In the cult-classic poker movie “Rounders,” Matt Damon’s character Mike McD had the ability to play any form of poker at any time, at any place, and against anybody. That’s your ultimate goal. You want to become someone who can play and thrive under any given circumstances. That includes both live poker and online poker.
Mike McD from Rounders had the ability to play poker in any location including underground card rooms, country clubs, private games, or even in an Atlantic City poker room. Mike McD took on anyone ranging from golf pros, short order cooks, cops, cigar-huffing hipsters, conventioneers, and Oreo-munching ex-KGB agents.
You have to adjust your game depending on stakes, because a low-stakes game at a kitchen table with friends will have a different vibe than a high-stakes game in the high roller area at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Mike McD had the ability to handle sharks in Vegas, or your beer-guzzling neighbor in a home game.
Mike McD also excelled in multiple forms of poker from dealer’s choice to Seven-card Stud to Texas Hold’em. Proficiency in mixed games provides you the opportunity to generate multiple revenue streams, and not just Texas Hold’em or Stud. Formats are cyclical, and new games pop up every few years whether it’s Badugi, or the Big O. If you can quickly learn a new game like Short Deck Hold’em, you’ll jump ahead of the curve and beat slow-learners.
If you love poker, you’ll never get bored because you can pass time by learning a new game. These days, you can get a crash course and learn new formats without losing any money by giving it a whirl at the play money tables on online sites, or mobile apps.
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Mike McD had the chameleon-like ability to blend in anywhere he played, while disguising his sharp abilities. That’s why people skills are vital to becoming a successful poker player.
Poker has an egalitarian aspect where you come across people from all strata of life because you never know who you might end up sitting next to at the table. It could be a lawyer from London, or a rancher from Texas. It could be a ski bum from Colorado, or jet ski salesman from Australia. No matter who is at your table, you have to be ready to blend in.
Maintaining good social etiquette and having the ability to shoot the breeze with anyone comes in handy at the tables. You always want to remain cordial and polite. Opponents will treat you better if they like you versus if they hate your guts.
It might sound cheesy, but if you’re on the shy side, then pick up Dale Carnegie’s best seller book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It will help you find a way to talk to strangers.
The Hybrid Poker Player
Live poker and online poker are two different beasts. You must rely on a different set of skills to be able to play each with true proficiency. If you can develop the ability to play both, then you’ll achieve the rare feat as a skilled hybrid player. You’ll be able to dominate any live game, or crush the virtual tables.
Transitioning to online poker can be a difficult adjustment for brick and mortar players. Live grinders have a tougher time sniffing out a bluff at the virtual tables without reading your opponents and studying their every move.
When I began playing online poker for the first time 20-plus years ago, opponents pulling off successful bluffs against me was one of my biggest liabilities. I never seemed to make the correct hero call at the online tables. I let everyone bluff me out of pots when I was way ahead.
In real life, I have a great built-in lie detector and just know in my gut when someone is trying to steal a pot with nothing but air. It took me a year or more before I finally got better at cracking down on bluffers in online poker. Betting amounts and pattern recognition are the easiest ways to pick up tells from online opponents, but those are difficult to master. It requires time and experience to get up to speed.
Patience, Patience, Patience
Live poker requires a higher level of patience and discipline than online poker. The game progresses at a much slower pace in a brick and mortar room. You’ll have to deal with real-life people which can send you on mega tilt in an instance. You need keen observational skills to sniff out bluffs in the real world. You also have to keep your own body language in check.
When I first moved to Las Vegas, I encountered well-skilled online poker players who had yet to adjust to the live game. In the post-pandemic world, there’s a new batch of players that learned the game online when casinos were shuttered at the start of the pandemic.
You can spot these live poker noobs easily. They learned advanced strategy online, yet give off way too many physical tells. Since they primarily played internet poker in the confines of their own home, they didn’t have to worry about hiding their emotions and actions.
If there’s ever a sequel to “Rounders,” you can bet that Mike McD evolved into a live cash game specialist who’s also an online poker savant.
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