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Texas Hold'em No Limit Beginner

Live Poker Guide

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Live poker is a lot different than the online poker you're used to. Use this live poker guide to help yourself prepare for the real green felt - prepare for success!

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Live Poker Guide

The introduction of online poker rooms was a real game changer. The ability to play poker in the comfort of your own home 24 hours a day was truly revolutionary. Not to mention the fact that players were no longer confined to one table and the slow pace dictated by the limitations of the live casino setting. Online poker became extremely popular and spelled the beginning of an entirely new generation of players. It's no longer essential to know live poker strategy and many competent players that play cards for a living never set foot in a casino.

That being said live poker is far from irrelevant. Some of the highest EV cash games and most prestigious tournaments require you to sit at an actual poker table and interact with other players in a live setting. Even if you're an avid online player, adding some live games into your routine can be both profitable and enjoyable as long as you know how to adjust to this specific setting - use our live poker guide to help you make this transition.

Ask and you Shall Receive (Live poker tips)

Every casino and poker club have their own set of rules and while for the most part, they do function somewhat similarly, it's best to get into a habit of getting to know those rules by simply asking. Just like you wouldn't assume that two online poker rooms have the same tournament schedules, blind structures, cash tables etc. you shouldn't think that one visit in the casino is enough for you to know everything there is to know. While playing poker live becomes easier and more familiar with experience, providing you with answers to any questions you might have is pretty much in every casino worker job description, so don't hesitate to ask if you're unsure about something no matter if it's your first casino visit or you've played some live tournaments before.

Best Practices

Live Poker Guide Chips
- Image Credit - Danny Maxwell

Once you've taken your seat at the poker table you might notice the distinct lack of betting buttons, along with actual human beings in your vicinity and an abnormal amount of stimuli when compared to online games. Players shuffle their chips and talk to each other, there can be a TV in the background and loud announcements if you're playing a tournament. Playing and learning how to play live poker can be a bit overwhelming and it's best to know how to handle yourself if you want to avoid some common mistakes.

Keep up with the game - This can be deceptively tricky. In theory, you have only one hand to follow at a time and with live poker being played at a much slower pace then online, this shouldn't be challenging for someone capable of keeping up with multiple tables online. In reality, your actions at a virtual table simply boil down to clicking buttons and the information that you require is provided to you at all times via an easy to read graphical interface. When you're playing at an actual table there are no numbers above players heads displaying the size of their bet, the dealer won't automatically take blinds and antes from your stack and you can actually act out of turn. Pay attention to those little things so the game flow is as smooth as possible. 

Live Poker strategyAnnounce your actions - Verbally stating what you're about to do is a very good habit that will help you avoid many unnecessary blunders. In most casinos the thing that you say takes precedence over everything else. For example, if you say 'raise' and proceeded to muck your hand you'll be forced to put at least the minimum raise amount into the pot. Conversely, if you fail to announce your action and put a single chip into the pot it will count as a call no matter the chip amount. 

It's not a western! - Popular culture is responsible for popularizing cliches that won't fly at a real poker table. "I see your 500 and... I raise you another 500!" might be good for adding dramatic tension to the scene and you might even get away with it in some casinos - especially if it's your first time playing live poker - but in many others, dealers won't even let you finish the sentence and count your "I see your" as a call.
Same goes for adding chips into the pot in small chunks. Unless you've announced the amount you're raising to you should add all of the chips you're willing to bet in a single movement.
 Live Poker Guide

Learn how to handle your cards -
Keep your cards on the table at all times. While this rule isn't as strict as many others because inexperienced players often pick their cards up to check their hand strength, in some casinos your hand would actually be considered dead if you decided to do that. While we're far from the old reality of card sharks trained in sleight of hand techniques, it's still a good idea to act in a way that minimizes the probability that other players will see your hand.

Live Poker Guide Table EtiquetteProtect your cards by putting a chip or card protector on top of them. That way the dealer can't ever muck your hand by mistake and other players can't accidentally expose one or both of your cards with some sort of a clumsy movement (your hand would be considered dead in both of those situations since each player is responsible for protecting his or her hand). Speaking of clumsy movements, unless you're an experienced live player or you're really into card magic, don't try to muck your hand in a fancy way. Sliding cards down on the table towards the dealer guarantees that you won't expose them in the process. 

Table etiquette -Don't talk during the hand you're not playing in especially if the size of the pot is relatively big or you're at a crucial stage of the tournament. While you might get away with it if you're playing with friends, or you're talking to a player next to you and the hand is taking place between players on the other side of the table, it's best to be slightly oversensitive in this matter.
You wouldn't want other people to distract you in a similar situation. Don't try to intimidate other people, it might seem cool at a first glance but in a harsh reality of poker sessions lasting hours on end it quickly becomes awkward.
It's totally fine to be quiet and focused (as long as you preform all of your actions at the table correctly as described above), you don't have to engage others in a friendly conversation, but trying to give everyone mean looks won't magically increase your expected value. With the way that language affects are thought processes, trying to put other players on tilt will very often end up putting you on tilt and doing more harm than good. If anything, you might increase your expectation by being friendly to weaker players, since most of them will be willing to leave more money at a fun table than at the one full of vaguely threatening faces, gaping at them from behind sunglasses. Don't slow roll other players. It's ok to always take a couple of seconds to make sure you've read your hand correctly, but if you're last to act with the nuts act swiftly.


Live Poker Guide Strategy

Lastly, let's talk a bit about strategy. While live poker is still essentially the same game (especially nowadays) and the knowledge that you gained online should translate fairly well to this new setting, you might want to make a few adjustments. 
Play it like it's 2008 -The exploitative strategy will be your bread and butter. It makes very little sense to attempt to play GTO in a game played at a rate of 12-20 hands per hour in which players often raise to 5-8 big blinds preflop. As always, tight is right, especially if it's your first live game. The easiest way to exploit players with wide ranges and high spazz factor, is to make sure that you have the range advantage. As the game progresses and you learn more about your opponents, opening up your range might be a great idea, but don't try to bully the table if it's your first visit in a casino. 

Live Poker Guide RulesDon't stress over tells - While it might be a good idea to learn more about this subject don't concern yourself with live tells if it's one of your first visits in the casino. Betting patterns are much more important and since they are more familiar to you there's no point in confusing yourself by looking for the strength of villain's range in his eyes or hands. While there's nothing wrong in wearing a hoodie to disguise any tellss you yourself might be giving away, unless you're playing against very experienced, and very good live sharks, most of the player population will most likely end up confusing themselves by trying to read too much into your actions. 

Mental notes - Just like there would be no excuse not to make notes when you're playing at 1-2 online tables, there's absolutely no excuse not to make mental notes at a live table. You have plenty of time to follow each and every hand and you should be doing just that. Identify your targets, be aware of the players that might cause you trouble and your experience will quickly become much more profitable. 

Live poker can be both profitable and entertaining. As long as you know how to handle yourself and you're aware that adjusting your live poker strategy is necessary you should be able to enjoy both the high EV and high enjoyment associated with seating behind the casino table. We hope you enjoyed our live poker guide, check out some of our more great written and video content below!

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Matt VIP

Matt is predominantly a mental game and planning expert, with a terrific knowledge of science, meditation, practical methods of improvement and of course, a good level of poker skill! Look out for his strategy articles and follow him for hi ... Read More


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