Tips for Enjoying your First Live MTT

If it’s your first time playing in a live tournament, do everyone a favor and don’t wear headphones. You need to concentrate on the game and be ready to act when it’s your turn, and it’s hard to do that with music playing in your ears.

What to Expect when you Play your First Live MTT

Over the last few years, I have played poker tournaments in casinos around the country, from The Bicycle in Los Angeles to Maryland Live to Harrah’s in New Orleans to the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. I’ve played four World Series of Poker Circuit events at Harrah’s Cherokee (and cashed in three) and dozens of events in my local pub poker league.

Along the way I’ve gained some insight into what it takes to compete in a large multi-table tournament. I thought I would share some of the lessons I have learned with my dedicated blog readers.

The first entry will look at some of the differences you’ll experience playing in a live tournament vs. online. The next installment will look at the factors I consider to be important for success.

Pay Attention

The biggest difference between live and online tournaments – besides the pace of play – is that there are no automatic notifications. You don’t get a beep when it’s your turn to act. You don’t get another beep when the clock is winding down. In other words, you have to pay attention. One of the biggest annoyances at a live tournament is a player who does not pay attention and has to constantly be reminded when it’s his/her turn to act. These players are generally wearing headphones.

You also have to pay attention to your chips. At the recent Senior Event at Harrah’s Cherokee, I made a big mistake early that put me in a huge hole. With A-Q off in late position, I raised it preflop to 550 (BB was 200). The rest folded except for the Big Blind.

After the J-3-3 flop, the big blind checked. I meant to make a continuation bet of 350, but instead threw my two navy blue (500) chips, one black (100) chip and one yellow (50) chip into the pot. The lighting was not really good, and the two blue chips were almost the same color as the black chips. I thought I was throwing in three black chips and one yellow. Instead of betting 350, I inadvertently bet 1,150. The big blind called quickly (she had flopped quads).

Before that hand, I had my chips in one stack. After that mistake, I separated them out by color, even though it was a pitifully small stack at that point.

Watch the Clock

Pay attention to the clock and tournament details. You need to know if you are getting close to the late registration period ending. If the event allows re-entries, people with short stacks and deep pockets will frequently shove with any two cards to try to lose so they can rebuy a full stack. That presents a good time to gobble up some of these short stacks.

You definitely want to be aware of when the money bubble is close to bursting, for two reasons. If you’ve got a big stack, it’s a good time to throw your weight around, as the smaller stacks will try to limp into the money. If you’ve got a small stack, then it’s not a bad idea to try to milk those chips until the money bubble bursts so you can at least say you cashed.

Know the Rules

There are lots of rules that come into play for live tournaments that you don’t have to think about for online tournaments, such as the oversize chip rule, the one chip rule, the forward motion rule, or the minimum denomination bet rule. All these are things you need to be aware of.

In a tournament earlier this year, I threw in my 5,000 chip bet and called out “five.” The dealer ruled (correctly) that my bet was for 500 (the big blind at the time was 400). Since I did not specify 5,000, my action defaulted to the minimum denomination allowable bet. If the Big Blind had been 600 or higher, then my bet would have stood at 5,000, because it would have been impossible to bet 500.

A pro gave me a good piece of advice during the tournament. I noticed he always bet an oddball amount when he raised or was first to act (he never bet 1,000, it would always be 1,100 or 550). I asked him why, and he said it was because of the one chip rule. A bet stands if you throw in more than one chip, so he would always bet with at least two chips.

The oversize chip rule is another one to know. Let’s say the bet is 400. If you throw in a 1,000 chip and don’t say anything, it’s considered a call. You have to announce that you intend to raise, and then say, 1,000. Going back to the tip above, if you throw in a 1,000 chip and a 100 chip together, then you don’t have to say anything. It’s understood you are betting both chips, which makes it a raise.

There is no greater thrill than sitting at a table of strangers in a room filled with tables of fellow degenerates gunning for that big prize. Playing online is great, but getting to handle the cards and stacking chips sets live play apart from the anonymity of online play.

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