to keep a small pocket sized notebook
with you so you can jot down things that you see that you may
have a hard time remembering.
Just make a quick note and then review your notes after your
playing session. You can also review your notes the next time
you plan to play at the same place in the future. Most poker
rooms have regular players who you may play against over and
over. Learning about these players can be quite valuable over
Once you start seeing how other players give information away
with their play you need to start paying attention to your play
and actions. You need to play in a way that only gives the
information away that you want to give out.
The best place to start is by taking roughly the same time to
make a decision and act on every play that you make. Chris
Ferguson is a good example of this, especially if you can find
footage of him from 10 years ago and older. He does an excellent
job of taking the same time to act whether he’s folding,
calling, or making a big raise.
You may also want to wear a hat and sun glasses to help cover
your eyes and part of your face. The less your opponents can see
the less they can read about your play. Concentrate on keeping
your facial expressions the exact same no matter what you’re
doing in the hand.
The next thing you need to do in live Texas holdem play is
keep your mouth shut. You don’t have to be rude, but when you’re
involved in a hand all you have to say is the minimum amount to
do what you need to do. Simple commands like, check, call, fold,
and raise are all you need to say. The more you talk during a
hand the more likely it will be that one of your opponents will
learn something about the strength of your hand that you don’t
want her to know.
Once you master the ability to look, act, and sound the same
no matter what the strength of your hand you can start looking
for opportunities to give false information to help you make
This can be tricky though because you need to find opponents
who are good enough to pick up on the false tells but who aren’t
good enough to figure out that you’re giving false information.
The truth is most Texas holdem players don’t pay enough
attention to the game or their opponents to pick up a tell if
you write it out on a big sign and hold it up. And on the other
end of the spectrum are the players who are good enough to pick
up on tells, but are also good enough to read false tells and
use them against you.
Don’t worry about giving false tells until you’ve mastered
the live game and are already winning on a consistent basis.
Plenty of winning live players never bother with things like
this, choosing to concentrate on other areas of their game in
order to turn a profit. So if you decide tells aren’t your thing
you can still find ways to be a winning live Texas holdem
Where to Play Live Poker
The poker boom of the 2000’s made live games available in the
most places as they’ve ever been found. While poker has cooled
off somewhat since then, you can still find plenty of live
When you start looking for a place to play live poker you
need to consider what you’re willing to put up with and what
you’re not willing to tolerate. Answer these questions to give
you an idea of where you can go to play.
How far are you willing to travel to play?
Most poker players have a casino with poker tables or a
full-fledged poker room within an hour of where they live.
Almost everyone has a private poker game or home game within an
hour of where they live, even if they aren’t currently aware of
where it may be.
If you’re willing to get on a plane or bus to travel to a
gambling hub like Las Vegas or Atlantic City your live Texas
holdem options are even broader.
At the end of the day your options for live holdem play boil
down to playing in a private or home game or playing in a casino
or poker room. They each have plusses and minuses and only you
can decide which venue is best for you.
Do you feel safe playing in a non-casino environment or do
you need the possibly false sense of security that comes from
playing in a public place?
The reason we say a possibly false sense of security is
because even casinos can be dangerous if you don’t use good
common sense. Poker players tend to carry a great deal of cash
with them and thieves know this so they can try to catch you
while you’re in a parking area or other less secure place.
Of course some private games can be found in shady parts of
town, but many home games are surprisingly safe. You need to do
your due diligence in either situation to keep yourself safe.
Do you know anyone who plays in private or home games that
Start asking your friends and people you know or work with if
they play poker. You may be surprised at how many of them play.
Ask them where they play and find out more about the games. Make
sure you ask for specifics about the stakes. A big game to one
player may be a small game to another. We know players who think
a $50 buy in game is huge and we also know players who play for
thousands every time they sit down.
What stakes are you willing to play?
As a follow up to the last question, it’s important to
consider the low and high end of the stake you’re willing to
play. The higher the stakes you want to play the farther you may
need to travel. But if you’re willing to play for small stakes
you can probably find games in many places.
What games are you willing to play?
Texas holdem is by far the most played game so you shouldn’t
have any trouble finding a holdem game. But if you want to play
limit or pot limit it may be more difficult to find a game at
the stakes you wish to play. If you’re looking for a non holdem
game like Omaha or Seven Card Stud you’re probably going to be
forced to travel to a larger casino or poker room.
Are you willing to do whatever it takes to give yourself the
best chance to win every time you play?
The main reason to answer this question is because if you
want to give yourself the best chance to win you’re going to
find the games with the weakest players. This requires either
building your own live game or traveling to wherever the best
games are located.
Phil Ivey, a successful professional poker player stated in
an interview that one of the reasons he stopped playing so many
World Series of Poker events is because he can turn more profit
by playing in side games during the WSOP. He’s known to go
wherever the best games are, and if you want to be a long term
winning live player you may need to be willing to do the same
Are you willing to “shop” for a good table when you arrive at
the poker room or are you going to grab the first available
Following the comment on the last question, do you think Phil
Ivey grabs the first seat or finds the best game before taking a
seat? Most poker players who play in live games are so excited
to get started playing that they jump into the first available
game. But the best players understand that finding the best game
leads to a higher profit margin, so they shop for a good table.
You need to do the same thing every time you play live.
While playing live Texas holdem poker follows the same basic
rules and game play as playing online, it is a much different
experience in many ways.
When you start playing live keep an eye out for things your
opponents do and say that may help you win more hands, and at
the same time be aware of your own actions and table talk to
keep from giving away information about your play. You don’t
have to worry about the faces you make or the sounds you make
while playing at a computer, but while playing live it can be
Use the advice included above to find the best places to play
live Texas holdem. Once you start playing live you may find that
your results are even better than when you concentrate all of
your play to the online world.
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