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Top 10 tips for live poker rookies

16 Nov 2020

By Tadas Peckaitis
With all of the restrictions happening worldwide, many people are and will be looking to try something new and have some fun as soon as it is safe to do so. I am quite sure this will also mean more players trying out live poker for the first time.

If you have never played in a live poker game before, it can be quite different than online poker. Below, I explain 10 tips on approaching your “first-time” experience at the live poker table that will help you enjoy yourself and, hopefully, lead to better results.

Restrain yourself from commenting on other strategies and decisions from players.

Restrain yourself from commenting on other strategies and decisions from players. (photo by Gary Trask)

10. Be polite and don’t go out of line
There are way fewer ways to express your frustration when playing online, and while you can hit the chat and spam it as much as you want, no one really cares about it. You can also take a bit less evil way and use some sarcasm using the phrase “GG WP,” but this is as far as it goes.

This will not bother anyone too much, and you are not risking breaking the game even if you are extremely mad for some reason.

However, live games are entirely different. Many players come to have some fun and do not want to hear how bad they play or see your emotions after a bad beat.

Not only should you be polite and act friendly, but you should also restrain from commenting on other player's strategies and decisions. This will help everyone feel welcome at the table, and if your opponents keep making bad decisions, it is even better for you.

9. Do not care what others think
Some players get so fixated on the idea of how they look and are they doing everything in the right way that it interferes with their play.

What others think about you should be your last concern. What do you care if someone considers your play to be out of the line? The best you can do is concentrate on following your strategy and poker rules to the best of your abilities.

Don’t waste your mental energy on unimportant things since you do have a lot to consider in your first live game, so better concentrate on that.

8. Make sure to stick with proper hand selection
It is very easy to get bored in a live game and start playing too many hands, which leads to disaster in most cases, but even more so when you have no experience in live games. While playing mediocre hands and seeing many flops might sound like fun, it is actually hurting your win rate more than anything else.

While this does not mean you have to wait for pocket aces to play, you should not go out of line with mediocre hands just because you are bored. Instead, try to observe the action and other players, which will surely help you gain more experience and understand live games' nuances. You might even be able to notice some tells on specific opponents that will come very handy later on.

Instead of playing weak holdings, concentrate on gathering information, which will boost your bankroll probably more than you think.

7. Always act in turn
While it is simply impossible to act out of turn in online poker games, this is often a problem for new live players and is very annoying for everyone at the table.

Even if you look down at your hand and see a total “trash,” do not muck it before it is your turn to act. This gives additional information to players yet left to play and even creates an unfair advantage in some cases.

While you can get away with doing this once in a blue moon preflop, never do it in postflop situations. Just patiently wait your turn even if you know you will fold and keep the games fair and square to everyone.

6. Do not discuss your hand while playing
Poker is a social game, and people love to chat with other players but don’t do that while you in hand.

Never ask for advice on how to play in your situation, nor offer it to anyone else. On top of that, there is actually a rule of “one player per hand,” so if you show your hand to someone or ask for their advice, it can even lead to your hand being declared “dead” and you being forced to fold it.
If you want to ask something, do it after the hand ends. Even if you are not sure what to do in the middle of the hand, you still have to decide yourself.

The best you can do here is remember that situation and analyze it afterward to learn how to counter these spots in later games.

5. Stick to the game that you know
When you visit a casino for the first time, you might be tempted to try some fancy games like Pot Limit Omaha or Stud, but you should stick to what you already know. Even if you know PLO poker rules, this does not mean you should sit down and play this game if you have no real experience in it.

If you play Texas Hold’em online, stick to that format for your first live session as well. Of course, you can try various games later on if you want to have some fun, but dedicate your first trip to get familiar with live play nuances and don’t put additional pressure of less familiar game on yourself.

4. Take your time to make decisions
Another costly mistake can be making your decisions too fast. If you have played poker online before this trip, you are surely used to making decisions in a blink of an eye, but you have way more information to consider when playing in a live game.

On top of all strategy considerations, you can see how your opponent behaves at the table and adjust your decision. So while you might be thrilled to play in your first game, take your time to evaluate the situation and consider your options carefully.

That said, you should not act slow on purpose, either. This slows down the play and wastes time, so if you know that you will fold or call, just do it and move to another hand.

3. Keep your chips on the table
Another important rule that you have to follow is keeping all of your poker chips at the table. Even if you win a few huge poker hands in a row, you can’t put those chips in your pocket and remove it from play.

Actually, you can’t remove even a single chip from your stack even in cash games since that is against the rules in most casinos because it reduces chips in play and could create many unpleasant situations.

That said, you can use these chips to pay the waiter when she brings you some drinks, but this is as far it goes for removing your chips from the table when playing.

To avoid confusion announce your action before doing it.

To avoid confusion announce your action before doing it. (photo by Flickr)

2. Announce your bets
There is a rule that you need to put your bet in one motion, and many players fall victim to this in their first games. If you want to bet $100, but slide one pile of chips worth $50 in the middle and then want to add another one, it will not be counted, and your bet will stand as $50.

To avoid this confusion, you can announce your action before doing it. If you say “I bet $100”, or even “$100,” you can put these chips any way you like since you announced your action beforehand.
Since you are not yet used to making bets in one motion, it is better to announce what you want to do verbally and avoid costly misunderstandings.

1. Carefully follow bet sizing and pot
One of the most important live poker game tasks is to follow how many chips there are in the pot. You get all of these numbers readily available in online games, so it might be quite a task to calculate everything manually when playing in a brick and mortar casino.

That said, knowing how much there is in the pot is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing how much to bet yourself, so make sure to know these numbers or learn how to calculate how much is in the pot based on previous actions.
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