Although here at the Betfair Poker Blog Headquarters - which is really a garden shed in a back garden in Hammersmith - our articles are geared towards online poker players, we do occasionally venture out into the big, bad world and try our luck in the low buy-in tournament that our local casinos offer.
Low buy-in live events can be one of the most frustrating forms of poker, yet at the same time can be extremely profitable if you approach them in the correct way. While they are still poker, live tournaments hosted at local venues need to be attacked in a slightly different way to say a European Poker Tour Main Event or the World Series of Poker Main Event if you want to taste success. And let's face it, success is damn tasty!
My local casino has tournaments running throughout the week and most of them sport a blind structure that is, quite frankly, garbage. Short blind levels combined with relatively shallow stacks and jumps in the structure - think 100/200 then 250/500 blinds - mean that a lot of the skill is taken out of the game, which is almost certainly why these tournaments are so friendly with the locals; they like to think they're playing poker but they're mostly gambling. As a result, the majority of the players making up the field are complete amateurs and some haven't a clue about the rules, which takes me to my first point.
DO NOT BLUFF. Those three words are capitalised for a reason and the reason is because I am shouting them at the top of my voice, so much so that my throat is now sore. Ouch. There is no point in bluffing at least 90% of the players you come up against because they are more interested in what they're going to scoff from the complimentary buffet on the break than the story you're attempting to sell them. Plus they have third pair so why would they fold?
VALUE BET YOUR HANDS TO THE MAX. There's me shouting again, but this part is super important to winning one of these horrible things. Your opponents will be more than happy to pay you off with all sorts of garbage hands so don't bother slow playing your monster hands, get your value in by betting, betting and betting again. Make a pair and bet. Make two pair and thank your lucky stars that you are going to double up - well almost all of the time.
This leads me onto knowing when to fold you hand. How often has this happened to you? You raise and some total clown calls. The flop comes down 3s-8d-6h, you bet your black pocket aces and the man in the colourful entertainers outfit calls. The turn is the 7h. You bet and our red-nose sporting friend snap-calls. Our river Ah and we bet again. This time, the large-shoe wearing opponent jams all-in for 4x the size of the pot; it is his first-ever raise at the table, in fact probably in his entire life.
"He can't have a flush," we say, "He'll have had to have gone runner-runner to make a flush," we say, "We have top set" we say, "I call," we say.
"Seat open Table 6," the dealer says.
Of course, Fishy McFisherson held Th-4h and had indeed hit his flush. OK, maybe we do sometimes call here with a set of aces, but you get my point. When a bad player makes a huge bet, quite often THEY HAVE THE GOODS.
Other pointers that I'll give to you for free include listening to your opponent's table talk. While listen to them put everyone on ace-king or them telling you that they knew the third spade was coming may result in you wanting to burst your ear drums with a pencil - I prefer listening to music to drown them out - you can sometimes pick up some snippets of information about how they approach the game and their experience.
You may also discover their favourite hand that they beat Auntie Maud with one time over Christmas dinner and believe me, they WILL play it every time they are dealt it regardless of it being 5s-2c.
If all else fails, remember that nearly all casinos have a bar so you could have a few drinks, forget about pot odds and the intricacies of the game and try to beat your opponents at their own game by having some fun and hoping to donk your way to the £125 first place prize.