There are many people who play online poker, and they play it well. They brag to their friends about how much money they made, how many games they were playing at once, and what stone-cold experts they are.
Now take those same people and transplant the into a live card game, and the attitude changes immensely, because a live game is a different beast all together.
There is no need for panic, however. Conversely, for the more alpha personalities, there is much monetary loss to be incurred from your posturing in a bid to be the intimidator when you are not familiar with live play. Here are a few tips to ensure you don't lose your paycheck or your dignity when playing poker in actual card rooms:
The first thing you will want to do is get the scoop on your local clubs: where are they, what are their hours of operation, what games do they offer, how many tables do they have, what are the limits and stakes, and what kind of a rake does the house charge. This information will allow you to know what kind of an economic commitment you are in for, as well as what kind of a wait you will have for the games you want to play. Going to a card room with only four tables really limits your choices and could mean a long wait to get on a table.
You've picked a card room and are ready to go! Not really, although if you have played online poker, you no doubt have at least the poker basics down. Some may be more advanced, having read some of the many books on how to win at poker, the importance of position and the statistical side of what hands to play and how you should play them. However, there is no substitute for observation when it comes to having a complete understanding of what you are up against.
Stand on the rails and watch some games before you sit down. It has been said many times but it's true; you should be reading the players as much as the hands. Observe a game at the level at which you intend to play. (I know it's tempting to watch the big guns playing high limits, but the strategies employed in high stakes will not be the same as those on a 2-4 limit table. People tend to be more reckless and less experienced at lower limit tables and much more guarded/tight on the higher stakes tables.) Who's got the big stacks? What is their style? Are they being very aggressive or letting people hang themselves? Do they stare other people down or are they wearing sunglasses with their hoods up and ipod earbuds in place? You should also watch the people who are losing. Are they playing on-tilt (making poor decisions because they are losing) or are they keeping their composure? Even just getting a sense of this will inform your play beyond those who do not pay attention to their surroundings.
Now that have the lay of the land, you can give it a go. NEVER play with more money than you are willing to part with (this should be a given) and make sure that amount you ARE willing to part with can handle big swings with regards to the table limits you have chosen to play. There are many books and websites that can guide you in this, so I won't get into it here.
As an extension on the observation section above, wait a few hands to actually post so you can see who's who on your table. You will notice the flow of a table is very different when you are dealing with actual people as opposed to little blinking avatars.
First of all, you cannot block someone's chat when you are sitting next to them. And it's not always pleasant. Short of blasting obscenities at people on the table or being physically threatening, you have to listen (or block them out). Secondly, the game goes faster than you think. You are not waiting for someone who's been disconnected for the millionth time to call, bet, or fold. You WILL be told to hurry up if you are constantly taking a long time to make your play. If you are accustomed to having a playbook next to you online while you play, this will be harder for you. Sorry, but you cannot sit down on a table with any guides. You will be laughed out of the building. Lastly, put those observation skills to use. You have a different set of weapons in live play that you can employ in conjunction with what you have learned playing online, and it all comes down to knowing who you are playing with: catch the on-tilt player when you have the goods, use the aggressive player's tactics against him, and so forth.
Retain the valuable lessons you have learned from your first foray into the live poker realm. Whether you win or lose, nothing replaces the experience you get from each hand you play (or don't play, for that matter). And the more you play live games, the more effortless your decisions for each hand in play will come. Knowledge of game and practice are key to successfully overcoming the daunting and sometimes intimidating world of live poker. You will soon enough absorb the atmosphere of the card room and decide if you wish to make it part of your poker experience.
Armed with the right information, you will always have the edge over poker players who do not, regardless of what your cards are. This should be reassuring to those new to a card room. And, provided of course you take heed of the aforementioned suggestions. Good luck!
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