Back to basics poker strategy: Live preparation

Live poker is a blast but it can be pretty intimidating the first time you try it – follow these four simple rules and we guarantee you’ll have a good time

1. Always announce your intentions

If you verbalise your bets before you make them, you won’t be penalised for any mistakes you make with your chips. If you want to raise, announce this to the dealer before you move any chips across the line, stating how much you want to raise to.

This is one of the most common mistakes players make when they’re playing live for the rst time. You might not think it’s that important, but check this cautionary tale out.

A player attempts to raise pre op in early position. He’s clearly nervous about the tournament, but especially about the hand he’s just been dealt. With blinds at 25/50 he throws a 500 chip into the middle and once it’s in says, ‘Oh, erm, raise to 150.’

The dealer, correctly, tells him it’s a call, which kicks off a limpfest which sees six players go to the op. Predictably, the player who has tried to raise has Aces, and even more predictably, he’s eliminated in the hand when a player ops two-pair with a hand that would definitely have been mucked to a pre op raise.

2. What if you don’t want to announce your intentions?

In the heat of the moment it’s easy to forget what you’re supposed to be doing, especially when you pick up Aces and you’re doing your level best to control your heart from breaking through your chest.

It’s also true that a lot of players don’t want to speak because they think their voice will give away crucial tells. Observant players will be able to tell if your voice, which a few minutes back, was happily recounting a funny story about the night before, has suddenly started to crack.

If you’d rather stay silent when you’re in a hand, that’s fine but you need to ensure that you bet the correct amount, and slide all of your chips across the line at the same time. You need to remember that you can’t raise with a single chip without verbalising your action – it will always be interpreted as a call. Also, if you don’t bet enough for the minimum raise, your action will be taken as a call.

3. Play to win

If you’re approaching the bubble in the Main Event, we’ll forgive you if you batten down the hatches. However, if you’re playing in a low-stakes tournament it’s a real mistake to shut up shop and fold everything but kings and Aces.

Cashing in a tournament is great but too many people put too much stock in it. Poker tournaments are top heavy and the real money is on the final table. Getting less than double your buy-in back might seem like a result but it’s not going to turn you into a winning player.

A lot of people play a live bubble differently from an online bubble. Perhaps it’s because they’ve travelled down for the tournament and it’s more of a big deal, but it gives you more opportunity to benefit. So, as hard as it might be, try to play the bubble as aggressively as you can.

Look out for experienced players that are obviously preying on the weak and take advantage of the inexperienced players who haven’t read this article.

4. Enjoy yourself

This is the most important bit of advice we can give you. Win or lose, poker should be fun. Live poker is exhilarating and nerve- wracking, and the beauty is that you’re playing and pitting yourself against real people. Talk to them. Make some new friends. You never know, you might pick up some information that helps you in a key hand somewhere down the line.

That might sound mercenary but remember that you’re playing a game. Everyone has sat down with the intention of winning – try and make sure it’s you. Poker is a lot more fun when you leave with more money than you had when you started.

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