From Omaha to hold'em, and a few lessons in between

I've just got home from my first poker trip in a few months, and despite busting on day one I had the most fun I have had in years playing a live tournament. The event was the ANZPT Melbourne, and to be honest I wasn't really looking forward to it during the week or two leading up to it. As primarily an online pot-limit Omaha cash game grinder, live no-limit hold'em tournaments can't get much farther away from my comfort zone. Sure, back in the day I would have felt in my prime playing one - but "the day" is now more than half a decade past.

So what happened to make me fall in love with hold'em tournaments again? And live poker? I'll put it down mostly just to a shift in mentality which resulted in a new-found vigour and excitement for the format.

GodlikeRoy_sept14.jpgRoy "GodlikeRoy" Bhasin in his comfort zone

On the flight into Melbourne I listened to a poker podcast where the hosts were dissecting no-limit hold'em tournament hands and it's like the floodgates opened. All my prior hold'em knowledge that I had kept locked in cupboard while playing PLO came pouring back in.

From there I stopped dreading the tournament and started thinking about the game of poker again and how I could exploit my opponents, what sort of strategy I was going to employ and the best approach to maximising my EV in the event. I started feeling about no-limit hold'em the same way that I felt about PLO when I first tried my hand at the four-card wonderland.

I wasn't too disappointed when I busted during the last level of day one. I was mostly unhappy with the fact that I didn't get to play more hands and more interesting situations. And once I busted a fire was lit under me to want to play more tournaments - both hold'em and Omaha, live and online.

With WCOOP coming up this couldn't be timed better. Ordinarily I would just play the PLO events and some of the "other games", but now i'm going to be playing a pretty full schedule.

roy_bhasin_sept14.jpgBhasin in action in the live tournament world

Another thing that piqued my interest and helped boost my excitement levels for this tourney was something fellow team online member Ike Haxton said a couple of months ago when he was on the Joe Rogan show. He talked about the differences between online and live, and how prevalent/important reads were in live poker. I'd heard this from a couple of other poker friends who play a lot/do well at live poker too. It sort of flew in the face of what I had previously believed a few years ago when I last tried to get serious at live poker - that is that live poker "tells" were a myth hyped up by Hollywood and live pros, and that there wasn't a lot to be gained. Boy, was I wrong.

After doing a bit more research into live reads and asking some friends for advice, I made a significant effort this tournament to try and find tells in my opponents and to hide my own, or to give off "fake tells". There were a few instances where I made a play based on a read that I wouldn't have otherwise made (both in the tournament and in my subsequent cash game sessions) and each time I was "right". Obviously the sample size is pretty - lol -- ridiculously small, and doesn't mean much. But the confidence boost and enjoyment I got out of it shouldn't be underrated. And it just makes me want to play more live poker and improve my skills.

I don't think I'll be replacing online poker with live anytime soon (or anytime ever) - and with the amount of VPPs I still need to hit SuperNova Elite this year I won't have all that much time to devote to live poker - but a few tourneys here and there leading into PCA and the Aussie Millions next year is definitely on the cards. Between WSOP APAC, ANZPT Auckland & Perth, and ACOP - there is no shortage of live tourney stops in the coming months either.

Add WCOOP and Sundays and there's plenty of online MTT experience to be had too. This is gonna be fun!

Roy "GodlikeRoy" Bhasin is a member of PokerStars Team Online.

Roy Bhasin
@PokerStars in Team PokerStars Online