I have played poker online for the last six years and have only played live a handful of times. I am now transitioning to only playing live. Playing online has served its purpose as a learning and study tool. It was great because I was able to learn how to play with minimal risk. I wasn’t practicing applying new strategies with scared money, which allowed me to really go for it and often I would make money. Online poker also archives hand histories, allowing me to do hand analysis off the table later. I would work out EV and breakeven formulas to work out whether the calls and raises I was making were correct or whether I was just running well at sites like Lucky casino. I would post the hands on poker forums and see if my line was optimal based off the feedback and adjust. Over the years I have honed my LAG style and now is the time to take it live.

simultaneous live and online poker
Image credit: SHRPO Blog | Used for illustrative purposes only

Over the last six years my live experience includes a few freeroll tournaments at the local casino and some bar poker. I had also played cash poker a few times down at Diamond Jo casino just south of Minnesota across the Iowa border. That first time down in the Hawkeye State terrified me! I had never once bought in for any significant amount up to that point. I got my courage up, handed in my $200 buy-in and took my seat. After 45 minutes I was up $400! I was shaking and feeling really overwhelmed. See, I wasn’t only nervous from not having any live cash poker experience, but also because I have social anxiety. I was freaking out! I leaned over and half whispered to the dealer asking how I leave. He just said grab your chips and go. I was so inexperienced and terrified I didn’t even know how to leave the table. I grabbed my chips, cashed out, and ran for the door. My whole body was trembling, I felt like I had just robbed the place. I couldn’t believe I had just made $400.  If only every session could be so lucrative!

Dipping My Toes in the Live Poker Waters

I have been back to Diamond Jo’s twice and have started playing in home games I have found on a local Meetup group. The nerves have started to settle. There are still situations that get me frazzled, which is all part of the learning curve. Making change is hard for me. I see everyone else tossing in chips and making change like it is no big deal. Having played online for so many years I have never once had to make change. If someone makes a $2.75 bet and all I have is a $5 chip and I want to call, it is not an easy matter for me. My anxiety kicks in and I literally can’t even count to 3. The numbers on the chips stop making sense. It sucks because I am college educated! I flippin’ got As in Geometry, Physics, and Statics! I graduated on the Dean’s list for crying out loud!

I trust that over time I will be able to relax and just play poker. Everyone at the home games and even down at Diamond Jo’s has been really understanding.  I openly share with them what’s going on, get a free “therapy session” out of the deal… In a lot of ways, it benefits me that I look so clumsy; people assume if I can’t count, I must suck at poker. Think what you want, haha.

I have found a regular Wednesday game that I have gone to twice now. It is a 50NL cash game. I have nearly doubled up both times. I think it is working out having played online up to the 100NL stakes. From what I’ve seen so far, players at 100NL online are at a much higher level than what I run into at the same level live. My top pair doesn’t go very far online.  Live top pair with a meh kicker has a good shot winning the showdown in live poker.

Looking Ahead

All in all, I am excited for this new season in my poker development. I will get more familiar with the mechanics of how the game operates. I will get live reads on people. I will have opportunities to build potential lifelong friendships. When having a date and time set aside during the week to play poker, I will be able to focus on the game when I am playing. When I am not playing I will be able to focus on my family and friends.

By contrast, when I was playing online, all I could think about all day long was when is the next chance I get to log on and play. It became my No. 1 priority whether it was date night with my wife or father/son hang out time, I was thinking about logging on and playing poker. Now that I have a set day to play, I am free the other days of the week to be a human and enjoy life! I encourage everyone to have a set time to play and stick to it regardless of whether you play live or online.

I look forward to reporting back here at Cardplayer Lifestyle and sharing how things are going. My goal is to build up a bankroll that is adequate for taking another trip down to Diamond Jo’s and playing in the $1/2 cash game they have available. If things go as well as I hope I should be able to start heading down once a week.

Take Inspiration from My Journey

So, if you are reading this and are just getting into poker consider, playing some of the $.10/.25 online cash games to get started. Look at some of the poker book reviews I have done and grab a book that you like and start the journey. Use those small stakes that online has available to practice applying the principles the poker books you choose lay out and go for it. After a session, grab a few hands from the hand history and work out the EV calcs and breakeven formulas and see if you played correctly. Post the hands on poker forums and get some feedback. Once your game starts getting solid, dabble in some live games along the way to get a feel for the mechanics of the game and practice getting reads off people. Most of all, just have fun! It wasn’t an accident I started poker as a hobby. If I can have fun and make a few extra bucks along the way, well that is a win-win!

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