Getting Comfortable with People Staring at you
The most obvious difference between online and live poker, is that other players will stare at you in hopes of picking up a read, whilst you think and make your decisions.
If you’ve not played live before you may find this stressful. Having someone trying to decipher your brain can be quite disconcerting, especially when you’re in a stressful situation and you’re trying to think. Remember: the person is trying to intimidate you with their look.
Just because someone looks like they are looking into your soul, doesn’t mean they are. It’s far harder to extract information from the way people are looking or acting than players let on. Everyone wants to pretend they are a mind reader, but very few are. It’s an unrefined art. Often, when someone claims to have a read, it’s just to unsettle you.
The best advice I could give you is to get out there and do it. Don’t let the first time you play live be a big event – play as many smaller games as possible. This will relieve some stress and the added pressure of live play.
Go to your local card room, or wherever you can play live, and play some cash games or low buy-in tournaments. Get used to the physical interactions, the handling of the chips, the table talk and just really get used to the idea of people starring at you.
When it comes to reading your opponents, try not to get to caught up in it. Just as it’s hard for players to read you, it’s hard for you to read opponents. One thing I will say, generally the lower down the body the read the more reliable it is. For example: players tend to not focus on their feet, and there have been some very rare times where I’ve been 50/50 on whether to call or fold on a huge pot – where the math is super close – and I’ll have a little look at their feet when possible. If I notice beforehand that perhaps they are normally mostly still with their feet and now suddenly their feet are jiggling around, that’s often a sign of strength. It’s not very reliable information unless you’ve been playing with someone for hours and built up a baseline of what their natural physical behaviour is, though.
If it helps, wear sunglasses. Wear a hat if that makes you feel more comfortable. A baseball cap is great, because if someone is looking at you, you can just look down at the table, it blocks your line of sight and they can’t see your eyes. It’s a nice comfort giver.
What do you do if you’re Card Dead?
It will happen at some point. Depending on stack depth, I would say just be patient, because most multiple day tournaments have a good structure, and the blind levels are long so there is plenty of play. Even if you drop down to 40 or 30 big blinds, it’s not the panic zone.
I used to panic a lot. Say you start off with 300 big blinds, lose quite a big pot and half your stack, and you start to think: “oh no, I’ve got half the average stack”. Then you panic. You’ll start playing all these weird hands in bad spots that you really shouldn’t. But you’ve actually still got 100 or 150 big blinds.
Don’t get blinded by the fact that the average stack is higher than your stack. All you need to do is be familiar with different stack sizes in any tournament and remember that 30 big blinds in a deep structure event with long levels is way more playable than 30 big blinds in a small buy-in tournament with 10-minute levels.
Lean on the side of patience and be aware of your table image. If you’ve been card dead and people notice that you’ve been extra tight because of that, find the occasional spot to raise with some kind of hand like 56s or 98o in late position. Look for little opportunities to take pots down, and those little moments where you have not won a hand for 1 or 2 hours – when you have a little victory such as stealing the blinds – it will feel great.
Don’t panic even if you’re down to 15 big blinds and everyone else has 100. I’ve had so many occasions when I’ve got short and then made a comeback. Like at EPT San Remo. I went from Day 1 with a 30,000-starting stack to 15,000. I thought: “oh no, this is it”. Then boom. I came back and won the whole tournament. Again, on Day 2 I was down to 20 big blinds, everyone else had 70 or so. I almost panicked again, but pulled myself together, found a double up spot and went from there.
Expect a roller-coaster with your stack. It’s not going to be increase, increase, increase. Usually it’s small decrease, small decrease, big increase. Your stack will go all over the place.
(Starting Stack: 30,000)
Level 1: 28,500
Level 2: 26,000
Level 3: 22,000
Level 4: 37,000
Level 5: 44,000
Level 6: 32,000
Everyone’s stack peaks. Try not to compare your stack to its peak. If you had 100k in chips and now you have 60k, don’t let it affect your play. If you’d have gone from 50k to 60k you’d be happy, right?
Tournaments are a journey that you won’t be able to predict. Be prepared for the swings and do not panic.