Texas Holdem Live Play

Texas Holdem Guide to Live Play

The internet makes it easy for poker players from around the world to quickly find a game and start playing. Many players who started playing in the last decade have never played a hand of live poker in a casino or poker room.

While there's nothing wrong with being an online poker player, or even an online poker pro, everyone should consider playing live from time to time. The experience is different and you may find that you play even better in a poker room than playing at home.

At first this may seem unlikely, but when you play live you have the advantage of being able to see and hear your opponents, unlike in online play. Of course your opponents have the same advantage against you, so you need to be aware of your actions at the table.

Preparing For Live Play

When you prepare for live Texas holdem play you need to consider two things. The first thing to focus on is learning how to read your opponents so you can increase your profitability. The second thing you need to focus on is making sure your opponents can't use the way you look, act, or talk against you because this will cost you money in the long run. We cover both of these things in this section.

Your Opponent's Play

Even if you consistently win as an online Texas holdem player, you may find that your results are even better when you start playing live games. The ability to see your opponents and learn how they play in a live environment can lead to a great deal of profit over time if you know how to use what you see and hear to your advantage.

1The first thing you need to do is pay attention at all times.

It's easy to get distracted or let your mind wander when you aren't directly involved in a hand, but you need to watch everyone at the table so you can learn as much as possible.

2The next thing to do is watch for physical tells.

Physical tells are things that players do that may give hints or clues to the strength of their hand. Some players have shaking hands when they have a huge hand and others squint or blink more often than normal when they're bluffing. Just be careful because some good players are able to give false tells and trap you in a big hand.

3Verbal tells are another area to listen for.

Listen to not only what the other players are saying but also how they're saying it. The best players have learned how to sound the same in all situations, unless they're trying to fool you, but most players aren't very good at disguising their table talk.

The more you pay attention and play the more opportunities you'll find to help you win more money while playing Texas holdem. Of course you still need to focus on strong play, but every little advantage helps you make more money in the long run.

It's not a bad idea to keep a small pocket sized notebook with you so you can jot down things that you see that you may have a hard time remembering.

Just make a quick note and then review your notes after your playing session. You can also review your notes the next time you plan to play at the same place in the future. Most poker rooms have regular players who you may play against over and over. Learning about these players can be quite valuable over time.

Your Play

Once you start seeing how other players give information away with their play you need to start paying attention to your play and actions. You need to play in a way that only gives the information away that you want to give out.

The best place to start is by taking roughly the same time to make a decision and act on every play that you make. Chris Ferguson is a good example of this, especially if you can find footage of him from 10 years ago and older. He does an excellent job of taking the same time to act whether he's folding, calling, or making a big raise.

You may also want to wear a hat and sun glasses to help cover your eyes and part of your face. The less your opponents can see the less they can read about your play. Concentrate on keeping your facial expressions the exact same no matter what you're doing in the hand.

The next thing you need to do in live Texas holdem play is keep your mouth shut. You don't have to be rude, but when you're involved in a hand all you have to say is the minimum amount to do what you need to do. Simple commands like, check, call, fold, and raise are all you need to say. The more you talk during a hand the more likely it will be that one of your opponents will learn something about the strength of your hand that you don't want her to know.

Once you master the ability to look, act, and sound the same no matter what the strength of your hand you can start looking for opportunities to give false information to help you make more profit.

This can be tricky though because you need to find opponents who are good enough to pick up on the false tells but who aren't good enough to figure out that you're giving false information.

The truth is most Texas holdem players don't pay enough attention to the game or their opponents to pick up a tell if you write it out on a big sign and hold it up. And on the other end of the spectrum are the players who are good enough to pick up on tells, but are also good enough to read false tells and use them against you.

Don't worry about giving false tells until you've mastered the live game and are already winning on a consistent basis. Plenty of winning live players never bother with things like this, choosing to concentrate on other areas of their game in order to turn a profit. So if you decide tells aren't your thing you can still find ways to be a winning live Texas holdem player.

Where to Play Live Poker

The poker boom of the 2000's made live games available in the most places as they've ever been found. While poker has cooled off somewhat since then, you can still find plenty of live games.

When you start looking for a place to play live poker you need to consider what you're willing to put up with and what you're not willing to tolerate. Answer these questions to give you an idea of where you can go to play.

How far are you willing to travel to play?

Most poker players have a casino with poker tables or a full-fledged poker room within an hour of where they live. Almost everyone has a private poker game or home game within an hour of where they live, even if they aren't currently aware of where it may be.

If you're willing to get on a plane or bus to travel to a gambling hub like Las Vegas or Atlantic City your live Texas holdem options are even broader.

At the end of the day your options for live holdem play boil down to playing in a private or home game or playing in a casino or poker room. They each have ses and minuses and only you can decide which venue is best for you.

Do you feel safe playing in a non-casino environment or do you need the possibly false sense of security that comes from playing in a public place?

The reason we say a possibly false sense of security is because even casinos can be dangerous if you don't use good common sense. Poker players tend to carry a great deal of cash with them and thieves know this so they can try to catch you while you're in a parking area or other less secure place.

Of course some private games can be found in shady parts of town, but many home games are surprisingly safe. You need to do your due diligence in either situation to keep yourself safe.

Do you know anyone who plays in private or home games that you trust?

Start asking your friends and people you know or work with if they play poker. You may be surprised at how many of them play. Ask them where they play and find out more about the games. Make sure you ask for specifics about the stakes. A big game to one player may be a small game to another. We know players who think a $50 buy in game is huge and we also know players who play for thousands every time they sit down.

What stakes are you willing to play?

As a follow up to the last question, it's important to consider the low and high end of the stake you're willing to play. The higher the stakes you want to play the farther you may need to travel. But if you're willing to play for small stakes you can probably find games in many places.

What games are you willing to play?

Texas holdem is by far the most played game so you shouldn't have any trouble finding a holdem game. But if you want to play limit or pot limit it may be more difficult to find a game at the stakes you wish to play. If you're looking for a non holdem game like Omaha or Seven Card Stud you're probably going to be forced to travel to a larger casino or poker room.

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to give yourself the best chance to win every time you play?

The main reason to answer this question is because if you want to give yourself the best chance to win you're going to find the games with the weakest players. This requires either building your own live game or traveling to wherever the best games are located.

Phil Ivey, a successful professional poker player stated in an interview that one of the reasons he stopped playing so many World Series of Poker events is because he can turn more profit by playing in side games during the WSOP. He's known to go wherever the best games are, and if you want to be a long term winning live player you may need to be willing to do the same thing.

Are you willing to "shop" for a good table when you arrive at the poker room or are you going to grab the first available seat?

Following the comment on the last question, do you think Phil Ivey grabs the first seat or finds the best game before taking a seat? Most poker players who play in live games are so excited to get started playing that they jump into the first available game. But the best players understand that finding the best game leads to a higher profit margin, so they shop for a good table. You need to do the same thing every time you play live.


While playing live Texas holdem poker follows the same basic rules and game play as playing online, it is a much different experience in many ways.

When you start playing live keep an eye out for things your opponents do and say that may help you win more hands, and at the same time be aware of your own actions and table talk to keep from giving away information about your play. You don't have to worry about the faces you make or the sounds you make while playing at a computer, but while playing live it can be costly.

Thumbs Up

Use the advice included above to find the best places to play live Texas holdem. Once you start playing live you may find that your results are even better than when you concentrate all of your play to the online world.

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