Live Poker Games
CONTRARY TO POPULAR belief, live casino games, and live poker are not that much different than playing online, and in order to reach long-term success, you need to have a solid strategy. You have to learn how to balance your ranges, understand math, observe your opponents and learn to exploit them.
The misconception that you need to have different strategies for live poker and online play comes from the fact that the average live-poker-game player is much weaker compared to those in the online world. This gives you the opportunity to have big win rates and massive results if you adjust your strategy in the right way, but you still have to learn all essentials to understand how to do that.
Luckily, I’ve got you covered. Just like Formula for Poker Success shows you how to beat online Live Poker games, I have a simple and actionable 9-step solution for mastering live poker games as well, which you can start implementing right away.
Obviously, some sections are the same for both live and online games because they teach you how to build a strong starting strategy
The first 3 steps are very similar to the ones that were already covered in Formula for Online Poker Success. Therefore, I will offer a short summary here, but I urge you to navigate to and read the online section first, even if you only play live poker.
Nevertheless, knowing how to prepare for a game is vital for learning the winning strategies when you play live, so make sure you read and understand those sections.
That being said, let us start from the beginning.
Step 1: Understanding live poker games
One of the biggest differences between live poker and online games is the skill level of your competition. It is not a surprise that the average online player surpasses his live-poker-game counterpart, because the former has way more options to improve, can use additional software and can play way more hands in the same timeframe.
This means that you should be using many exploitative plays to counter your opponent’s mistakes in live poker games. Obviously, you still have to learn how to balance your ranges in order to play against stronger opponents, and that is the first thing you should do when starting out.
Most of your money will come from exploiting weaker players, so your job is to observe your opponents and concentrate on attacking their mistakes when you notice them
Step 2: Learning Live Poker pre-flop strategy
The pre-flop strategy for live poker games is a bit different as well. First of all, most players are way too passive and make huge mistakes so you can take advantage of that by value betting more hands, which will get you paid most of the time.
Obviously, cash games and MTTs require a different approach so your goal is to learn how to adjust your ranges when you get a shorter stack in tournaments
Moreover, in the later stages of MTT, you should always take blockers into consideration. When you have high cards, such as Ax or Kx, your opponent is less likely to hold cards of the same value and will be less inclined to bluff, thus giving you a chance to steal more pots.
Using blockers the right way can drastically reduce your chance of getting bluffed of the hand, and it is even more important when you are short-stacked.
Step 3: Mastering Live Poker post-flop play
Your fundamental strategy is the same for live poker and online games. You must learn to balance your ranges and only implement exploitative plays when looking to increase your edge and punish your opponents for their mistakes.
To learn more about the topic, go back to “Mastering the Game” section and apply that approach as your starting point in live poker games.
Step 4: Live Poker Behavior tells
Behavior tells is the first of 3 steps dedicated to reading your opponents.
By noticing how much time your opponent takes to make a decision – if he talks or how he behaves at the table – you can quickly gain an extra edge and make better decisions. Therefore, you should always concentrate when playing and take note of all the available information.
You can learn a lot just by observing your opponent’s actions at the table: the way they look at you, how they are sitting and what they are doing with their chips. You should always be looking at other players to gain as much information about them as possible.
Poker tells can give you a lot of information about the strength of your opponent’s hand and is a massive weapon in live poker games
An excellent example of a weak hand gesture is when your opponent tries to reach for his chips out of turn, thus indicating that he is planning to bet. I do not remember a time when I saw anyone making this move with a premium hand, because players do not want to create an obstacle for you to bet when they have something good.
However, when your opponent purposefully tries to show uncertainty or doubt, and then still makes a bet or raises, he most likely has a good hand
This is a very reliable tell indicating a lot of strength on your opponent’s part. Unlike the previous example, where players do not want to appear weak when bluffing and would not send signals of uncertainty.
You can pick any of these indications when carefully observing the behavior of your opponents, and this will help you start making better decisions at once.
Obviously, these are just a couple of the signs that you can use to make better decisions.
Step 5: Live Poker Timing tells
Another essential element you should consider when reading your opponents is the amount of time a player takes to make a specific action. It can be very meaningful in regards to his hand strength.
When your opponent needs an extended period of time to consider his move and then bets or raises, he is way less likely to be bluffing
This is true because players do not want to appear weak and will make bluff raises much quicker to pretend that they are confident with their hands. But keep in mind that quick action often indicates a weaker range.
When a player takes immediate action, he is unlikely to have a premium holding. If he had a strong hand, he would not want to give up this information and appear confident with a quick bet. This is simple reverse psychology.
It’s, even more, telling, when a player calls a bet right away. This is a sure sign that he is not trapping. If he had a strong hand he would at least think about raising, but betting shows his range is more likely to be full of speculative and medium strength holdings, and you can take advantage of that by bluffing him more often.
Step 6: Live Poker Verbal tells
The last element that you need to master when reading your opponents is verbal tells. This is probably the most significant tell area, with many articles written on this topic alone. However, not all theory applies to practice. Thus, here I’m going to share only the most relevant tells that could be successfully applied to real Live Poker games. Additionally, I have summarized the essentials in my Live Games Master Class so you would have all the information in one place.
In live poker, talking takes many forms, but most of them suggest that the player is relaxed and less likely to bluff. Obviously, it doesn’t count when someone asks how many chips you have or if you ask a question and a player answers. Those are technicalities. But if, after betting, the player starts talking without any particular reason, he is probably trying to convince you that he is just friendly and you should play with him. So be careful.
The vital thing to take away is that there is a big difference between aggressive players and those who wait for your action while talking.
As a general rule of thumb, when a player talks after betting, it is a clear indication of a strong holding
However, if your opponent starts talking while you are considering a bet, he usually has a very small chance to actually hold a premium hand. Otherwise, he would not be risking to attract attention to himself because that could prevent you from betting. Like in most cases, understanding reverse psychology plays a big part in reading your opponents.
Summarizing live poker tells
Understanding how to read your opponents is one of the most important things you can learn when playing live poker, but you have to understand a few rules.
Most professional players fake it from time to time or act in a neutral manner so, you should not make your decision based on a tell only. There- fore, these patterns will more often hold true for recreational players.
Even though this is more of an exception, if you can notice such a difference in a particular player’s actions, he is very unlikely to change it later on, so you will have a very reliable tell on him that you can act on with a lot of confidence. This is a simple way to categorize players in your games which will help you gain a significant edge when playing the same opponents again.
It is vital to understand that spotting one poker tell is not always enough to make a decision
In most cases, ‘tells’ work as an additional source of information after observing a player’s betting action, positions and possible ranges. However, when you have a close decision, or several tells indicating the same thing, you can confidently decide what to do based on tells, and so improve your results.
It is crucial to remember these rules if you want to read your opponents successfully. Observe your opponents and categorize them based on their behavior. Always make sure you understand that tells do not guarantee that a player has either a weak or a strong hand, and should only be used as additional information in most cases.
Step 7: Live Poker Mental game
Mastering mental game is one of your top priorities. I have seen many great players lose opportunities to move up stakes because of mental issues.
At the beginning of my poker career, I also spewed and lost a lot of money until I learned how to control my emotions, when to take breaks and how to concentrate my attention.
If you want to learn how to be calm, control your emotions and make rational decisions, I recommend taking these simple steps seriously.
We will start by covering strategies that will help you strengthen your mental game and prepare you for live poker sessions.
I hope that after reading this section you will be able to identify and avoid tilting, for the most part, and keep your concentration longer than you can now. We will cover 5 crucial elements that will help you play at your best.
Preparation for Live Poker Games
Spending a few minutes before your session to prepare for the games can have life-changing results
Even though it is extremely simple, this strategy helped me – and hundreds of other players – to regain control of my emotions, and most importantly, to keep my concentration for longer periods.
Always take care of your basic needs so you don’t have to interrupt your session later on, and warm-up your brains so that you could start your session making great decisions right away.
Identifying Live Poker tilting
In order to reach long-time success, it is crucial to identify when and why you start tilting. Players do it for all kinds of reasons, so your job is to identify your trigger. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut that will help you do that.
The first thing that you need to do after identifying your reasons is to stop playing and evaluate your further game.
Learning to quit Live Poker Games on time
It is vital to learn when to leave the table without spewing a big chunk of your stack. Quitting a session on time can save you a lot of money in the long run, but sadly, I learned that the hard way. However, it is easier said than done.
Even if you cannot stand up and walk away from the game, you should at least take a mental break and tighten your playing range to calm down
You have to understand that downswings can and will happen. This is the nature of the game and variance will not go away no matter which format you choose. As a matter of fact, this is even good for you because it is the only reason why weaker players win from time to time and stay in the games.
However, when you do lose, you can choose how you react and that will determine your long-time success.
Tracking Live Poker results
Many players do not track results when playing live poker and have no idea of their win rates or how much they are making per hour.
However, if you want to take poker seriously, tracking results is a must in live games
Luckily, this is quite easy to accomplish. You can either take notes of your results or use a dedicated app to do it. Either way, make sure you know your win rate!
Step 8: Learning the Live Poker differences
If you read everything so far, you already know how to build a winning strat- egy and guarantee your long term success. However, you can go one step further and learn how to take advantage of your opponents in live poker games by mastering 3 key concepts that will help you skyrocket your results, namely:
- Adjusting your bet-sizing.
- Mastering multiway pots.
- Using exploitative plays.
We cover that in the last step.
Step 9: Final adjustments for Live Poker
Live Poker Bet-sizing
It is crucial to adjust your bet-sizing in live games. However, this is actually one of the most advanced topics in live poker strategy, and in order to understand how to exploit weaker players, you have to understand the foundations first. This way you will know what size to use in different situations and would not get lost in the middle of a hand.
That being said, you should know that live players are quite passive and you can easily get more value with strong holdings.
Logically, when you have a good hand you should keep betting for value as much as you can
Additionally, you can even overbet when you suspect that your opponent has a reasonable holding and is not looking to fold even to a huge bet.
In contrast, small sizing works great as a bluff versus weaker players because they do not see the sizing in relation to the pot; they only play their hand. Following this way of thinking, if they missed their draws or have a hand they are willing to lay down, they will be folding no matter how much you bet, so you can save a lot of money by choosing smaller sizing.
These are very basic tips that you can implement right away, but to learn how to manipulate your opponent’s range you will have to do some studying!
A good bet-sizing strategy lets you manipulate your opponent’s play
Multiway Live Poker pots
To be honest, it is quite difficult to find an ideal line in multiway pots. If you play online because you do not see many of these pots and therefore it is harder to train for them.
However, playing 3way, 4way or against more opponents is very common in passive live poker games, so you should take this part very seriously. If you learn how to play multiway pots and how to avoid making common mistakes, you will put your opponents in an extremely tough spot where you can take advantage of their weaknesses.
This helps you to protect your hand while making your opponent fold you. Obviously, you should not be betting your total air hands against multiple opponents because of the likelihood of someone having a good hand increases with every new player that enters the pot. Instead, you should be protecting your strong and medium-strength hands by betting aggressively and denying equity to your opponents.
Moreover, you should attack any weakness when no one is showing interest in the pot. In most cases, if you see many players checking multiple streets, you should try to steal the pot.
Thus, aggressive c-betting, attacking weaknesses and bluffing are great strategies to steal many uncontested multiway pots.
Exploitative Live Poker plays
Naturally, online and live poker games are quite different. In order to get better results when playing live poker, you can implement an exploitative approach more often. If that’s your strategy, you do not need to balance your ranges and can take more profitable lines. That’s what you should concentrate on when playing live.
For starters, you should raise limpers and 3-bet more than usual. It is true that your opponents will not fold much pre-flop, but you will make a ton of money with a simple c-bet because many live poker players follow a fit-or-fold strategy. If they do not give up on the flop, they will be folding a ton on later streets so you can literally print money.
Similarly, post-flop you should stick with aggressive strategies as well.
Naturally, do as many check-raises as you can, so you can take down many pots.
Most players in live poker games fold way too much when facing check-raises
This is important because of Live Poker players rarely barrel all 3 streets without good holdings and even more so, they rarely raise as a bluff on the river. When you see that much aggression in one place, you should consider folding even reasonably strong hands.
As always, observe your opponents and adapt your play based on their tendencies and you will be killing the games.