Between now and then – especially for novices – the shows are great opportunities to learn the game.
That said, however, it’s important to remember that made-for-TV poker is a lot different from the poker you’ll play in live cash or tournament games. With this in mind, here is a viewer’s guide to make sure you take away all of the right lessons.
Remember they edit
Watch enough of these poker shows and it seems like every hand involves some sort of exciting conclusion and a huge pile of chips. That’s because television producers cut out all of the boring hands that end quickly and don’t result in the exchange of big bucks.
The truth is that most poker players (especially the really good ones) play only one out of every 15 to 20 hands, and muck just about everything else. Keep this in mind, and be selective.
Consider pot odds
ESPN broadcasts of WSOP poker always list each player’s odds to win the hand. These odds are helpful for learning how to value certain hands, but they’re also a lot different from something called “pot odds,” which represent the ratio of size of the pot to the cost of a contemplated call.
If the pot contains $100, and a player must call $10 to stay in the hand, then the player has 10:1 pot odds. These are important to consider, but TV shows never mention them.
Watch body language
Between barbs from the announcers and the stats on odds to win the hand, it’s easy to overlook one of the most valuable parts of watching poker: body language. Pay attention to facial expressions from players who know they’re beat.
Even pros have tells, and the more energy you spend studying them, the easier it will be for you to identify tells in opponents who are neither as famous nor as skilled.
Don’t be a walking advertisement
Many Main Event players get extra money to wear shirts and hats emblazoned with logos from poker Web sites. The Web sites consider this advertising because the players end up on TV.
Players are wearing these clothes because they’re getting paid to do so – no one in his right mind would wear some of this hideous stuff just because. Remember that the next time you put on a PartyPoker.net jersey to head to the local cardroom.
Pay particular attention to hands involving an amateur named Darvin Moon. Yes, he makes the final table. His stroke of luck to get there is a thing of beauty to watch, but few, if any, of us, will ever run as hot.