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How to Win More Money Playing Live Poker 

by Evan Jarvis |  Published: Mar 11, 2020


Sometimes boosting your win rate is as simple as going back to the basics to make sure you’re doing everything within your power to increase your bankroll. Having the right approach is essential to maximizing your win rate when you sit down to play. 

If you’re looking to increase your earnings, mix in one or all of these tips to your live gameplay and watch your bankroll grow!

Live Poker Tips: Selection, Selection, Selection

In live poker, it all comes down to selection. The key is recognizing your poker requirements before you sit down at the felt. Match your needs with a physical location, desired volatility, and bankroll limitations and you’re more likely to do better. It’s simple logic: put the time into formulating a game plan and you’ll find your poker session not only more enjoyable but more profitable too.

1. Location Selection – Where is the Best Action for Your Bankroll

When it’s time to sit down to your next live poker session, first ask yourself: where is the best action for your bankroll? In other words, will it be at the casino or a private game nearby?

When you’re planning your next live poker session you need to factor in your travel time (there and back) as this time could otherwise be invested doing other things. And, are you alright with commuting an hour there and back on top of playing time?
Does the size of the rake influence whether you’re up for a long commute?

Even though you may waffle at the idea of a long drive to the casino, if the rake at a local private venue is absurd (which it usually is) you’re better off accepting the drive to a casino where your money is guaranteed. At least at the casino, you’re paying less per hand or hour compared to the absorbent amount you would have paid if you’d played privately nearby. 

2. Volatility Selection – High or Low, Max Buy-In, Straddles

Nowadays when it comes to selecting a live game, you have a lot to choose from. Back in the day, every game was 100 big blinds maximum. Now there are buy-ins for 200 big blinds, 500 big blinds, and even uncapped tables available.

One point to note is that a $2-$5 with a max buy-in of $1,000 is not the same thing as a $2-$5 with a buy-in max of $500. They play differently. 

The max buy-in is an indicator of how big the game will play. So a $1-$3 with a $500 max buy-in plays like a $2-$5 with a $500 max, while a $2-$5 with a $1,000 buy-in max plays more like an old school $5-$10 game would. Before you take a seat at the felt you want to figure out how much volatility you want to take on, which largely depends on the mood you’re in. This will help you pinpoint the right game for you based on your current risk tolerance level.

If your goal is to consistently make a profit with minimal sweat equity then you’ll want to play smaller limits or smaller caps. But, if you’re up for some action you’ll want higher volatility, bigger pots, and deeper stacked games. When watching the tables from prior to sitting, a large pot size could be an indication of straddling so watch for that as well.

So, if you’re in the mood for action, your best bet is playing a game with max buy-in north of 200 bid blinds, whereas if you want a slower pace, then a 100 big blind buy-in max is the right call.

3. Limit Selection – Life Bankroll, Pocket Bankroll, Mood Bankroll

To minimize your financial stress, you want a clear picture of your finances. How much cash do you have in your life bankroll for poker and how much money did you bring with you? And finally, what kind of mood are you in?

For optimal decision-making, you want to play within your ‘pocket bankroll’ that you’ve earmarked for your current poker session. Anything outside your pocket roll can lead to stress, fight or flight mindset, impulsive or reactionary decision-making.
Conversely, if you’re playing with too small an amount, where’s the fun in that? You’re less likely to take things seriously and more likely to spew chips off. Find the amount that works for you; personally, I find having five buy-ins in-pocket does the trick. 

When you head into your live session you want to get a sense for your mood because that will govern how much bankroll volatility you’re willing to take on aka your risk tolerance. Bear in mind, that just because the max buy-in is $1,000, doesn’t mean you buy-in for that amount. I’ve found that buying in for a small amount like 60-100 big blinds at $2-$5 games and higher gets you more action than if you bought in for 200 big blinds, so I’ve made a habit of buying in for $300-$500 even if the table max is more. It makes for easy action and doesn’t draw attention the same way instantly buying in for the maximum does.

Also, once you’ve got yourself in the best seat on the table there’s nothing stopping you from topping up to play deep stacked in position against the right players. But until you have the information on who the fun players are and what the best seat is there’s no need to start with the max buy-in right away. This isn’t an ego battle after all, it’s a poker game, and poker is all about making big wagers after you’ve acquired information.

How to Win More Playing Live Poker

The secret to live poker is selection. To boost your win rate make sure you’re selecting the right location (casino or privately), volatility and limit to hold your interest. Since these factors aren’t fixed and neither is your mood, you’ll want to run through this checklist before every live session you play. 

Stay tuned for Part 2: How to Win More Money Playing Live Poker. ♠

Evan Jarvis has been teaching poker for more than 10 years at where he has over 70,000 students. Want to learn more from him? Click Here to get a 30-Day Custom Training Program FREE!