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Live Poker Strategy

For many players, the ability to handle live poker strategy is the true test of a player’s ability. While many of today's poker players started their journey at online poker tables, just about everyone agrees that nothing can quite match the excitement of utilizing live poker strategy in a land-based casino.

And as you'd expect from a game that's been around for longer than anyone can remember, there are subtle nuances of playing live poker you just won't see at an online room. From table etiquette to protecting your hand and handling the slow speed, here are some invaluable tips for making your first card room trip to play live poker a memorable one.

This page will show you:

  • How to choose the right live poker game
  • How to behave at a land-based live poker table
  • Learn to read facial expressions
  • Tips on the best way to build your bankroll
Live Poker Strategy

What’s on this page?

Getting started with Real Money Online Poker

Playing real money poker online is as simple as making a first deposit or winning a few bucks in an Internet freeroll. Sign up for one of our recommended websites using a top bonus code, pick a deposit method, and go to the Cashier tab. In seconds you’ll be able to load your account with USD, GBP or Euros. The only decision you’ll have to make is what tables at which you should play.

Advantages of Real Cash Poker

Playing poker live cash poker has numerous advantages. One of the primary advantages is you actually get to utilize live poker strategy, which is much more complex than the strategy you would use online. Also, the way in which you play cash poker is quite different than tournament poker.

Many times with cash poker live poker strategy dictates that you see more flops than you would if you were playing in a tournament. That means you get to play more hands than you would in a tournament. Many players like this aspect of cash. A major benefit to playing live cash games is you just have to win a few hands to go home with a profit. If you get involved in the right hand and you can really clean up.

Choosing Your Games

Choosing Your Games

Just like picking the right games online is vital for your wellbeing as a poker player, so too is it important for you to choose live games with which you're comfortable. Unless you're in a major gambling hub like Las Vegas, where every variant and stakes level available, your choice of game may be pretty limited. You will usually have a choice of around 2 to 6 tournaments a day plus a limited number and type of cash tables.

It's important, therefore, to pick games at which you excel. If the $20 tournament on a Tuesday night is packed with casual players, enter it. Also look for tourneys with guaranteed prize pools; these will sometimes have an "overlay", which is extra money added by the casino to the prize pool if not enough players have entered.

You're more likely to see an overlay in a live tournament than in an online one. Overlays are a major benefit in tournaments because they give you more bang for your buck.

If you're a cash game player about to play live poker, choose the stakes and the table that are right for you. Most good card rooms and casinos will have a generous range of cash games available. Take some time to check out various tables and the players at them before sitting down at one. With cash games you want to troll for fish.

Learn Table Etiquette

Learn Table Etiquette

When you play online how nice is it for the computer to handle all of the action? It calculates the pots, moves the button, and gently reminds you via a pinging sound that time is running out and you have to make your decision. In a live game this is not the case. The onus is on you. You need to post your own blinds, be aware of when the action is on you, and be able to calculate the pot amount (the dealer is not allowed to do it for you).

But live poker also brings with it a certain etiquette that you will be expected to know and follow. Never act out of turn, don't show other players your cards, and don't expose your cards deliberately when you fold them (unless it's at showdown and you've lost a pot). And while it's tempting to type an obscenity in the online chat box directed at that fish who's just hit his one-outer on the river against you, abusing players at a live card room is rude. All of the behavior described above can earn a player a warning or a one round penalty. In worst case scenarios, the player may be banned from the poker room.

Pay Attention To Everything

The beauty of live poker is that there's always something going on, even when there's nothing going on. Understanding this is an important aspect of live poker strategy. That means you should always pay attention to every player at your table because over time each will reveal something to you that you can use when playing against them.

Some behavior that can be revealing includes players discussing hands they played an hour earlier, others displaying physical tells when they’re in a hand, and those at the table watching movies or playing games on their tablets or texting their friends. If you’re observant and smart, you can use your observations of these players, incorporating them into your live poker strategy.

If A Player Isn't Paying Attention, You Should Be

In a live setting it's easy to see who's distracted, who's giving away too much information, and who are the fish. If you've folded a hand, don't switch off; instead, use the time to assess the players who are still in the hand. If the hand goes to a showdown, try to guess what the players are holding.

This information will be useful when you come up against them later on. Take it all in and retain all of that information. Remember, you don't have a player notes option in a live poker game like you do online.

Protect Your Cards

It’s important when you play live poker that you protect your hole cards at all times. Your cards are your responsibility. Protect your cards at all times. Dealers have been known to pull unfolded hands into the muck by accident. Also, be aware that if someone mucks their cards and they land on yours, your cards are also mucked.

This is why players often use a card protector such as a luck coin or icon that they place on top of their hole cards. This tells the dealer that you’re holding onto your cards and it also protects them from others who might toss their cards away carelessly.

By the same token, be respectful of your opponents and keep your cards visible so they know you're still playing. Keep your cards in front of your chips and don't cover them with your hands.

Understanding Variance In Live and Online

Understanding Variance In Live and Online

There's no doubt things move much slower in a live poker game. The nature of live poker means there are far fewer hands than in an online game, and when playing live you can't multi-table.

In a live poker game, you might see 25-40 hands per hour. Online, that figure can rise to 40-65. And if you're multi-tabling, the number of hands you might see multiplies in relationship to the number of tables at which you’re sitting.

It's important to factor this difference in when playing live. You need to downsize your long-term bankroll objectives if you're sticking to live poker and perhaps focus on the biggest guaranteed prize pool tournaments. There are plenty of poker pros who make a living just playing live poker, but the journey is much harder and involves longer sessions at the table. Plus, there are other costs involved like travel, food, and drink.

Learn Physical Tells

While you can detect certain psychological tells in online players (length of time taken over decisions, the speed or frequency that they check post-flop) live poker is where the tell really becomes a major part of your game.

Live poker strategy is often focused on tells, which can generally be categorized as either being unconscious or conscious . Unconscious tells are given off by players without realizing it and can manifest themselves in body language, sounds they make or things they say, or nervous twitches.

A player may raise and fold his arms, an indication he is "protecting" a big hand, or he may put his hands in front of his mouth to conceal the fact he is bluffing with a weak holding. He may also place his hands over his cards if they're good. Of course, experienced players who know their opponents are looking for these tells and may bluff with "false" tells in order to mislead the other players.

Conversely, "conscious" tells are when a player is trying to portray an image to the table. The most common form of this is "acting weak" where a player sighs heavily or shakes his head after being re-raised, even though he holds the best hand. The flipside is "acting strong" where players will re-raise and try to stare you down, giving off the impression they have a good hand.

Beginners and most live casual players will exaggerate these conscious tells. Always be aware and on the lookout for these as you can use the information you garner from them.

Use Our Tips To Build Your Live Poker Bankroll

A lot of online players DO successfully make the transition to live poker but they normally have to learn to deal with the boredom factor. If enjoyed with friendly players, and with an experienced, skillful dealer handling the game, live poker can be fun and profitable.

Practice your play online first and get used to playing on the Internet, then transfer those skills to a live poker room. One advantage of online poker in terms of gaining a better understanding of the game is it gives you the chance to play many more hands than you would at a land-based room. So, bring your headphones, get involved in some banter with your live opponents and enjoy yourself; that's what live poker is all about.

Choosing the Right Casino

Just as picking the right online card room is important for your poker bankroll, so too can choosing a top live poker room or casino be the difference in you finishing in the black or in the red.

Player traffic is vital wherever you play. Cash players need full tables to make their game profitable, and there needs to be a good selection of tables, a range of stakes, and games available 24/7.

Tournament players need to look for casinos or card rooms offering a decent weekly schedule of tourneys with guaranteed prize pools. And good rooms will have a big monthly tournament with festival seats or lots of added cash in the pool. If the card room is known for having a wealth of casual or fishy players, then that room could be the place where you cash in.

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