It has been over one year since I have stepped foot in a casino. The last time I played poker in a live setting was on January 13th, 2020. At the time I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to focus on, tournaments or cash games. Up to that point I had been doing decent, but it always felt like I was playing on edge. Trying to figure out how I could keep from going bust. Looking for ways to grind up my bankroll so I could play comfortably. Learning that taking a shot at playing professionally was going to be a lot harder than it sounded.
One of the first things I did when I made the choice to play poker for a living is to find like minded people. The thing is I was still relatively new to Vegas and did not know many poker players personally. So, I did the next best thing and went to the internet. I made a few posts here and there asking if anyone playing professionally would like to be someone who would sort of mentor me. Someone that I could chat with about poker, bad beat, bankroll management etc. I had a few responses before I met someone that seemed down to earth and was willing to have a serious conversation with me. They gave me some good advice along the way and kept in contact with me. They even made time to meet up with me when they came to Vegas for a personal visit. I met another guy who is a local to Vegas and was willing to meet up and talk about poker. It felt like I was starting to build a good support system!
Then the pandemic happened, and everything shut down… it did not have a huge effect on my poker play since I could just play online, so I continued to play online as I started to wait for this to blow over. Being on lockdown provided me with less opportunities to discuss poker with other players that could provide real feedback. As time passed, I discovered places to have meaningful discussions about poker and made friends with people who shared the same interest in poker as I did. I started to learn about all the things that poker players do just to get a game in and I joined them. The money has been decent but since I am still grinding micro-stakes, I am not making a huge amount of money.
When someone finds out that I am a poker player living in Vegas but playing online, they act surprised. They almost all expect me to be in the casino grinding away at the live games. To be honest, under different circumstances, I might be doing that. That is when everyone learns that I recently had a baby and that is why I am not going to the casinos. The reaction has never been the same, but I think everyone has a similar sentiment, respect. As much as I want to go play in a casino and grind it up, I must also think about my kid. My kid does not have a strong immune system yet and if I can help him from getting sick, then I will. Because of this, I have spent the last year torturing myself grinding poker at the micro-stakes level.
As people get vaccinated, the conversation has slowly begun about what plans people have once they are able to safely go out into public for more than just the necessities. Conversations about what wait times are like in the poker rooms, where they will play, what their expectations are, and how to adjust from online to live are happening more frequently. It is great to see how people are getting excited to hit the felt. Some of my friends have been studying and working hard on their game while others are just degenerate gamblers that want to feel the excitement of being in a casino again. While all of this is happening around me, my palm is getting itchy. Specifically, my left palm, I usually do not believe in superstition but for some reason when my palm itches, I know that I am going to be getting paid. I am really hoping that it just means that I am going to go on a heater once I can play live poker. Until then, I am sitting here patiently waiting for my opportunity to be able to go out and play live poker.
In preparation for my return to live poker, I have started to think about my strategy and all the concepts that I have studied over the last year. I have given thought to what adjustments I will have to make once I am playing live. Some of you might be asking yourself what I am talking about… the short answer is that online is different when compared to live play. Online the game is faster, the bet sizing is different, and the distractions are real. Playing live poker is the opposite of online. Fundamentally the game is the same, but it’s the little things that change the feel of the game. Playing live I will not be able to use a HUD or review every hand I play to determine what I could have done better. Then there is the social aspect of being able to play live. The opportunity to go out and enjoy a random conversation at the table or bump into someone you have not spoken to in months. Playing poker online you do not always get to see a face or hear a voice for those casual interactions that you get from a live setting. In my opinion, nothing compares to being able to play poker sitting at a table filled with other people as you engage in a battle of wits.
As I continue to make plans and study the game. I feel like a kid counting down the days to Christmas. Figuring out what works best for my family and I to feel comfortable enough for me to go to the casino to play poker. Dreaming of the sound of people chattering. The sound of poker chips being shuffled. The faint but distinct sound of the manager calling names to be seated at the table. I sit here waiting patiently, scratching my palm, and hoping that I can start playing live poker sooner than later.
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