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Tips for Playing Your First Live Poker Tournament

Playing live poker is very different from online poker. Sure, begin online to test all the essential strategies from the comfort of your home and dive into the mechanics, they play some friendly poker at home with friends. Soon enough, you will like to test the waters in a real casino environment against other unknown players to know if you have it in you to be a poker pro.

Tournament selection

Begin with a weekly tournament or a regional tour at your local casino. The buy-ins are small, around $25 + $5, which is something you can afford to call recreational expenses for the sake of having a great time and gaining some experience.

Selecting the right buy-in is essential for your nerve’s sake. Too high, and you are risking poor bankroll management. It will no longer be a fun event if you are always thinking about how much you are going to lose if you don’t win this thing. That mindset will make you make dumb decisions.

Too low, and you won’t take the event seriously and just fool around when your stack is too small. So pick a tournament with an entry that is right for you.

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Take into consideration tournaments usually, allow rebuys. Always be prepared to rebuy at least once. It will become a part of your strategy, knowing you can risk more with your original stack size.

Finally, make sure to know if this tournament has some unique characteristics or if it is a regular Hold’em event. These days casinos are running all types of special rules to the competitions, like bounty or shootout to short-handed and satellites. Make sure you know what type you are entering and shift your style of play accordingly. Better to begin in a short but regular poker Hold’em tournament.

If you are visiting a common gambling destination like Vegas, check this complete guide of the most popular tournaments and poker rooms in the city.

Don’t get nervous

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Remember, this is the same game you learned to play online or with your friends. The people around might have played in this casino many times before and know each other, but at the end of the day, the game is the same one you have been playing for a while now.

You are here to gain experience and learn; nothing teaches more than to play against far more experienced players. If they corner you or you can corner them, there is something to learn from that.

One of the aspects that are a bit intimidatory when you first play in a real-life environment is the hand language with the dealer, and the poker faces one is supposed to maintain. Other players will be in stereotype mode, like wearing hoodies, sunglasses, and huge earphones.

Others will chat a lot, drink a lot, and try to distract your game with talk. Some get pissed frequently while others are mutes. That is probably the most significant difference compared to the online world;

Here, you get to deal with all sorts of personalities and their psychologies. Your goal is to stay focused on the game and avoid getting distracted from the environment around you.

Stick to your style

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When you begin playing against the casino regulars, don’t get caught up in their game. Everyone has their style of play, and you probably developed your own before coming into the tournament. If not, it is highly recommended to read some poker psychology books and put that knowledge to the test when playing.

The regulars will use their economic advantage to push you into their game. It might even appear they are teaming up to finish you first as they set the pace. Avoid falling in this trap and play your own game.

Do not transform into Phil Ivey

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In other words, do not think that after watching the pros play, you can imitate their moves. Many new players go into the casino and test techniques they have seen on TV and fail hard. Poker pros apply those techniques when it fits their playing style, and their style is not yours. They shift decision making depending on the situation they are in the right at the moment.

There are a lot of viewers who cannot see from the decisions pros take, like all the probabilities and game theory calculations going in their minds.

Keep your style of play. You will incorporate aspects from other players and modify them, that is how you grow your game with time but keep your style always.

Take mental notes on the regulars

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If you are planning on visiting a casino regularly, then begin taking mental notes on the regulars there. To first distinguish them, pay attention if they say hi to the other players and dealers like if they knew each other from before. If they know their way around the casino and act with familiarity.

How often do they defend their big blind? What is their opening raise size? Do they make poor decisions in certain situations? Or Strong?

Taking mental notes of other players will help you overcome and defeat them with time. Your goal is to master other players, not the tournament itself.

Learn and study

Always remember to learn from your live poker experiences. After each event, play-back the central hands you played against other opponents and thought about what you can learn from them.

What did you do wrong? What was right? How to improve a move? The best combination to learn is experienced with a proper dosage of poker book reading. Enjoy your ride, and success in poker is guaranteed.

About Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan