Live poker play can be quite the experience for an player who is mostly accustomed to playing online. I still remember my first foray into the Las Vegas scene in 2006. For someone who had already seen over 1 million hands online, I was in for quite a shocker.
My first openly-raised $2/$5 cash game pot was called by seven people, and if I had given them enough time they would’ve likely phoned some buddies from another casino just so they could hop in a taxi and put their money in as well.
Over the years I became used to the live poker scene and spent several months of my life in Las Vegas. After nearly 10 years, I’ve narrowed down the types of poker personalities you’ll likely find at a live table to five. Following is a list of these types of opponents.
The Know It All
Remember that classic ESPN clip featuring Elix Powers? from the 2004 WSOP? “He called me with Jack high!” Well, you’ll find some version of this poker “professional” at just about every live poker table you play at. The lower the stakes, the greater your chances are of encountering this guy or gal in my experience.
Common advice given from these competitors may revolve around Independent Chip Modeling (ICM) figures, when you should or shouldn’t have called, and just how lousy your poker skills are overall. Typically, the berating begins after the advice giver loses a hand or is busted out of a tournament.
The Tipsy Tipper
Who says $1/$2 live poker games with a $200 max buy-in aren’t beatable because of the rake? That’s not what “The Tipsy Tipper” believes. These poker players at a live table are usually somewhere between slightly inebriated to three-sheets-to-the-wind, and they’ll gladly send over a stack on $1 denomination chips (maybe $5 reds if they’re winning “big”) into the dealer’s tip box.
Although generally Plus Expected Value (+EV), these players can get a bit out of line at times and constantly have security angling over them as they begin to bad-mouth other participants at a live poker table. You’ll want to play big hands against these geniuses before the well runs dry, they pass out, they decide to hit the pits, or their entire stack goes to the waitress and/or dealer.
The Down On His Luck Ranter
A first cousin of “The Know It All,” this person hasn’t caught a break at the poker tables since he/she ran a $50 cash game buy-in to a Dime (slang for $1,000). Everyone sucks out on this player, so if you want to avoid the bad beat stories you’ll probably need to move to another table (where you’ll find another similar player in wait).
“How could a 2-outer fall on the flop?” “I need a dealer change.” “I need a deck change.” “That happens to me every time.” Those are just a few of the quotes you’ll hear from this personality as his or her chip stack continues to dwindle. Again, the lower the stakes, the more likely it is you’ll have an encounter with this type of poker personality.
The Show Off
Once a friend told me that “Las Vegas resembles a penis-measuring contest when it comes to how much money people have.” This is certainly true for some folks at a live poker table.
Did you buy-in for $500? Well, the person next to you may buy-in for $1,000 to show you up. Did you just take a $20 bill out of your pocket to pay for dinner? The poker player sitting across from you may pull out a $100 bill to show you how rich he/she is. Were you finally successful at enlisting as a member of the Joey Ingram “Big Girl Grind” by taking home a 160-pounder? Well, that’s nothing since the player next to you has two 300-pound girlfriends at his beck and call.
The list goes on and on. Basically, you are nothing compared to “The Show Off” and your only shot at sanity is to claim you’re homeless and need to head back home to the Las Vegas underground sewers before it gets dark.
The Local Runner
Perhaps the favorite on this list among experienced live poker players is “The Runner.” This person typically buys-in for the minimum at a cash game table and can be found in those wonderful $15+$10 Sit & Gos as well as low stakes live tournaments.
If you need anything (and even if you don’t), this person will make a “run” for you to an on-site restaurant, nearby convenience store, or maybe even offer a private club card with a hand-written promotional code scribbled on it… all for a fee.
Local casino runners are great for doing small jobs as long as you don’t overpay for the service or manage to let them mooch off of you too much. It’s not out of the question to give someone $10 for ordering a $20 to-go meal for you in Vegas, but my advice would be to keep these personalities at an arm’s length, especially when they begin to ask for loans.