No matter what poker format you came up in, there is no denying that live poker games are the most fun but also the most profitable ones out there.
There is just no replacing the social element of live poker, and no matter how good the online poker games may be, the drama that unfolds at the live tables is something every poker player should experience once in a while.
The best thing about live poker games is that they are notoriously easy to beat, with many recreational players coming in for their gambling fix and even the good players slipping up and making major mistakes very often.
If you are new to the live games or have been struggling with them, here are my 7 top tips that will help you do better at the live poker tables and enjoy the game more in the future.
Don’t Play Too High
One of the biggest downfalls of many live poker players is playing in games they don’t have the bankroll for.
It is easy to understand how a player can decide to join a game he can’t really afford. Seeing the massive fish sitting at the higher stakes tables may look like a great opportunity to quickly skyrocket your bankroll.
However, it is important to remember that only the long run matters in poker, and you are not going to get to the long run if you play in games you are not bankrolled for.
More often than not, playing too high will result in you making bad decisions and not playing your best poker.
Even if you do, some bad luck can quickly destroy your small bankroll and take you back to zero.
Instead, I always suggest grinding it out and gradually advancing through the stakes. Taking a shot here and there is OK, as long as you remember to move down if you lose and go back on the grind.
This tip applies to all forms of gambling. Whether you’re playing poker, blackjack, or USA real money slots, you should always stay within your budget.
Play Tight in Early Positions
In live poker games, you will see players splashing around and playing all sorts of trash in all positions. You should not fall into the trap of joining this trend.
Playing bad hands from early positions will get you in trouble, even if the games are relatively passive and there isn’t too much re-raising going on.
You should make sure to play very tight in early positions, especially in full-ring games. The more players there are at the table, the tighter you should play in the early positions.
You should open up your range as you approach the button but also care less about balancing out your ranges and more about the playability of your hands. The fact is, most pots will go multi-way, whether you like it or not.
Don’t Bluff Too Often
Live poker tables are stacked with calling stations and maniacs who are happy to give their money away. For that reason, you should usually be more value-oriented and worry less about making big bluffs.
If you are playing in a live poker game in which players are folding a lot and not looking to spew their chips away, you are probably playing in the wrong game.
Regardless of what stakes you are looking to play, there are live games in which you will find players with a very low understanding of the game.
You should always be looking to play in such games and exploit the calling stations and maniacs instead of battling it out with other solid players.
Be Mindful of Stack Sizes
If you are used to online poker, you are also used to seeing everyone’s chip counts right in front of you. This is not the case in live poker, and you will have to put some effort into knowing how many chips you have and how many your opponents have.
However, there is no way to play good poker if you don’t know what the effective stack size is.
Don’t be shy about asking your opponents how much they have or at least forcing them to stack their chips properly.
Many important poker decisions will be based on stack depth, so make sure you always take the time and make sure you know exactly what kind of stack depth you are working with before you make your play.
Choose Your Seat Carefully
In many live poker games, you can sit in any seat you want to, and this is a great advantage for you as a thinking poker player.
I suggest always trying to sit to the left of the most aggressive player at the table while trying to have the more passive, nitty players sit to your left.
This way, you will be able to control the pot size against the maniac while also maintaining position on them in most hands. On the other hand, the tight players should not give you too much trouble as they will play their cards mostly face up.
Know Your Opponents
Live poker clubs and casinos are usually frequented by the same group of players, with some newcomers coming in here and there.
If you keep your focus at a high level, you will be able to notice how each of these regular players play and what their general style is.
You might also be able to pick up on some specific tells and tendencies you can use against them.
If you keep good tabs on your opponents, you will quickly have a good idea of exactly what some of them are doing in different situations. This will help you make some amazing plays against them in the future.
Keep Playing Your A-Game
More importantly than anything else, you should always keep playing your best game, regardless of how things are going or who is sitting at the table.
Very often, live games get heated, and players start putting in massive raises, calling with random trash, and even getting it all in before the flop with very marginal holdings.
You should make sure you never fall into this trap and that you are playing every poker hand optimally. If your opponents are playing wild, you should still be looking to have an edge over them, not simply gamble it up with them.
Make sure that you consider every play you make before you make it, and never allow yourself to play on auto-pilot.
If you can keep on your A-game throughout the session, more often than not, you will come out as the big winner for the night.