July 4: After I spent the morning watching a video of a guy on a boardwalk, which I assume is in Florida somewhere, interview Americans and ask what we’re celebrating on the 4th of July with most answering “independence” and all (except the one man visiting from another country) failed to answer correctly when he asked what country we broke away from (one woman answering with “California”), we were preparing to meet my Dad, step-mom, and sister at the horse races. When I’m not learning poker, I’m betting on ponies. I would bet $2 and win $3.40. Not enough for a steak dinner (even though I don’t eat red meat), but enough to only lose about $25 total by the end of the evening. In poker news, I watched another video on YouTube for beginners. Only this video was so elementary, it started with the guy saying “so poker is a game….played with….cards.” After only 4 days, I am obviously way too advanced for this video. Except, that I wasn’t. After that opening line, it was all a good review of how to play the game, a review of winning hands, and a reminder that I still can’t spot a winning hand very well. Mainly, at all.
July 5: Today was my favorite day in this poker self-study course I’m making up as I go. I hit up YouTube, because playing in real life obviously wouldn’t help me in this goal, and I came across “tells in poker.” I didn’t really know what that meant but then quickly realized it meant how to tell if someone is lying/what type of hand they have. Yes! The human/social behavior behind the game. Lay it on me! This is exactly what Amy (reference last blog post) was referring to with her tips about it being a people game played with cards. It may take me 35 minutes to spot 2 pair and I may end up losing every hand because I didn’t realize I had a royal flush, but I will at least know who the liar is at the table. Here are the “10 obvious poker tells” from “Mike’s advanced strategies” (whoever Mike is).
1. The method of stacking chips indicates the players style – a messy stack of chips indicates a loose player who is willing to gamble, a neat stack indicates a tight/conservative player.
2. If a player is bluffing, he/she (even though they always say “he” in these videos) will reorganize their chips if they get messy when they place the bet. They are trying to cover up any suspicious activity.
3. How a player buys chips is a sign of how they will play – when a player makes a big scene when buying chips it’s a sign they will play aggressively, a player that hides their money in their wallet and hardly wants anyone to see them purchase chips will likely play conservative.
4. Listen for the “pokerclack” – it’s that sound you make when you release your tongue from the roof of your mouth (imagine eating a banana or opening your mouth after eating too much peanut butter). He says this is an audible sound people make when they are trying to act like they have a bad hand or act like they’re sad…but it’s a big fat trick (my words) and they actually they have a good hand.
5. When the flop comes (if you don’t know how to play poker (cause obviously I do), the flop is the first set of community cards that are shown) ignore your instincts and don’t look at it. He says if you watch the flop you’re making one of the biggest mistakes in Texas Hold ’em. He says that flop will be there later to look at, instead, you want to watch your opponents watch the flop. When players look away from the flop, it’s a sign that they have a strong hand because they want to appear uninterested. Players that stare at the flop or their cards have a weak hand.
6. If a player glances at their chips after the flop, he (I really want them to say “she”….high five for the female players) probably has a big hand.
7. If the player checks the hole cards (aka “pocket cards” aka the cards in their hand) after the flop, they’re probably checking for suited cards. Players usually remember the rank of their cards but they forget the suit. Someone who checks their cards is giving away that they may have a flush. He says to never look back at your cards. He advises looking once and then putting a chip over them to protect them and never look again.
8. A shoulder shrug or sigh or any action that indicates sadness usually indicates that person has strong cards and they are simply acting.
9. If you see someone acting more nervous than normal – it’s not because they’re bluffing, it’s because they have a strong hand. If they are nervous they will look very rigid when placing their bet. Nervousness is always a release of tension, according to this Mike guy.
10. As the player next to you places their bet, simply reach for your chips to see if they’re bluffing. If they see you reach for your chips as they’re reaching for theirs, they will rush if they have a strong hand so you don’t change your mind. If the person is bluffing, it will startle them and there will be a pause before they place their bet.
I love it this part of the game. You know, the game I haven’t actually played yet.
July 6: I watched a YouTube video that walks you through a game, showing you the hands each imaginary person has. They show you how quickly it can change on who has the best hand. In the first round player #1 has the best hand, player #2 then has the best hand after the flop, #3 after the next community card whose name is escaping me, and then player #4 after the river. I feel like I need to have Chris do some sort of speed tests or flash cards where I have to look at them quickly to determine if I would bet or what hand would win. I know how to play, I just wish that in real life I could say “wait, time out, I need to figure out what we have going on here, and dude on my left, I know you’re lying cause you did that tongue smack thing I learned about in a video last week.”
July 7: I watched a beginner video that reviewed what a “blind” is. Before anyone is even dealt any cards there are 2 people who are forced to bet. If I recall from another video correctly, they are the 2 people to the left of the dealer. There’s a big blind and a little blind which are people who have to do said forced bet. The blind position moves around the table with each hand so that it’s fair (I’m still unclear if you decide to leave the table/quit playing, couldn’t you just screw everyone else over by sitting to the right of the dealer and leaving before you’re in the blind spot – no pun intended. Wait, pun totally intended). I’m still confused on how much you have to bet as one of the blinds. Must research that more.
July 8: I’m realizing my Vegas trip is 1 week away and I’ve never played poker for real. I’m starting to lose my overinflated sense of confidence. I haven’t had real cards in my hand as of yet and I’m already nearing the ‘should I wear this outfit, probably not because I need to pack it next week’ phase. I cannot have my first poker experience be with these so-called “sharks” (hey – it’s shark week by the way!) because #1 I don’t want my neck to break out in blotchy colors like I do when I’m nervous but try to deny it #2 I don’t want to lose all my money in 5 seconds #3 I don’t want to hang my head low with a post-Vegas blog about how I am worlds worst poker player and never played a real game until I was sitting in the The Venetian. I decide to research more about “the blind.” I find a video where a guy is explaining it and he’s wearing sunglasses of course…like all poker pros do (he refers to himself as “Black Jack” by the way) Anyway, he says the purpose of a blind is to move the game along. It forces people to bet so they don’t just sit there all night. He also mentions an ante. No one has mentioned an ante up to this point. He pointed to a group of poker chips in the middle of the table, and now I’m wondering where the heck the ante came from? Did the house provide those? Ugh, I’m doomed. I decide to watch a video on poker antes. Well, that solved the mystery if the house was just generously contributing to the ante (why would I think that in the first place?). The guy said the ante is an amount every player has to put in to play. Blinds are “2 forced bets” but antes are “forced contributions” and normally close to equivalent (in total from all players) to the big blind. He referred to all of this as “dead money” which sounds depressing, but it’s more-so the money up for grabs in the game. I’m not sure if you have to ante every time or at every table (need to figure that out), but he said “make sure you ante before the dealer has to ask you” and this should happen before cards are even dealt. So….I have no confidence anymore. I’m unclear of the minimum amount you need to bet/I should play or plan to take to the table with me, and I am still the slowest human to spot a winning poker hand. I have a lot of work to do in the next week. I’m nervous.