I'm crossposting this from the HUNL forum, but I wrote a brief summary of live poker; some of you may find it interesting and/or (in)accurate.
Rumnchess's Guide to Live Poker
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART VIII - IntroductionPART XI - Attitude & EtiquettePART XIII - General StrategyPART XV - Bankroll Guidelines (an extremely short section)PART XVII - Player Profiles (quite long by contrast)PART XXIII - Conclusion
PART VIII: Introduction
Live poker is my bread and butter. It has been one of my favorite pasttimes for the last five years of my life, and will always remain so. Along with golf, fine dining, and women, live poker constitutes one of the four core pillars of my life. Over the past few months, I have experienced a period of extraordinarily erratic, and for the most part tumultuous, results in online poker. The advent of heads up superturbos has been particularly disruptive to my confidence, state of mind, and bankroll. Nonetheless, my live results have remained consistently good. I consider live poker my best form of poker, not only relative to the respective fields, but in absolute level of skill. Perhaps just as important as my results, I love everything that live poker has to offer: easily attainable food and beverages, chip shuffling tricks, and an incredibly social and lively atmosphere. Through live poker I have attained an internship with a day trading firm in New York, and free business class flights for the next year. The opportunities for conversation and networking are plentiful, and the live poker world encompasses a fascinating crossection of society. Rarely do such a diverse group of individuals come together. Everyone from min-buying truck drivers to lawyers to wealthy Middle East businessmen can be found at the poker table. To my knowledge, the plethora of people you meet in a cardroom have only one thing in common: they are all notoriously poor players.
PART XI: Attitude & Etiquette
It is extremely important to approach a casino poker game with the correct attitude. Often I see online players who are new to live cardrooms walk into a game with an attitude that is not only harmful to themselves, but to the overall quality of the game. Berating poor card players is not only disrespectful, but is extremely harmful to your bottom line. It is imperative to treat your opponents with respect, and in particular, you should often make an effort to befriend the poor players. Of course if a guy at the table is acting like a complete *******, I will make no effort to be friendly towards him, but at the same time, I will typically avoid being rude towards him, unless absolutely necessary. It is important, however, to make a distinction between your conduct as a person and your conduct as a competitor.
Conduct as a person: Your conduct as a person is the way you act in conversation, your demeanor towards others, and also the way you respect the ettiqute of the game. If I see somebody slow roll another player or try to angleshoot, in my eyes this speaks towards their character as a person, and not their character as a card player or a competitor. There are some exceptions: sometimes a guy who is clearly a novice will take a long time to roll his hand on the river, or make a string bet. Here he is just inexperienced and unfamiliar with the code of the game. It should be fairly obvious to you who is simply new to the sport, and who is deliberately trying to take advantage of their opponents by use of non-poker tactics.
Conduct as a competitor: While I am extremely friendly to my opponents in conversation, etc., I am a ruthless beast as a poker player. If I think a guy wants to avoid playing big pots, I will relentlessly three-bet him in position. Sometimes I will reraise him on each of his first three opens while we are both at the table. This often frustrates and even angers your opponents, but its completely within the ettiquette of the game, and says nothing about your character as a person. Ideally, I want my opponents to like me as a person, but fear me, or dislike me as a card player.
PART XIII: General Strategy
Before I get into specific player types, I’ll list of general adjustments to make when transitioning from internet poker to the live arena.
Part XV: Bankroll Guidelines:
I tend to not worry too much about my bankroll because I consider my winrate to be extremely high in these games, and am just a general degenerate. But in general, you need far fewer buy ins to be properly rolled for a live game than you would online. I like to buy into a live game for 200 bbs, and I think that having a roll of 10 such buy ins would be plenty. Keep in mind you are only one tabling, and seeing far fewer hands. Not only that but your winrate per hand should be at least triple what it would be online. $10,000 should be plenty to play 2/5 live.
PART XVII: Player Profiles
It would be extremely time consuming to identify and describe each of the many different player types you will encounter at the poker tables. Therefore, I have chosen five different player profiles that I believe will provide a solid framework for the type of creatures we are dealing with. In parentheses, I’ll indicate that player’s corresponding play style.
The Businessman’s Son (LAG)
Description: Usually Lebanese or Middle Eastern (though they can be Greek, or from other parts of the world), the businessman’s son is a party animal with a seemingly limitless budget. Typically single, under the age of thirty, and comes with an air of sheer and utter lack of responsibility.
Plumage: Designer shirts, designer jeans, expensive jewelry, crocodile shoes.
Poker Style / How to Adjust: The BMS is not afraid to put money in the pot. He comes to play, and he doesn’t like folding. Not only that, but he is almost always accompanied by a couple of cronies, and is sure to try to impress them by showing bluffs, scooping large pots, and being the center of action and attention. As such, the BMS is extremely loose both preflop and post flop, and will often employ tactics such as large unnecessary overbets, merely designed to display his true indifference to money.
3bet a reasonably wide value range vs. this player, but never 3bet as a bluff. Don’t worry if your image is rock tight, you will still get action when you 3bet AA vs. this player. BMS’s have a fold to 3bet of about 1.8%, a decision they usually only make when they are receiving an important phone call on their blackberry. If you have a strong hand, and perceive the BMS to be weak, it can often be correct to trap this player. Even a BMS will sometimes throw away their total air to a flop check/raise, but they will rarely slow down if you check/call. While you will get action from the BMS regardless, it can be helpful to build up a slightly looser image, perhaps even attacking them early, as they will develop a need to personally show you up in the future. It is considered advantageous to show a BMS a bluff for this reason.
Old Man Coffee (TP)
Description: If you never play poker between the hours of 7AM and 8PM, don’t bother looking for old man coffee; he’s at his home, likely sleeping. Usually between the ages of 55 and 90, old man coffee shows up to his local poker game on a strict routine. Some OMC’s are daily grinders, others only show up on Tuesday. But every OMC has a strict poker schedule that he follows and incorporates into his weekly routine. The OMC arrives looking fresh and ready for action. He quietly sits into his favorite seat, pulls out a newspaper, and orders a coffee, black. He rarely displays much emotion, and avoids conversation, unless it is about a violation of the rules, in which case he leaps into action and displays his authority on the matter. Every dealer and supervisor in the casino is on a first name basis with the OMC.
Plumage: Weathered flannel shirts, warn out khakis, bland sweaters, goofy straw hats (more successful OMCs, such as Dan Harrington, have even been spotted with baseball caps)
Poker Style / How to Adjust: The OMC is completely positionally unaware and completely unaware of his opponents. He knows that KJ is a limping hand, so he limps it under the gun, and he limps it on the button. OMC’s generally play tight, and when they do raise (even on the button), you can be sure it’s one of seven possible hands (AA,KK,QQ,JJ,TT,AK,AQ). While Some OMC’s protest raising AQ and TT, most have come to understand that these are acceptable raises in today’s poker environment. Postflop, an OMC will rarely slowplay a big hand, and will often even lead into a multiway field when he flops a set. If an OMC comes out firing big, back off. If he comes out firing small, this is often representative of a middling made hand like middle pair or top pair, weak kicker. It’s often a good time to try to get the OMC off his hand. OMC’s pride themselves on being able to fold hands - they consider it a skill they have honed through decades of poker experience. For this reason, you should almost always try to make an OMC fold his hand by the river if you have reason to believe he is not very strong.
OMCs are weak prey that a professional poker player can eat up for consistent small gains. While you will rarely win large pots form an OMC, you can win many small ones. OMCs are easy to manipulate by simply altering your bet sizing. Often you will arrive at the river in a $180 pot vs. an OMC. You know from experience, that he has top pair, weak kicker here. You also know that he will begrudgingly call a $100 bet, and you know that he will fold to a $150 bet. It’s very simple: bet $100 when you have a hand that wants to be called, and bet $150 when you are bluffing. It sounds too good to be true, but with the OMC, that is the beauty of his game. His decisions are mechanical and predictable. Even if he were perceptive enough to alter his decisions based on his opponent type, he is too stubborn. Raised by a strict father in a household where rules were rules, the OMC was never given enough freedom to actively develop an imagination or any sort of creative thought of his own.
The Middle Aged Guy With Everything To Prove (A mix)
Description: Often from New Jersey, the MAGWEP owns a small business, and he can’t wait to tell everyone around him about its success. In reality, MAGWEPs almost always earn between 35 and 100k per year. The MAGWEP is happily married, as you can see by obnoxiously large wedding band displayed around his ring finger. The MAGWEP loves to talk strategy; rather, the MAGWEP loves to tell you how you misplayed a hand. When he gets sucked out on, the MAGWEP always lets out some sort of verbal declaration, and then often bangs the table and gives the dealer some sort of dirty look. MAGWEPs cannot stand young internet poker players; they are subconsciously aware of their own inferiority in skill to these players, and are threatened by the seemingly reckless attitudes of their competitors. When a young internet player sits down at a poker table, a look of concern appears very briefly on the face of a MAGWEP, but not long enough for anybody to notice. This look will disappear quickly, and the MAGWEP will refer to the internet player as “kid” for the rest of the session, announcing his dominance. MAGWEPs always appear to be more interested in sports than they really are (they are interested, but not obsessed, as they try to convey), and often try to converse with the other players about the table about the future of their football team. Generally, but not always, it could be said that MAGWEP’s have some form of need to assert their masculinity, which can often be attributed to physical deficiencies in certain areas.
Plumage: Working man’s jeans, sweatshirts (often emblazoned with the logo of their son’s university), baseball caps.
Poker Style / How to Adjust: MAGWEP’s can range from being reasonably tight to quite loose, but they are almost always aggressive. They understand the basic theory that raising is better than limping in, and have incorporated it into their game. They are even somewhat positionally aware, and would do things like raise 76s on the button, something an OMC would never dream of doing. MAGWEPs tend to get waaaaaaaay too attached to premium starting hands, and are often even guilty of overplaying AK on whiffed flops. Flop a set when a MAGWEP has aces, and the money is all yours, no matter what.
MAGWEPs give away several very obvious tells. The most noticeable one is when a MAGWEP is involved in a hand, and he has check/called a bet on the flop, and then the turn falls. The MAGWEP will look his opponent right in the eyes, and then he will check the table so viciously that it might even startle some of the other players. When the MAGWEP does this, you can be damn sure that he has a marginal to strong, but not super strong, made hand. Occasionally he will have a semi-strong draw in this spot too. The MAGWEP is essentially trying to intimidate his opponent into keeping the pot small by checking behind. He feels that his eye contact and intense slamming of the felt will do so. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide whether or not to continue with a bluff in spots like these. On the one hand, the MAGWEP doesn’t want to fold, but on the other hand, he knows that you know that he is pretending to be committed to showing his hand down, so he may feel that you won’t bluff him here (the MAGWEP does have some poker smarts). My advice would be go with recent history: if you have a crazy animal image, now would be a good spot to cut your losses, but if you’ve been reasonably tight thus far, try to take it away from him.
The Internet Kid (LAG/TAG)
Description: While you will find “internet kids” of all descriptions playing live poker from time to time, the most common one I see is the 1-2 NL grinder. The kind of guy that plays 6-8 tables 15-20 hours a week online, and, when he sits in a live game, thinks he is God’s gift to poker. Often wearing a backwards hat and a smug grin. Typically enters the casino with two or three of his buddies, one of whom is almost certainly a novice poker player. While generally congenial and easy going, the internet kid can get extremely defensive when his poker skills are brought into question.
Plumage: Jeans, polo shirts, Birkenstocks, hooded sweatshirts, watches in the $100-500 price range, sometimes sunglasses.
Poker Style / How to Adjust: The IK tends to be tight aggressive, while some more brazen varieties are loose aggressive. He is positionally aware and willing to mix up his game and play creatively. While the IK will make quite a bit of money from the fish in the game, an experienced and aware opponent can profit quite nicely from the IK by putting him in spots that he is uncomfortable. If you are seated to the left of an IK, both flat and 3bet him relentlessly, and establish your presence as table captain. You want to be the one playing multiway pots against fish, and when he opens the pot, he cuts into your win rate. Figure out what kind of IK he is: some will buy in for 50 or 80 big blinds and play a scared money style, others are overly bold and bluff happy. Focus much of your people reading skills on figuring out exactly how the IK plays (it will be incredibly obvious to obtain this information on the other players at the table). Also try to figure out how the IK perceives you: unlike the other player types, the IK will actually be capable of adjusting his play based on your play and your dynamic with him. Do everything you can to take the IK out of his comfort zone: show him bluffs, own him with overbets for value, etc. etc.
Keep in mind that some more inexperienced IKs can actually be good opponents to have at the table: they will play a straightforward style, and their ranges will be very obvious. Study the IK at great length, and even go out of your way to make eye contact when you get involved in pots with him - this will often make him uneasy and you will be able to pick up physical tells. Remember, the IK is used to hiding behind a computer screen, and is not necessarily socially adjusted or in solid control of his emotions and body language.
The Friendly Whale (LP)
Description: We save the best for last. The Friendly Whale is an icon in any live poker game - there’s almost certainly sure to be at least one at every table. Some of my best friends in the poker world are friendly whales, and most are between the ages of forty and fifty-five. Not only do FWs consistently give me large sums of money, they also tend to be accomplished, interesting, and conversational people. And the best part about them is that they don’t care when they lose, so there are no hard feelings, or awkward moments when your hour long conversation is interrupted only to have you win $1,000 off them. Friendly whales come in many shapes and sizes, but tend to be middle aged businessmen with successful business ventures or other forms of employment. Despite being the poorest card player I have profiled, the FW is arguably the most life successful type, and is the envy of MAGWEPs worldwide.
Plumage: Business casual: dress shoes, khakis and casual/dress shirts. More conservative FWs may sport a blazer or slacks.
Poker Style / How to Adjust: FWs are the loose passive fish that poker players dream of. Recreational players who enjoy the thrill of the game, FWs rarely miss a flop with any two cards that have even the remotest of similarities to each other. The beauty of the FW is that he is eager and willing to call large bets, but will rarely bet or raise himself without an extremely powerful hand. It is therefore extremely easy to bet/fold extremely strong hands on the river against an FW, as he may well call you with fourth pair but would be unlikely to raise you without the nuts. Value bet, value bet, value bet. Often you can get three streets of value out of 2nd pair, top kicker vs. an FW. If you have a huge hand, consider overbetting for value, and also consider incorporating some overbet bluffs into your arsenal (even an FW can fold a hand to significant pressure, but try to feel the situation out and use this move sparingly). If an FW is in the pot, you should not be looking for an excuse to play a hand, but rather looking for an excuse not to. Mix in some overlimps with your weakest hands, and make small to medium raises with your suited connector type stuff, and bigger raises with your pure value hands. Nobody at the table will notice when you make it 6x with AA and 4x with Jts - remember, you are trying to accomplish two different things with these two hands, and so it would make sense to adjust your raise sizes accordingly. When you make a very strong nut type hand, and believe the FW to be reasonably strong, hammer the pot with large bets and raises. Do not be scared of frightening the FW off, if he likes his hand, he will stay in almost no matter the price. FWs favorite thing to say after making a bad call, usually accompanied by a chuckle and a smile, is “well at least I can sleep at night”. FWs are wonderful people, great for the game, and fantastic for your bottom line.
PART XXIII: Conclusion
Live poker is the nuts. You get to sit at a table with interesting people from around the world, and hear their life stories. You hear married men ***** about their wives, and listen to Norweigan businessmen who have played 100,000 euro pots. You experience a general sense of comraderie that cannot be replicated in the online arena. I advise you this: do not judge a person’s character by the way he plays cards. Even the biggest whales in the world can be fascinating, interesting and successful people. Take time to soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the full experience of playing live: winning money will take care of itself.
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