Over the years, I have watched a number of TV poker shows. I began watching the World Poker Tour from the very beginning. In the early years, I also watched now defunct shows like Celebrity Poker Showdown, Poker Royale, Poker Superstars, Ultimate Poker Challenge and others. I still watch some of the World Series of Poker on ESPN each year. I really enjoyed when cash games started to take the focus with shows like High Stakes Poker, Poker After Dark, The Big Game, and various other shows. I thought it might be interesting to share the seven things I learned from watching TV poker and how it can influence your play as a poker player.
1. TV poker is entertaining.
TV poker, first and foremost is meant to entertain, not educate. While there are things to be learned from watching TV poker, the players understand that it they are supposed to be entertaining so they usually try to be more outgoing and bigger than life to meet that goal. The poker production values are meant to capture your attention and the good shows do that well.
2. TV poker is exciting.
When you are watching TV poker, you will see lots of big moves. Players seem to go all in all the time. You see lots of big bets. You see lots of bluffs.
3. TV poker players are very chatty.
TV poker loves extroverts. Individuals who are very outgoing and talkative, whether in a good guy or bad guy role are welcomed. Players who don’t talk much don’t get much TV time. TV poker players enjoy a regular banter as they play.
4. TV poker players are deceptive.
Utilizing their chat and bet actions, TV poker players love to be deceptive. They take tricky and unusual lines on playing hands.
5. TV poker is very loose.
TV poker players love to be in the action. This is their time in the spotlight and most players won’t keep folding if dealt poor cards. They like to play lots of hands and it seems they’ll almost play any two at times.
6. TV poker players love to shuffle their chips.
In almost any live setting, you will see established poker players constantly shuffling their poker chips. Those on TV often relish showing off their chip tricks as a sign of their skill as a player and as a show of intimidation.
7. TV poker is edited.
Due to time, cost and entertainment constraints, TV poker is highly edited. Many unexciting hands aren’t shown. Those hands selected are done so for dramatic purposes, thus is it difficult to understand the full context of why certain things are happening.
Reviewing my seven observations from my years of watching TV poker, there are several important factors I need to keep in mind for my online game.
1. I need to realize that when I play online poker I am not doing it to entertain others. I am playing to make money and have a fun time playing it.
2. Much of online poker is small hands and small pots. While it isn’t glamorous, remaining focused and disciplined in all your small and medium pots are just as important as the occasional big pots you will encounter.
3. My energy should go into focusing on the action at my table and how to best exploit it. I shouldn’t focus on chatting, doing chip tricks, or playing overly deceptive or loose, especially at the lower levels. I want to devise a strategy and a style of play to beat my actual low stakes opponents.
Clearly, TV poker can be very entertaining. Realize that TV poker is different from online poker in so many ways. The same plays and strategy don’t apply. Occasionally you can pick up a tip or two from watching the pros on TV, but remember that their motivations are different than yours. The very style that gets players on TV may be the opposite of what is necessary to beat the lower stakes games online. In fact, in talking to some of the big poker pros, they will admit that they play and act differently online than from their TV appearance. Some of it has to do with the different format and entertainment environment, and some of it is intentional ‘table image’ building that they can exploit when they play off camera or online. So the next time you watch TV poker, keep these things in mind, and be careful about emulating TV poker players when you play online.