The popularity of poker surged with online card rooms and poker tournaments on cable and broadcast television. It seems nowadays that everyone is familiar with America’s favorite card game. However, many beginning players may not realize the differences between watching a poker tournament on TV and playing online or in a casino.
Watch any given poker tournament on TV and you will see the same names over and over again; e.g. Dan Harrington, Chris Moneymaker, and Doyle Brunson. These guys have been playing poker fulltime for years and are familiar with many of the intricacies and subtleties of the game that many beginning players may not comprehend. Watching these guys play for huge pots with little more than A-7 off-suit can be fascinating and sometimes inspiring. However, if you tried that same move in a casino, you’d probably be called by every player at the table.
Beginning players don’t seem to realize that TV poker tournaments are edited – a lot. Tournaments such as the WSOP can last for days on end depending on the number of players. In reality, you’re only seeing about 5% of the entire tournament. So, when you see a player make an awesome bluff, or make the same play many times, just remember that you don’t get to see all the folds, calls, and raises that lead up to his winning play.
Another aspect of TV poker that isn’t taken into account is that tournament poker strategy differs from that of a cash game, in that chips become more valuable in a tournament game, due to the increase in the blind structure. Chips are also more valuable because they’re the only ones you get. In a cash game, if you run out of chips, you can buy more. In a tournament, when you’re out, you’re out. Many professional tournament players tighten up even more than they would in a cash game, which means they fold more often. Something you probably wouldn’t guess if you were watching them on TV.
TV poker is fun to watch and can be as exciting as watching your favorite sports team, especially when there are millions of dollars on the line. But watching TV poker for strategy is not a good move. So watch TV poker because it’s entertaining, and if you take anything away with you let it be this: There are thousands of other people who think this is how you play poker. Let them think that, and be sure to smile for the camera when you’re taking their money.