My New Year's live poker resolutions

ps_news_thn.jpgAs a new decade approaches, poker players around the world will resolve to tilt less, bluff better and check-raise the river more often. This year, I'm going to focus my new year's resolutions on live play. In the flesh, tournaments are pricier and higher variance than multi-tabling online, so mistakes can be costly.

With a little help from pros, I came up with my resolutions just in time for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Ladies Weekend (January 13-17). During that time, I'll be giving my keyboard and mouse a much-deserved rest, and concentrating on live play.

I'll learn to love my table image
Despite playing thousands of online games, I handle my chips like a turtle threading a needle. This combined with being female (many assume women are weaker players until gaining evidence to the contrary) makes me look less experienced than I am. Although this is generally a negative (I'd prefer to be feared), there can also be positives. People assume I play straightforwardly. For instance, if I check raise someone's c-bet, even on a dry board, my opponent is much more likely to think I have a monster. One of these days, I'll achieve that scary image but until then I should tailor my play to fit my image. For instance, I may be able to pick a few good spots to bluff that would not work online.

When bored, I'll count chips instead of sheep
Experienced live pros can instantly size up the number of chips from all stacks at the table. As team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Rousso said on Women's Poker Hour, "There's a lot of talk about what you should do as a short stack, but what's often glossed over, is how can you tell if you're a short stack?" This calculation can be much more challenging in live play since there's no digital display. Although you can always ask a player how many chips she has behind, sometimes you want to know without inquiring. When not in a hand, assessing all the stacks at the table is a much more useful activity that daydreaming about stacking ALL the chips.

I'll exercise my right to remain silent while in a hand
It often makes me feel guilty when an opponent asks me a question in a hand and I ignore him. Of course I shouldn't feel bad. It's not a real conversation; this guy is trying to take my money!

Even though Brazilian Team PokerStars pro Maria Mayrinck is known for her gregarious personality, she doesn't think chatting is for everyone, especially during a big hand. You shouldn't worry about being rude, "It's OK to be silent if you feel that will give any info about your hand. Players understand and will not take it personally." Additionally, Maria advises that if you're worried about giving away information by declaring your chip count, you should just stay mum and let the dealer respond.

I won't care if I look like a super nit
If I'm card-dead for the first few levels of a live tournament, I often loosen up so I don't look like I'm waiting for aces or kings. But why should I care if I look like a super nit? In tournaments, the blinds and antes increase and I don't think it's terrible if people assume I'm tight. Eventually, I'll get aggressive and at that point there will be more at stake. I would find nothing odd or embarrassing about folding a couple levels worth of hands while multi-tabling tourneys online, so why should I mind doing the same live?

Professional poker player Katie Stone, who splits her play between online games and live tournaments, advises online players that, "You see significantly fewer hands per round in a live tournament. Players transitioning from online to live need to be patient and try not to force things - everyone else is seeing the same number of hands as you!"

I'll be realistic about controlling tells
I'm a very expressive person. Asking me to stop making faces is like asking Shaun Deeb to stop three-betting. So instead of worrying about eye movements and breathing patterns that only a psychological whiz can decipher, I resolve to focus on limiting the information I give away by timing tells (the amount of time I think before making a decision) and betting patterns. Maria Mayrinck says that timing tells are "very easy to spot for more experienced players" and recommends "taking the same amount of time to make any bets, raises, call or folds."

As for sunglasses, I'll leave them at the beach from now on. Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst joked in a PokerStars Women interview with Sue Carswell that she doesn't wear sunglasses because: "I think it's sometimes really hard to see what the cards are, and that can really mess your game up." Indeed! I'd much rather give off a constricting pupils tell than miss a four-card flush on board.

I won't talk about my favorite poker games and stakes
When you play online, a lot of players will have notes on you, but if you're not a pro, you'll be unknown to most live players. I'm talkative at live tables, which is fine, but I too often chat about poker. It's better to be vague about poker style and game preferences--for instance, if someone tells me that they play mostly 6-max or heads-up, I can assume they'll be more aggressive from the button. Once at the Ladies World Series of Poker, I told a girl to my left that I was dabbling in short stacking cash games (I have since abandoned this). A few orbits later, I shoved a 20 big blind stack from the small blind with pocket threes and she insta-called with ace-ten, in a situation where I would have preferred to rake in the antes and blinds. She could have called anyway, but in a close situation, my mouth could have been a deciding factor!

PCA Ladies Event defending champ Vanessa Rousso will be teaching a poker camp during the PCA Ladies Weekend. She says that one of the biggest mistakes beginners make in live events is to reveal they qualified online. High stakes players may assume that min-cashing is important to a satellite winner and use that information to abuse him or her on the bubble. Speaking of satellites, you can qualify directly for Vanessa's Ladies Only PCA Big Slick Boot camp in $27 satellites on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 18:00 on the PokerStars clock.

It's also dangerous to get visibly concerned when the bubble approaches. One year in the Ladies World Series of Poker, a tight player to my right talked on and on about how many players were left to cash. She four bet me from middle position. Despite the shallow stacks, I folded jacks pretty quickly, and was not surprised when she flipped over aces.

Looking ahead to the PCA
As my own PCA trip approaches, it's almost time for me to make good on my resolutions. Also preparing for the trip to Atlantis are four freeroll PCA Ladies weekend qualifiers who earned early Christmas presents. They will be dusting off card protectors and packing swimsuits soon to enjoy the Bahamas in January.

Jane Goldberg won the November 28 freeroll hosted by Woman Poker Player Magazine, which boasted the largest field, with over 1500 players. RedDevil Lady won the High Heels Poker Tour event on December 5th, while hirrrvi of Finland earned her spot via the satellite on December 12th. Finally, on December 13th, 2bulbash2 of Brest, France topped the PCA satellite bar as well.

Congrats to all four, who will all enjoy a $3480 return on their investment of zero dollars. See you in the Bahamas, ladies!


Jennifer Shahade
@PokerStars in PS Women