Go with your instincts both live and online

A couple of days ago I ambled along to Leicester Square&rsquo;s Casino at the Empire to catch some of the action in the early events at the World Series of Poker Europe. Downstairs the final table of the &pound;1,000 no limit hold&rsquo;em tournament was just beginning (British player J.P. Kelly took the WSOPE bracelet and &pound;136,803 for first place, to add to the bracelet he won at the World Series in Las Vegas in the summer), while upstairs the &pound;2,500 pot limit hold&rsquo;em/Omaha mixed event was underway. <br /><br />Here, one table in particular caught my eye &ndash; a veritable table of death for an average player. Seated side by side were British poker legend Dave &ldquo;Devilfish&rdquo; Ulliott, eight-time World Series bracelet winner Erik Seidel, top-rated British pro Roland de Wolfe (who this summer became only the second player to have won World Poker Tour, European Poker Tour and World Series of Poker tournaments), and up-and-coming Welsh hotshot Roberto Romanello. <br /><br />In a hand of hold&rsquo;em, Romanello raised from early position and got called by Devilfish. After an innocuous flop, Romanello bet and Devilfish called. Romanello checked the turn and Devilfish bet out. The Welshman thought, looked at his cards, looked at Devilfish, looked at his cards again, thought some more, smiled &ndash; and then folded. &ldquo;I think you have a set,&rdquo; he said to Devilfish, who gathered the chips from the pot, turned to Seidel and muttered with a chuckle, &ldquo;Didn&rsquo;t have a thing.&rdquo;<br /><br />This may have been a relatively minor hand in the first level of a tournament, but it sums up much of the thrill of live poker. Something in Devilfish&rsquo;s actions suggested to Romanello that he&rsquo;d made a very major hand; Devilfish claimed to be bluffing, though I&rsquo;m not sure Romanello believed him; it may have been Romanello who had nothing at all, in which case the time he took to muck his hand was just a bit of posturing. Others at the table will have picked up information to use later about both players&rsquo; actions, while the hand could well have set up later tussles between Romanello and Devilfish.<br /><br />Live poker specialists will claim that this deep, instinctive level of play is lost in the world of online poker. It&rsquo;s true that many of the most successful internet players are maths specialists who make plays based largely on odds calculations, but analysis of opponents&rsquo; play and table situations is still a big part of the game. The size of bets made, the time taken to make bets, the range of starting hands that get shown down &ndash; all provide vital information that can be applied over time. <br /><br />Example. Playing online last weekend, my opponent waited an age before making a large bet on the river. Now this suggested one of two things: one, he was unsure about his hand but eventually decided to lock me out with a big bet; two, that&rsquo;s exactly what he wanted me to think, and looking weak by waiting was enabling him to maximise value with an oversized bet. If it was the former, I should call with my top pair of queens; if it was the latter, he might have hit a set or made a back-door straight, and I&rsquo;d be toast. <br /><br />I was curious, I could just about afford it, and he hadn&rsquo;t made that many tricky moves so far &ndash; I called. Sure enough, he&rsquo;d hit a set, took down the pot and knocked me out a few hands later. Roberto Romanello would&rsquo;ve folded, whether playing online or live. 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