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Live Poker Strategy

Live Poker Strategy, Tips, and Tells for Online Players

Planning a trip to Las Vegas or hoping to gain an edge in your home game? Here are some live poker strategy and tips written with the online player in mind. First are techniques for gaining and interpreting information from your opponents. Second are methods of controlling the information you give off.

Live Poker Strategy – Reading Tells

Watch and listen for as much information (i.e. pokerReading Tellstells) as you possibly can. If you’re used to playing tons of tables online, you are going to feel like you have lots of extra time and attention capacity. Focus all of this energy on the other players. If you’re concentrating hard enough, you will have more than enough information to take in and process. You will have no excuse for boredom.

Look to your left

Who is broadcasting what they are going to do? Which players will hold their cards up when they’re planning to muck? Who is reaching for chips? This will save you money when you have a questionable hand. Or it will win you blinds when you notice the rest of the table wants to fold.

Level and mentally label your opponents

Are they “actors”? Do they frown or sigh or complain when they make big hands?

Do they legitimately tank down when they are making difficult calls?

Do they wear their emotions on their sleeve? Do they bitch or get upset when they take a bad beat or cooler? This means they’re prone to tilt, and it’s very unlikely they’re a “good reg”.

Chat up the people next to you. Figure out if they’re visiting from out of town, if they have a card room near home, or if they play online (but try not to reveal that you play a lot). Be wary of the quiet ones.

Note how people bet

Players will often subconsciously use a different betting technique when they are weak versus strong. For example, they might toss their chips in and say nothing when they are bluffing, but they might place the chips in stacks and add a verbal “raise to fifty” when they have a strong hand.

Gauge their comfort and confidence

Many players will reveal much about their hands simply by how comfortable or confident they look. Sometimes it’s the tone of their voice or how fluid their motions are, but it can also just be an overall vibe you get from them. Some players look down-right nervous and shifty when they’re c-betting a missed board for example.

Catch EVERY Showdown

This is most critical. Without a database to help track and profile everyone, seeing the cards your opponents showdown is the only way to get a feel for the ranges they are playing. As you’re diligently processing all of the above cues and clues, don’t forget to follow the lines of every hand and what your opponent flips over. If he is obligated to show first on the river, make him reveal both cards, even if you know you’re going to win.

Live Poker Strategy – Hiding Your Tells

Reading TellsOf course you want to avoid giving off any of the information I’ve mentioned above, unless you are doing it intentionally and can accurately predict how your opponent will interpret said information. The latter takes a lot of skill, so I don’t advise trying to mislead your opponents with faked physical tells unless you are FAR better than they are.

Keep your mouth shut

The safest thing you can really do is to keep quiet. It’s nearly impossible to avoid giving away information through your word choice and tonality, unless you use the exact same phrasing every time and speak like a robot. If you’re playing at a table with a lot of better players, then put on the shades and headphones and get in the zone. This will discourage others from trying to chat YOU up and draw out info.

Use consistent actions and timing

Develop a technique for betting and stick to it. Use the same hand each time and stack the chips in the same way. Try not to say anything when you bet. Take the same amount of time before acting. Sometimes you are going to have tough decisions and need a lot more time, balance this with tanking down sometimes with bigger hands and just generally taking a little extra time to think about your decisions. I’m not saying you have to be THAT GUY who tanks down for the cameras every time but just be conscious of the various timings you are using and what information that might reveal.

Don’t forget your online skills!

Lastly hold on to those powerful online skills. Players limp far more often live. Isolate aggressively and adjust accordingly as your opponents inevitably get frustrated and react.

There is very little 3-betting, squeezing, and especially 4-betting live compared to online. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Try using your standard reraising ranges unless or until you confirm that your opponents are not folding; then depolarize. Also significantly vary your bet sizes to see what gets folds and what gets called.

Do you have any more live poker tips that I haven’t covered? I’d love to hear them. Please share in the comments below.

4 Comments
  • brian
    April 24, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    1 note who’s drinking or not and place them in the recreational player category until you notice otherwise.
    2 seat and table select. if there’s a poor player and someone gets up, and you can gain better position on them then make the move. also if after about two orbits a table seems very quiet, non-drinking, reg like then get on a waitlist for another table. (easier done at 1/2, 1/3 games than higher)
    3 like online, take breaks and be very aware of your overall state (tired, hungry, frustrated etc)

    • Mike "fooz" Gano
      May 5, 2015 at 9:40 pm

      Nice, yeah, the drinking tip is huge. I find it’s the best way to size up a table as you walk up: how many people are drinking.

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