Sofia Lovgren: How to cure shakes when you’re playing live

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Live shakes

I’ve been trying to play more live poker recently but I’ve got a bit of an embarrassing problem – I can’t stop shaking. It starts almost as soon as I enter a hand and if it’s a big pot I can hardly control myself. I know it’s making me play worse because I’m thinking about it so much and spending most of my effort trying to stop it. It sounds stupid but it’s actually a big problem for me. have you got any tips for stopping it?
Dave Scott

I’m sure most new players recognise the feeling when you are nervous, when playing a big pot. A good and very simple tip to stop shaking is to rest one hand on your thigh. Make sure you don’t do it only when you bluff. Even more important, don’t talk at all while in a pot. Experienced players will try to talk to you and will often pick up something.

Out of my depth

I recently satellited into the Sunday Warm-Up on PokerStars. It was the first time I’d played a buy-in that big and I found it quite intimidating.

I actually did quite well though. I made it down to the last 1,500 from about 6,000. I also lost a load of my stack when I was all-in preflop with Kings against Eights and lost to a flopped set. That would have given my a double average stack. In the end I went out shoving over a button raise with Tens and the big blind called with Jacks.

I’m not going to play buy-ins this big that often, and I was definitely playing ‘scared’ all the way through. Would I be better off taking the tournament tickets in future and playing $20/$50 buy-ins or should I try to get over my fear?
Sam Wollaston

If you really feel you play scared on the higher levels I think it’s better to keep playing lower buy-ins where you are rolled and have more confidence in your game. On the other hand you did well and if your Kings hadn’t lost you would probably have cashed. I definitely think you should take some shots in these kind of tournaments every now and then to develop yourself and to be able to climb the stakes and win more. A good opportunity to take shots is when you have binked something. Then you can afford to spend the extra money and will also feel strong.

Know your roll

Obviously you don’t want to give too much away, but what was your bankroll management strategy like seven years ago when you were playing small stakes no-limit and is it any different to your BRM strategy now? I play lower stakes myself, like NL$50 but feel I’m going to be ready to step up the stakes soon. The problem is that I’m not very good at saving my winnings.
Zain Said

I usually suggest you should never play with less than 20 buy-ins for a level. Here is a bankroll guide for low and medium stakes NLHE that ensures you don’t play ‘scared money’. Of course, this BRM varies depending on which games you play and your playing style. If you play a loose aggressive style you need a deeper BRM. The same goes if you play heads- up or games with bigger variance, like PLO.

  • NL 10 > $200
  • NL 25 > $500
  • NL 50 > $1000
  • NL 100 >$2.000
  • NL 200 >$5.000
  • NL 400 >$10.000
  • NL 1000 >$30.000
  • NL 2000 >$70.000

Online is still the most efficient way to grind a lot of hands, but right now I have also found some really good live cash games in Vegas. I win more live when the games are as soft as they have been there recently! I would say that the skill level at NL$200 online is pretty similar to NL$500 or NL$1000 live.

Hand of the month

In this hand I called down a bad overbet bluff with second pair in a $2/$5 NLHE full ring game at the Venetian…

A guy in mid position open-raised $20 and I called on the big blind with K-To. The flop was T-8-4 and he made a continuation bet of $35 which I called.

The turn was a Five. I checked and he checked behind. On the river Jack I bet $40 and he insta-shoved $450 into a $150 pot. 

With the big river overbet he was repping a hand like 7-9 or Q-9. If he had 7-9 I would expect him to double barrel his double gutshot on the turn most of the time. If he had two pair he would at least consider a value raise instead of insta shoving all-in after my third pot bet on the river. So I put him on a bluff or the straight.

I kept staring at him trying to find out if he was scared. He didn’t move a muscle, he just stared down at the table and looked pretty nervous.

After about two minutes I felt that he desperately wanted me to fold so I called with my K-To for second pair. He folded 6-6 face up and started to steam shouting ‘Unfuckingbelievable’ five times while I stacked his chips.


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