A poker party is about to start all over the world. Assuming things don’t somehow change with a variant of COVID that easily infects people who are vaccinated, people are going to be flocking to the poker tables in the very near future. Many people here in Las Vegas already are taking part in them.
I played a $2,500 buy-in at the Venetian last week that had almost 300 entries. That’s a pretty big number for the Venetian this time of year, even if we weren’t under partial lockdown. The night before I stopped by Caesars to see what the poker room looked like and it was full; not a single open seat.
Let me preface all this by saying that I have been vaccinated and I’m still careful. It is not my advice that you should risk your life to play poker. If you are in a high risk group and haven’t been vaccinated, don’t do it. I went an entire year without playing live poker for that very reason. But once you deem it safe for you to play, be ready, because the party is already starting.
So many times I have lamented with my online poker friends from back in the early days that we didn’t take enough advantage of the amazing games when we had a chance. Sure, I made good money, but with better study habits and grinding more hours I would have been retired by 35. I won’t make that mistake again. What’s coming is sure to be sweet bonanza!
I was playing in a little poker room in Wisconsin the day Osama Bin Laden was killed. The games had been pretty boring, filled with older regs, until the announcement. The floor guy turned up the sound and played it for us and everyone cheered and ordered rounds of drinks and the games went crazy. They went from boring and tight to absolutely maniacal. I think I was up $70 in three hours, and I made $600 in the next three hours. When people are celebrating, the games are great.
And many former pros found other things to do during the lockdown. The number of pros in the tournament, and at the cash games, was much lower than usual. Here in Vegas I expect a real resurgence of live poker, with more recreational players coming to Vegas to party and have a good time, and fewer pros in headphones silently grinding out a living.
Your area will likely be the same. We saw it last year with online poker, the games getting better and win rates increasing because live poker rooms were closed, but that will be nothing like what we are about to see in brick and mortar casinos.
That means you’ll need to be prepared for wild games. You’ll take more bad beats and your bluffs won’t work as well. You’ll probably deal with more drunks. The dealers and floor people who haven’t worked in a year may be rusty and may make more mistakes than usual. But if you can handle these things, there is going to be a lot of money to be made. Here are seven tips for how to maximize your potential win.
7 Tips for Beating Wild Games and Bad Players
1. Have the Right Mindset
When dealing with a party atmosphere, it helps to start with the right mindset. You aren’t there to test your skills against other strong players. You are there to make money and take advantage of other players’ mistakes. Be ready for big swings. Expect them. And if you are rattled by them and playing badly, go home. The games will be good again tomorrow.
2. Know Your Opponents
When a player who is having a good time and socializing gives you real indicator that you are beat, believe them. You can tell the jerks from the players who are just there to have a good time. Ignore the things the jerk says, but believe the people who are having fun; they will almost never lie to you either with their big bets or their actual words. I’ve saved a lot of money in my life by folding when a recreational player tells me something like “You can fold, I have it.”
3. Don’t Tilt
If you are easily tilted by bad players and bad beats, you’ll need to deal with that problem because it will be harder to control now than it has been in at least five years. I highly recommend Dr. Alan Schoonmaker‘s books as well as his coaching. Nobody knows more about poker psychology than Dr. Al.
4. Bad Player ≠ Bad Hand
Don’t fall into the trap that bad player = bad hand. Bad players get good hands just as often as you do. Sure, their average starting hand may be far below yours, but you can’t assume they have nothing when they four-bet you preflop, or raise you all-in on the turn, just because they’re loose preflop. If you do this, they will lose money on their bad hands against you, and win it all back on their good hands when you don’t believe them.
5. Charge Your Opponents
It’s also important not to offer a loose player huge implied odds. If they are seeing flops cheap with garbage hands, then winning huge pots whenever they hit, they will actually win money from you. Control this by making bigger raises and three-bets preflop, and not handing them your whole stack when they outflop you.
I see this mistake constantly, usually followed by the tight player holding a long funeral for their hand and complaining about how the “bad” player had nothing preflop and got lucky. Yeah, they did get lucky. By finding a player who would pay them off whenever they flop a big hand with their garbage. That is very lucky indeed because without it they would lose money very quickly.
6. Preflop Play Isn’t Everything
Remember that preflop play isn’t everything, and those loose players see a lot more flops than you do. They are used to seeing flops against tight players and even if they aren’t very good, they may be playing pretty well after the flop simply because they’ve had so much practice and it’s easy to put a tight player on a hand and outplay them. If you combine this with tight players who offer them great implied odds and always assume they have a bad hand, it can be very profitable for them to play junk hands preflop.
7. Choose Your Stakes Wisely
Don’t move up because “I can’t beat a game where they never fold.” If you feel this way, I have some bad news and some good advice for you. The bad news is that you are very wrong. If you can’t beat a $1/2 game, the better players in the $2/5 game are going to eat you alive. When I play $2/5, my very favorite target isn’t the wild drunk or the newbie who is just getting started. It’s you. The guy who thinks the game will be easier when people can fold a hand. They guy who can’t beat a $1/2 game full of recreational players.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard some pro at a $2/5 table tell a recreational player something like “Yeah, you can’t beat those games, you have to come play the $2/5 with us, it’s way better.” They aren’t inviting the losing player up to a game where they can be a winner. No pro invites someone to a game because they want more strong winning players at their table. They are perpetuating the idea that bigger games can be easier to beat. The only time this is true is when you get to really big games where most pros can’t afford to buy in. And even then the games are usually very tough.
Do some studying and get ready! Sign up to a poker training site, and brush up on your skills. The party is starting and a year or two from now it will probably be over and we’ll be back to the grind. When you are sure that it’s safe for you, get back in the game and start scooping up that cash because there is going to be a bunch of it and you don’t want to miss out.