Live poker has been essentially shut down for the last year due to COVID, but casinos in many parts of the world are starting to re-open. Here are three tips that will give you the best chance for success when you return to the live arena.
Take Advantage Of Opponent Mistakes
Whenever poker has a lot of hype surrounding it either because a major tournament series is in town or because everyone is getting to play for the first time in a year, local recreational players flock to the casino to test their luck and hope to turn a little money into a lot. This results in the games being much softer than normal because there are proportionally more recreational players in the field.
You make money when your opponents make mistakes that you adjust to take advantage of. While many players see their opponents making mistakes, they forget to take advantage of them.
For example, suppose you raise with A J from middle position and a loose, passive calling station calls from the big blind. The flop comes J 9 6. Your opponent checks, you bet, and your opponent calls. The turn is the 2. Your opponent checks, you bet, and your opponent calls. The river is the Q. Your opponent checks.
While the Queen is certainly not a great river for you, you should make another small value bet, expecting your calling station opponent to call with worse jacks, nines, and perhaps even some worse made hands. If your opponent raises your river bet, make the disciplined fold unless they are known to check-raise bluff the river.
When playing against lots of recreational players, you will see all sorts of interesting plays. Recreational players will frequently make erratic moves. They may even get lucky on you. Instead of being disgruntled when this happens, realize that every time they make a mistake, their equity goes straight into your pocket.
Suppose you raise with A A from middle position and the big blind calls. The flop comes A 7 6. Your opponent checks, you bet, and your opponent calls. The turn is the 2. Your opponent checks, you bet, and your opponent goes all-in. You call with the nuts and your opponent turns up 9 8 for an open-ended straight draw.
Whether you win or lose, your opponent just tried to give their stack to you. When you happen to lose, realize that if the bad players never won, they would quickly quit playing, making the game unprofitable. In exchange for them getting to win from time to time, the game of poker gets to thrive forever.
One helpful way to view bad beats is to consider how the casino feels when someone gets lucky and hits their number on the roulette wheel a few times in a row. When someone gets lucky against the casino, they celebrate them, comp them, and do everything they can to keep them playing/coming back in the future. They certainly do not get annoyed or berate them. The casino realizes that every time someone makes a bet, they are losing little bits of equity.
When someone plays poorly against you, they are losing little bits of equity to you. Sometimes they are going to beat you, but in the long run, if you play better than your opponents, you will win all the money.
Poker is a game, and games are supposed to be fun. While I fully understand that tensions are high right now, make a point to enjoy yourself. It is always amazing to me how after a few days of losing, most people look completely worn down. They walk the casino like zombies. Instead of being sad and depressed about standard variance, remember the great opportunity that you have to play the awesome game of poker.
If you find that your mind wanders to a dark place when you are on a downswing, do not forget that you came into this world with nothing. If you have the ability to play poker (or read this article) then you are one of the most fortunate humans to ever live. It is all about perspective!
Good luck in your games, and stay safe! ♠
Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 educational poker books, and 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out his training site at PokerCoaching.com/cardplayer.