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Moving from Online Poker to Live Play

After honing their games online for awhile, many players decide to take the next step and test their skills in a live poker room. For some, the transition comes easily but, for others, the differences between playing at a computer and at a live table can be difficult to overcome.

For many online players, one of the hardest adjustments to make is to the speed – or slowness – of live play. Where you may easily see 50, 60 or more hands an hour if you multi-table at home, you’ll be lucky to see 20 or more hands during an hour of live play. The game just doesn’t move as fast. Some players adjust to the “boredom” of live play by listening to music and zoning out while they’re not involved in a hand.

While I don’t personally object to listening to music at the table, I prefer to chat with some of the players seated near me during the game. First of all, there’s a nice social aspect to playing live – if you have a good table – that you just don’t get online. Secondly, chatting with your fellow tablemates may help you to determine what kind of players they are. Is the guy next to you just killing time at a $5/$10 table while he’s waiting for a bigger game? Is he in town on vacation and just playing a little poker for the fun of it? Is he a regular?

These little bits of information can help you categorize your opponents and determine what kinds of players they might be; serious, casual, aggressive, etc. Remember, the more information you can gather, the better decisions you’ll be able to make when you’re involved in a big hand. This brings me to another important distinction between online and live play – focusing on your opponent.

When you’re playing online, you’re working with a much more limited amount of information than you are live. Sure, you may be able to calculate how often a player raises or re-raises from the button and keep track of their statistics, but when you get right down to it, you’re playing your game based on your two hole cards and the patterns you can establish about your opponents. When you’re playing live poker, on the other hand, you have a lot more information that you can factor into your decisions.

How is your opponent betting or sitting at the table? Are they confident? Do they look scared? Does your opponent’s demeanor change when they’re involved in a hand? Do they talk more? Less? Are they tilting? Drunk? Loose? Because of all of the extra information available to you at a live game, I believe it’s much easier to make reads on your opponents and, in turn, to put them on a very specific range of hands – or hand – if you’re really paying attention to what’s going on at the table. One of the biggest mistakes I see many online players make when they first start playing live is that they overlook this extra information and play a very “general” game rather than focusing in on a specific opponent.

My advice for these players is simple; slow down, focus, think. While you don’t want to take two minutes to contemplate every single play, there’s nothing wrong with going into the tank every once in awhile during a live game or tournament. If you’re paying attention to the action and your opponents, there’s a lot more information that you have to process and this sometimes takes some time. Think about how the hand has played out – and about how your opponent has played the hand – and you’ll find that your game will improve.


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