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Article 2 of 10 - The Biggest Differences Between PC Play and B & M Play

The World of Brick and Mortar Play; Article 2; Jan/2009

THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PC PLAY and B & M PLAY

[Number 2 in a series of 10 Articles; all to be posted in 2009]

copyright (c) January, 2009; all rights reserved by D.M.Vadnais

This series of Articles is intended to prepare you for ring game play at Brick and Mortar (B & M) casinos and card rooms. And, in the last post, Article 1, the overwhelming significance of Patience was introduced through a discussion of a very specific three hour period of time. It was, in fact, a bit of 'poker by example'. However, since there are so many subject matters that need to be included in the 2009 Articles, I'll need to digress from the 'example' theme for the length of Article 2, and, in its' place, utilize a 'tutorial' theme. Importantly, all seven of the introductions, explanations, and advisories that follow are intended to prepare you for your entry to 'real money' play....at a real poker table.

So, before you run off to a poker room....before you hand 'real money' to a floorman....before you take a seat at a 'real money' game, I want to convey to y'all an understanding of the vast differences between PC play and 'real money' table play. And, If, by chance, you're one of the players who are contemplating this jog to a poker establishment, you'll need to fully understand all of the differences...it makes no sense for you to be putting your money at risk if you're not in the position to be rewarded for your time and effort.

Also, keep in mind that I'm talking about a Brick and Mortar (B & M) establishment. I am definitely NOT talking about an Internet poker site. Candidly, the only place you should be playing poker on-line is at NoPay....where there can never be a deposit, where you can only win money. Remember, NoPay is fun, friendly, and free. It's a place to learn the game, to practice the game, to fine tune your skills, and to master the advanced strategies of the game. Candidly, once you can win at NoPay with regularity, you have likely elevated your game play to a level that merits your participation in 'real money' B & M games.

Here, then, are the biggest differences between PC play and 'real money' B & M play. First, and foremost, it's patience. We have all come to recognize the significance of patience in on-line play...we've even learned a freeroll exercise to help ourselves further develop our individual patience skills. We can, for the purposes of this discussion, equate on-line poker patience to X (simply think of X in the abstract). And, when X is compared to play in a 'real money' game, the X becomes 3X.

Why? Take a moment to reflect on the average number of hands played per hour on your PC...it's likely in the range of 70 to 120; depending on the game. Not so at the real world's felt tables...it's most often in the range of 20 to 30 hands per hour. And, when you're only seeing approximately 25 pockets per hour, you're going to endure much longer periods of time where you've not been dealt the premium cards that generally place you in the mix.

Second, there is a very large difference in the areas concerned with cash management (CM)...not bankroll management, but cash management. Bankroll management is no different in PC play versus 'real money' play. Cash Management, however, necessitates a whole new perspective on your part. Included within this CM arena is the 'Rake' at 'real money' tables, the need for an 'Escort' at the conclusion of your playing session, and the vigilance to eye-patrol for 'Cheating' during your play.

The Rake at a 'real money' table is not minimal as it is in on-line play. In low stakes No Limit games it can be as high as 8% (sometimes 12% when you factor in a 'seat charge' each time the dealer is changed). And, in high stakes No Limit games it's generally in the area of 2%. But, 2% of a $2,500 pot is fifty bucks...whereas the highest rake you'll experience on your PC is usually about $3; often, that $3, is way less than 1% of the pot.

The need for an 'Escort' at the end of a 'real money' session is a prophylactic precaution against the possibility of theft...en route to your car, or in the parking lot. There are times when an individual is leaving a cash game with multiple hundreds, or thousands of dollars; and, if you think for one minute that you're not being watched, think again. Where there's cash, there are low-lifes seeking to remove it from your pockets. The 'Escort' is free...your only cost would be an appropriate gratuity to the casino employee who safely guided you to your vehicle.

The eyeball vigilance necessitated by the possibility of Cheating during game play is also of consequence...where there's money, there are always Cheaters; two players possibly switching a pocket card, any player taking chips from another players stack, finger or chip signals from player to player identifying their individual pocket cards, and...worst of all...the potential for collusion between a dishonest dealer and any one or more players.

Third, there is a monumental difference in the area concerned with 'tells'....your 'tells' and the 'tells' of your opponents. Essentially, few, if any, truly discernible 'tells' exist during PC play. While the magnitude of 'tells' that exist at 'real money' tables are almost countless. And, you're going to need to cultivate the process of learning how to identify the two-way potential tells; yours and theirs. Get some books...I'm not able to give you an all inclusive list; you'll find upwards of one dozen great books on 'tells'...start with Mike Caro; his book may be best of all.

I will, however, offer up some comments on the need for conversation at the table. Upon entering a game do everything possible to promote introductions...get people to talking; be outgoing, pleasant, and truthful (or, as truthful as is necessary; don't give away your personality characteristics). Let people know where you live, and what type of work you do. All of your discourse will induce discourse from others...and, the things they say should be remembered.

Frankly, at some point, any number of things they may have said should be recorded in a small notebook***. The notes will help you identify this person at some future point in time...quite possibly after you've recorded 'player notes' on that person; and those notes, the player notes, are going to make money for you; maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but they certainly will over an extended period of time. Moreover, initial conversations could likely yield some very useful information; you could easily pick up on an individuals playing style from the manner in which they handle themselves during conversation. By that I mean, certain people will...without realizing it...give away the fact that they play very conservatively; or, conversely, that they play very aggressively.

***[The 'How?' of notetaking will be presented, outlined, and fully discussed in Article's 8, 9, and 10]

Fourth, numbers and simple arithmetic have so much to do with winning at a 'real money' game; much like the way it is on your PC. Yet, at a 'real money' table, the way in which we deal with our base 10 numbering system has so much more impact on how often we win, and how much we win. Thus, there is a big difference between PC play and felt table play. Where ? How ? Let's answer those 2 one word questions by addressing the matters concerned with pot odds, implied odds, and the use of a time clock (or, time limitation).

You've got about 20 to 30 seconds to make your decisions on a poker site. Not so in a 'real money' game...you've got at least twice as much time; if not 10 times as much time. Sure, the dealer would generally urge you to speed it up...or an opposing player could, and often will, ask to have a time clock put on you, thereby creating an end parameter to your available time. But, the very existence of that extra time allows you to do a variety of things that can't be done while sitting in front of a computer screen.

One such thing would be to give your opponents false tells; this is accomplished by using your expanded time allotment in a random fashion...constantly switching from 5 seconds to 55 seconds to 25 seconds to 15 seconds to 85 seconds, and/or any number of seconds between 2 and 122. Simply stated, this is step 1 in the process of confusing the heck out of any players who are looking to identify your tells. (Much more to come on 'Deceptions'; in a subsequent Article.)

A second advantage lies in the ability you now have to accurately assess pot odds in a non-hurried manner...and, you're also able to do a proof of the arithmetic you just performed; also in a non-hurried manner. Plus, of even greater significance, you're able to do the same with Implied Odds calculations. Given all the time you have, you should never make a mistake....and, no mistakes go hand-in-hand with an improved Return on Investment (ROI).

Fifth, you'll need to be attentive to what I've come to call the Five Comfort Factors. They are the chair you'll be sitting in, the clothes you'll be wearing, the need for subsistence, the awareness of fatigue, and the quenching of thirst. In my case, I require a chair that can recline...although I'll not often sit in a reclined position. I want to maintain a one hundred percent Consistency of Focus (COF), and if I were always leaning back I'd lose quite a bit of that focus.

Then, be sure to dress comfortably...loose fitting clothes will serve you well. Mind you, I said loose fitting; I didn't say old raggedy garments that make you look like a pauper. The old business adage about dressing for success applies to almost all the places you visit; work, church, parties, court...whatever....and, a poker room is no exception.

Next, maintaining your blood sugar levels during a 5 to 15 hour playing session is mandatory...eat the right foods, and eat them in moderation; drink the right fluids, and drink them in moderation...you don't want to be running off to the boys or girls room every 30 minutes. And, come hell or high water, don't ever drink any alcohol; you'll need all of your brain cells to exercise your superior command of the game.

Plus, you must pay very close attention to your level of fatigue...if you're tired, your level of play is going to be dramatically altered. Or, better yet, if you've slept poorly the night before, don't bother going to the game; or, if you've consumed too much alcohol the night before, don't bother going to the game. Moreover, if any kind of emotional stress exists at the time of your planned visit to the real world's felt tables, don't bother going to the game...in the end, a dollar not wagered could very well be a dollar earned.

Sixth, the quality of play at a 'real money' game is far and away superior to the quality of play you've come to recognize on your PC; there just aren't as many donkeys at the felt tables. I'll estimate that the number of 'donks' is reduced by at least 50%...if not a bit more. The good players...and, there are many to be found at the cash tables...are quick to lay down once formidable pockets; which, by the way, is a hallmark of the really super talented participants who play the game.

And, if you can't lay down premium pockets in the face of poor flops, turns, or rivers, you're simply never going to be a long-term winner at 'real money' tables. Plus, the good players, almost without exception, will only call an all-in bet when they are holding the current 'nuts' hand. These two 'play essentials' better be a part of your game. If they're not, get busy with some practice sessions...you don't need to be the 'Farm Animal' who's donating money.

Additionally, keep in mind that cash games and tournament games are not remotely comparable. The TV game play you witness where a professional raises the BB with a 6/4 off suit, then aggressively bets into a flop of A/9/3 rainbow, gets called, then even more aggressively bets into an 8 post-turn, and subsequently watches his opponent fold...thus moving the pot to his stack; just doesn't happen in a cash game. It's extremely rare to play in a 'real money' game where any form of 'reckless abandon' is the rule of thumb...cash game players usually have a decent hand. Or, at the very least, a draw where the Pot Odds suggest that they have a reasonable chance of winning the chips spread out in front of the dealer. Not always...but much more frequently than you might imagine.

Sure...at times there can be some aggression, some bluffing, and some TV induced bad betting. Yet, when you ultimately get to experience it for yourself, you'll come to recognize that it most often occurs when only limpers have entered the pot. And, you'll quickly notice that it's the Dealer Button, Small Blind or Big Blind who are doing the raising.

Seventh, and last, I want to make mention of two other differences between PC play and 'real money' play: Risk Tolerance and Emotions Management. I've taken the liberty of grouping the two together because both of these differences have everything to do with your mind, and almost nothing to do with your opponents mind. They can't manage your emotions, they can't measure your risk tolerance...only you can. And, managing your emotions is a far more difficult task at a cash table than it is at a poker site. At your PC you can get as annoyed, as angry, and as vocal as you please. Plus, if you want to hear the surrounding walls echo your profanities, it's pretty much your business.

Well...you're not doing any of that at a felt table; the players would likely object, and the dealer will almost certainly object. Do it once too often, and your presence at the table will be a thing of the past; courtesy of the floorman. Also, any display of your annoyance, your anger, or your colorful language will permit an advantage to go to your competition. Should they pick up on the potential 'tilt' zone you're entering, they'll proceed to siphon away your stack...in both small and large chunks.

Plus, you'll need to have a complete understanding of your individual risk tolerance. Not risk as is relates to any one bet, but risk as it relates to your comfort zone with currency. What you're trying to determine is exactly how much cash (currency) you're able to 'wave goodbye to', without it having anything more than a fleeting concern on your part. Is it $100, $400, $1,000, $2,500, $5,000, or more? Whatever answer you come up with fundamentally identifies your cash game risk tolerance. You can not play in a 'real money' game with scared money, with the mortgage payment, or with the household finances...you can only play with 'comfortable money'. You better know your risk tolerance before you start looking for a cash game.

Best of Luck at the Tables.



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