I'm just coming up for air after several days of being utterly swamped at my day job, and I finally have the opportunity to report about something pretty rare that I did last week. I played some live poker in one of the clubs in New York City. The game was a $100 buyin freezeout tournament, no-limit holdem, and 37 players sat down at 8pm ET for a run at the top 5 payout spots, with $1300+ going to first place, and around $150 awarded to 5th. In my few other attempts in the city's poker clubs, I have not had much luck, failing to cash in maybe 7 or 8 attempts in these live tournaments, despite having had quite a bit of success in online tournaments of the same games. Nonetheless, I headed to the club last week with a decent dose of optimism, as I've been running well online lately and was really looking to translate this into my club performance for the first time.
I've written about this several times before on my own blog, but I will just say it again here because I think it bears repeating: for someone who has had a lot of success playing poker online, where you only have the timing and pattern of your opponent's bets to guide you in laying a read on someone, live poker can be really easy. I mean, shockingly, amazingly easy. Getting to see someone's facial expression when the flop hits the board, watching their eyes when they first view their hole cards, and seeing other non-facial things like the way a player handles their chips during the hand, can almost make it seem unfair to someone who usually never even gets to see their opponents during play.
With all this in mind, on hand #3 of the live tournament, I found Aces in the pocket, and a put in a standard preflop raise of 3 times the big blind. The young, aggro internet-looking player a few seats to my right reraises me from the blinds, and from just a moment's glance at him -- his face, his posture, really his entire demeanor -- it was balls obvious that he had a nice pocket pair himself there. So, I decided to really lay the trap and just smooth call his reraise. Well, when the flop brought three rags, knowing what I knew about my opponent's hand, I went for the big raise when he bet the size of the pot, and unfortunately he laid down what turned out to be two Queens.
Before I could even pile up all the new chips coming my way, two hands later I peel up the corners of my hole cards and see two beautiful red Aces staring up at me again. This time it's the older guy across the table from me who raises 3x preflop. I took a quick look at the guy's face (through my shades of course -- I'm a big sunglasses guy when I play live in the clubs or in casinos), and he just looks really eager to get it on. Again this is the kind of thing that you just don't get to see when you play online, and yet it was so obvious to me when I'm looking this guy right in the face, that I just had to put this guy on a big hand as well. So, I reraise him just twice his bet, trying to give him the rope to hang himself, which he grabs a full hold of by re-reraising me right back. Again, from his physical mannerisms, it was absolutely obvious I was looking at someone holding either pocket Aces or pocket Kings. Since I had pocket Aces myself, I figured it is far more likely that he has two Kings, and for that reason I just went ahead and moved in the rest of my chips on an allin re-re-reraise. Now, if this guy was a real man -- which surely I am not, if this is the criteria -- he should have known that my fourth raise meant I had Aces. But obviously pocket Kings are darn near impossible to lay down before the flop. He couldn't, and within just the first orbit I had a nice chip lead in the event.
Long story short, fast forward 4 hours later, and I was eliminated from the tournament in 2nd place when the eventual winner managed to nab pocket Aces not once but twice in the span of 3 hands when down to just three players left. Still, this goes down as easily my best ever performance in a live game, at least as far as playing against the tougher kind of competition that you only really run into in the casinos, the clubs or similar venues like that. I mean, sure I've won live tournaments among 50 or 60 of my friends, but -- no offense if any of my New York City poker friends are reading this -- those guys are not exactly what I'd call really high caliber poker players as a general statement. Taking 2nd place and winning nearly a grand in cash money for about 4 hours of work in an NYC poker club is really a testament to what I've been saying about online vs. live play. If you play enough hands online, and keep working on laying the right reads on people using only the very limited information you will have about your opponents -- again, just the timing and the amount of their bets -- this can translate quickly into some very profitable habits and skills when you go back to playing live, in-the-flesh poker. As I've said, after a few months of only online play, showing up in a casino, or even just a low-key poker homegame with friends -- I really find that the skills I've honed in reading people from limited cues online leaves me almost feeling sensory overload at the live poker table, where I am just seeing so many cues and hints and tells from various players. It's almost like taking candy from a baby.
Between full tilt's wide range of regularly available tournaments, and pokerstars' new and exciting multi-table tournament schedule, there are countless options to continue to practice on all of our online tournament games, whether in preparation and practice for live play, or just for the fun or profitability in their own right. Whatever your motivation, here's to poker success for you all during the new year -- both the live and the online variety (drink your shot now).