I played in a small buy in live tournament on Saturday, and had two strange occurrences happen that reminded me I should share this tip with all of you, particularly those of you new to live casino poker:  Always protect your hand!!!  Never let your cards sit unprotected on the table, and never give up your hand at showdown until you’re sure you don’t win the pot.
 
Never let your cards sit unprotected:

Some people bring a card cap with them to play live… this can be a trinket, a chip from another casino, or some other special card protector.  When you have a hand, this item goes on top of your cards to “protect” them from accidently being fouled or mucked.   In some cases players simply use a chip from their stack as the card protector.  

On Saturday with the blinds at 200/400/50, the UTG+1 player who was sitting in the 1 seat (to the left of the dealer) was on a short stack of 1050.  He was using a chip from his stack to protect or “cap” his cards.  After UTG folded, the 1 seat said “screw it, I might as well go home” and put the rest of his chips across the betting line, including the one that was on top of his cards, leaving them uncapped.  Then to make matters worse, he stood up from the table and began putting his jacket on.  The 2, 3, and 4 seats quickly tossed their hands in, 5 called and 7 called, with everyone else folding.  The dealer gathered all the folded hands up into the muck and accidently grabbed seat 1’s hand in the process.  This is an honest mistake, dealers are human and make them just like the rest of us.  As the dealer put the flop out, player 1, now having finished dressing himself for the ride home, protested… “hey, where are my cards?!?”  The tournament director (TD) was called over, and made the only ruling possible (and 100% correct ruling)… your hand is dead, you do not get your chips back, we’re really sorry.  He protested, saying he had declared he was all in, and it was the dealers fault for mucking his hand.  Unfortunately, this is not true.  While the dealer absolutely made a mistake (and it was an honest mistake), it is ALWAYS the player’s responsibility to protect his or her cards.  The TD explained this, and the guy  persisted.  “But I didn’t have anything to protect my cards with, because I went all in” (remember he was using a tournament chip to cap his cards).   Again, this is not true.  He had his hands… the correct thing for this player to do was to stay seated (not get up and start putting his coat on, wow) and hold on to his cards, using his own hand as the physical card protector.   This is true from all seats, but is particularly critical in the seats on either side of the dealer, where this mistake is more likely to occur by sheer proximity.

Never give up your hand at showdown until you’re sure you don’t win the pot:

This one I was actually involved in.  With blinds at 500/1000/100, there were 2 limpers, the SB completed, and I checked my option in the big blind holding 93o.  The flop came KQJ and it checked around.  The turn paired the J and the SB checked again.  I decided to take a stab at it as this looked like an orphan pot and a high probability to pick up just by betting, so I bet  1500.  The 2 limpers folded, but the small blind called.  The river paired the king, making the final board KQJJK, and leaving me playing the board.  The SB checked to me.  We had been seated together since the start, and I knew that he would never fold a Q to another bet here, and might actually call to chop the pot even without a Q or ace high in his hand.   So I opted just to check behind him, and hope he called with Tx and we were chopping.   Much to my surprise, he said “I missed” and tossed his hand into the muck face down.  The dealer gave a confused look for half a second, then killed the hand and awarded me the pot.  I opted not to show my hand, as I didn’t want to embarrass him.  But his failure to turn his hand over cost him half of this pot.  
 
So the moral of the story is, when you’re playing live, always protect your hand, and never release until you’re sure you’ve lost the pot.  And that includes not mucking your 2 pair just because the guy at the other end of the table announces he has a straight.  Not that anyone would ever angle shoot and miss-call their hand (of course not, right?), but we all make mistakes and sometimes players misread their hand.  Wait for the dealer to read their hand and announce it’s rank at the very least.  And whenever possible, look and see it with your own eyes too, before releasing.   Make sure that hand you’re giving up on at showdown is actually a losing hand before you do so.