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Poker Mental Game & Planning

Switching to Live Poker Post COVID-19

5,696 Views on 21/8/20

Let’s take a look at some of the most important differences that you must be aware of when switching to live play

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The COVID-19 lockdown led to a dramatic increase in traffic for online poker websites. Figures were at five-year highs with many new players taking up the game as well as many returning after an extended break.

Let’s face it, if you are into online poker you will never be bored during a lockdown.

The question is what happens with the live poker scene when the pandemic is over. Hopefully many players who have rekindled their passion for poker in the online arena will also give the live game a try.

It’s looking likely that there will at least be an initial boom with many people just happy to be out of the house doing something they enjoy.

All of this means that there will be some pretty juicy games going on throughout the rest of this year and probably well into next year. This is a great opportunity to spread your wings and make a nice chunk of change.

It’s not a totally straightforward move from online games to live, however, because the games tend to play a lot differently, especially at low stakes. This dynamic will likely be even more pronounced when the card rooms start to fill up again.

Let’s take a look at some of the most important differences that you must be aware of when switching to live play.


For many players physical tells are an important part of the game. The ability to read body language and speech are invaluable for maximising your win rate.

This will be even more important with so many new and rusty players in the casinos.

Before we look at a few key observations you need to understand that timing is everything with a tell. It’s no good picking up that a player is nervous when they may give off that appearance most of the time. You must look for changes in normal behaviour patterns.

Double checking - This is something seen a lot in casinos but players often misinterpret the read.

If a player was showing aggression and the pot is quite large double checking the holecards generally indicates strength. Players trying to not appear weak will try to remain calm and avoid unnecessary movements.

Double checking pre flop and while waiting to act post flop on earlier streets is often a sign of a weak hand. A player with a strong hand will be more focussed.

Another time when this read can be helpful is when new draws appear on the board. An inexperienced player will sometimes check their cards to see if the redraw helps them.

Insta-calls - Immediate calls are rarely a strong hand. They usually represent a weak to margin made hand or a draw.

If an opponent has a monster they will at least consider raising for a few seconds.

Verbal aggression - Players that bluff a lot tend not to dish out verbal aggression. They wish to remain under the radar.

Inexperienced players will often try to goad you into a call when they hold a strong hand - don’t fall for it.

Obviously this read is highly player dependent so use with caution.

Multiway Pots

Due to the high number of inexperienced players in live games many pots will be played multiway. It is important to understand that multiway pots should be played much more conservatively than in heads up situations

It sounds obvious but many players fail to adjust correctly. It is easier to understand that with more players in the pot a bluff is much less likely to succeed, but the real key is being able to gauge how much value your marginal hands are worth.

A good rule of thumb which isn’t a perfect strategy but will keep you out of trouble is to take more care in three-way pots and in four-way or more refrain from bluffing completely

For the made hands you must pay close attention to which players will commit too many chips with a weak hand. Otherwise your caution will actually end up costing you profit.

Larger Pre Flop Raise Sizes

Lower limit live games tend to play with much bigger open raise sizes than what is seen online. For this reason it is important not to get caught up with calling to liberally pre flop with the excuse of pot odds and wanting to play against weak players.

This is a common trap when playing in the blinds. In multiway pots it is tough to realise your equity and even if the call is theoretically correct pre flop you will struggle to show a profit calling trash.

Live games are fun, even without them being much softer than you will be used to online. That experience of staring down an opponent across the table adds an extra dimension to the game.


Mark Patrickson

Mark Patrickson is a professional cash game player grinding stakes up to 100nl 6 Max NL Hold'em13 years experience of poker, across MTT SnG and cash, FL PL NL.Currently living in South East Asia and trying to make it back to mid-stakes befo ... Read More


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