11- 1-04, LearnTexasHoldem:

Transitioning From Online To Real Life Poker

Question: Dear Webmaster,

First let me start by congratulating you on creating and maintaining such an informative site. I read articles on it regularly and I am always looking for ways to improve my game. I hope you can find time to answer my question (though this is not the first time I have sent you one).

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I really have several questions rolled into one. I have been playing online poker for several months now. Using William Hills online card room I have won a lot in the last 3 months. However, to sample some of the "real" poker life I was interested in visiting a casino near me.

I have a few worries though - I was reading an article submitted by one of your readers asking about whether peoples dress is an indicator of their skill. You said that you are not convinced it makes a difference, but you do tend to see a pattern in the way people play based on their race! In particular, you say that young white males tend to be "no real problem, just standard book players". I am a young, white male and I tend to play tight/textbook play online. I am worried that people will be able to see through me (if you see what I mean) and adapt their style against me (situational play - the type of play I am slowly learning!).

In another article, you say that people who have played on the internet before tend to me more skilled than the people who go straight to the casino. As I have said, I have plenty of online experience, so I know what bad beats feel like and I feel I have gained much experience.

I have convinced myself that I would take a portion to the casino and play the multi-table tournaments there (i think they have unlimited rebuys).

I want to go more than anything at the moment - I can afford to lose the money, since it is only poker winnings anyway, but I am fearful of being absolutely schooled - almost ridiculed. I also dont want to be the young book player at the table - the "fish", if you will.

Despite all of the worries described above, my main concerns are:

Do you have any thoughts on tactics that might suit my situation, or should I go purely for the fun/entertainment?

Surely "real cardroom" players are harder to beat than online players, since the "real" players have proactively gone out to a casino to play?

How many times/for how long do you think I should visit the casino. I mean this on the level that in the event that I am marginally better than the opposition, how do I know that I haven't just got unlucky on my first day?

Sorry to go on, Im just getting cold feet!

Thanks for any words of advice you can offer me,

A slightly anxious Paul!

Answer: Before answering your questions, let me make a few comments. Number one, while I did say that there are some stereotypes that I have noticed based on appearance, I wouldn't let that intimidate you. The other question was specifically about how people play based on their clothing. My answer was no that there wasn't a correlation between how much a person spent on their clothing and how skilled they were at cards.

In fact many times the opposite is true. I love having a bunch of older white guys drop by and play some cards after playing their round of golf. They may have a pound of gold on each wrist but they suck at poker. Poker has changed a lot too over the past couple years. It wasn't that long ago that I would look around the room and always be the youngest, now you'll see tons of young people playing.

Next, I think you'll really enjoy playing live poker in addition to online poker. It is the same game but there are many differences. If you think winning a pot or just playing in general is exciting online, it pales in comparison with the real thing. Nothing is better than having a massive castle of chips built up in front of you. Lastly, about not being intimidated, you are going there for tournament play. My comments were mainly for cash games.

Tournament play has a different element to it and it brings in a slightly more diverse group of people. I'm not sure why that it is but part of it has to do with gambling and hitting it big. Often times casinos have weekend tournies with a cheap entry fee and it brings in a lot of people who don't normally play many cash games, they are just in it for the big win. They are also the people that if they do play cash games, they are more likely to play when there is a double or triple bad beat jackpot. These are also the types of players who consider changing seats, the deck or the dealer to have an affect on their winning or losing. I wouldn't consider them to much competition or anything to get worried about.

Now onto your questions:

Do you have any thoughts on tactics that might suit my situation, or should I go purely for the fun/entertainment?

Poker should be fun first and then for money. Always keep that in mind. No one likes to lose though and you are going there to win. Rely on what you have learned up till this point. It is the same game you play online, it just will take a little getting use to the mechanics of having real cards, chips and players. Once you get into the groove, you'll do fine. If anything looking inexperienced will actually help you -- you might get less respect (or more). Be aware of that aspect and see if you can manipulate it now and then to your favor.

Surely "real cardroom" players are harder to beat than online players, since the "real" players have proactively gone out to a casino to play?

No, not at all. That's the wrong attitude. You don't want to go in assuming everyone knows how to play well and they are all pros. The truth is that most people who play online are better players than those offline. There will be far more experience in the offline players, some will have played for decades, but that doesn't mean anything. Just because you have played poker for 20 years doesn't make you good, or even a winning player.

I don't want to write a page about why people play live poker but there are many reasons of which winning isn't always a prerequisite. Be positive, play your game and then assess and adjust later. And when in doubt, remember, if these guys were all so good, why would they be playing limits that you are playing in? If you look at it from that perspective then saying you have played for 20 years at one limit isn't that impressive at all. Obviously had the person been better they would have moved up to bigger games.

How many times/for how long do you think I should visit the casino. I mean this on the level that in the event that I am marginally better than the opposition, how do I know that I haven't just got unlucky on my first day?

From what you wrote, you are going in to play in tournaments. If that is the case, then go in and play as often as you like. Just remember though that tournament poker is very spuratic. People play for years and then win a big tourney and then go dry again for years. I think you are putting too much pressure on yourself if you have high hopes for just going in and beating it the first few times.

Even with the worst players, beating a multi-table tournament isn't easy or something you can do with even your best game. You need a combination of good play, good cards and some luck.

So just go in and have some fun the first few times. Just consider the initial few visits to be just for settling your nerves and figuring everything out. Then after that go in and and kick some ass.

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