How do you do Poker? Chapter 2

Poker tournament tips, we all started somewhere and I’m still learning, I will add here when I think I have something to share, keep checking back and scroll down for the latest……dun, dun, dun, dun, duuuuuun

Players have never had so much choice in where or how they enjoy their poker. Whether in the pub, club, local card room, Dusk Till Dawn or online we can all get our ‘fix’. Is the game different for us depending on where we play? as Doyle Brunson may have said (it was either him or Tom McEvoy)

‘Poker is a game of people played with cards, not a game of cards played with people’

That is so true, whilst I have been around poker for 30 years enjoying my game at the social level I have never been able to hone my game to any sort of standard you would find at the tournament felt, but having said that I still enjoy my games immensely and I think for the most part the people I have played with are responsible for that, mind I have met some real ‘tossers’ along the road.

For social players the transition from online to live or taking part in their first professionally operated tournment can be worrying and some players seem to sense a player is innexperienced ‘live’ like a shark can sense a leg being cut off a thrashing morris dancer with a broken bottle in a paddling pool, no offense..

Chapter 2

Well my latest foray into live tournament poker was actually enjoyable, although non-profitable:

I was loving my time at Dusk Till Dawn last week during day 1 of the WPT500, 2 hours in and my nerves had settled, in fact they had gone, I  was actually feeling confident and early on, thanks to pocket A’s, I was dominating the table. This first part of this blog is for all of us who have gone through our first live major tournament and for those that are considering playing live – just do it, it is amazing! Whilst I cannot help you with your game much, I can prepare you to present yourself at your best, trust me it may help.

I have something that most new live poker players do not have and that is experience in the gaming industry. I have been involved in casino and poker for over 30 years. It does not make me a great poker player but it gives me great insight into what makes one or more importantly what one is made of. As social poker players, the only knowledge of live tournament poker is what we see on telly, yep; hoodies, sunglasses, sucking the tip of your cardigan, pulling your baseball cap over your hairline, covering your mouth with your hand, staring for ages at a player (with an expression of ‘was it you who just farted at my grandmother’s funeral’?), making slow motion moves when you put your chips in, pretend to do stuff on your large mobile phone as though you were really disinterested with the action at this level, trust me I have seen it all.

I was actually thinking about writing this piece on level 3 at the WPT500 when the guy to my left shouted for the floor and accused me of calling him a ‘knob’, that was untrue, another player called him a ‘knob’ first and when the guy to my left said to me ‘why did he just call me a knob’, I said ‘because you are a knob’. In the end the TD put the ‘Knob’ on a one orbit penalty (he deserved it really) but by then my train of thought had evaporated and I ordered my second of many beers.

Rule 1 – Don’t drink alcohol

We are social players, we drink while we play, however, when you have qualified or paid entry to a major live poker tournament you do not want to drink, it doesn’t help. Ok, having a drink to settle the nerves before you take your seat is fine as long as you do not settle your nerves every half-hour.

Rule 2 – Do not play with chips (unless you are good)

Of all the tips I try and give, this is one that I cannot stress this enough, as an ex-croupier (when British Croupiers were trained to the highest standard in the world) I can handle chips, I can shuffle any number you can fit in one hand and all the tricks in-between, I can throw a chip in the air and catch it between two chips behind my back. So when I look at other players shuffling chips I can see how much experience they have live, for playing live involves many hours handling chips but I can always tell a ‘forced shuffle’ (one that has been practised over and over again with the help of Youtube) and a natural ‘feel for chips’. However, if you can handle chips you can use it to a great advantage, for example; I sit at a table, all players look at the chip stack I have in my rack, for the first few seconds I can hold their attention and if I use my skills with chips I can project a strong presence (if I want to), it may be that I am short stacked, I will shuffle my chips as though to say ‘hey, I’ve just had a bad beat, but I am here to sort that out!’ If you are not great with chips then the strongest image you can project is chip management. there are a few rules to obey here:

Avoid dirty stacks (stack of different value chips mixed together), when you win a pot, pick up one value chip at a time and put to your stack.

Keep your chips in stacks of 20, when you see a player with his chips in stacks of 10’s it reeks of pub player. take your time to count 1 stack and simply keep the others level to that. It also makes it easier for you to add up your stack value, in between hands have a look so you know roughly what you have and then if a player asks ‘what are you playing?’ you can be confident with your answer.

Rule 3 – Acclimatize

When you sit at your table take time to get comfortable, get seated well, set your stack, take a look around the table at the other players. Remember, hopefully you are going to be here for many hours, win the tourney or see day 2, so there is no rush to get involved in marginal hands. When not involved in a hand you are still involved in the tourney so watch what the other players are doing, look for ‘tells’ from players. When a hand is down to two players and a player is taking time deciding to call a bet, others at the table generally look at this player to see what he will do, you should be looking at the player who made the bet/raise, look at how he is behaving, see if you can get a read, it may come in very handy later.

Follow the blinds, be ready for when it is your time to post. Make sure that you act in turn, remember to announce your play if you raise you must announce your raise to the dealer, simply throwing a larger denomination chip over the line will just be taken as a call unless you announce raise. If in any doubt as to the action that has gone before, simply ask the dealer.

If you are settled at the table but still a little nervous, stand up, go for a smoke, coffee, a pick me up at the bar. The best time to do this is after you are small blind as it gives you the most time before the blinds are back to you, but do worry if they are, the dealer will put your blind in and fold your cards should you not be back in time. Some players are up and down from the table like yoyo’s and you want to avoid this.

4 – Limit the mobile/pad/earphones

Some tournaments will not let you use your phone at the table and you shouldn’t, you have played or paid for this seat so why use the time to make calls or texts, look at what is happening on the table. The players with hoodies, sunglasses and earplugs playing online on their ipads while at the table aren’t usually ranked very high on the poker earnings scale.

You miss a lot with your earphones in, some of it may help you make a decision. Players chat at the tables and that is good but excessive chatter isn’t, especially while you are involved in a hand.

5 – Enjoy

We all need tips and you are not reading this if you are making a living from poker, my biggest tip is to enjoy yourself, meet with other players and chat with them on the breaks. Many tournaments have party nights to kick of the tourney or series and they are definitely worth going to, so when considering travelling to the tournament check it out, it may well be worth booking in at a hotel the night before to make the most of it.

Check out any side events that are happening around the tournament, look at the cash games maybe. If you do bust early on in the tournament you can hop into a game which may prove to make the trip a success.