If you are an aspiring poker player, then you know that every opportunity to learn something as an opportunity to improve your game, and become a more effective poker player. This is particularly important if you are planning one day to go professional, and earn your living from playing this game.
Assuming that is your hearts desire, then you need to learn as much as you can about how professionals play poker. And there simply is no better way to learn than to watch them in action.
By watching poker professionals play, you will gain unique insights into the strategies that they use on each other. You'll also be able to see what sort of things work and what sort of things don't.
You'll wince when one of your favourite players gets taken down in a bad beat, but if you can see a way that he could have played it differently and won, then you're gaining value from the experience of watching. And that, really, is what it's all about.
Getting square eyes
One of the most effective ways of watching poker professionals and learning from their strategies is to watch a live game on TV. ESPN, for example, often shows some of the high profile games on their network, and if you flick around with the remote, you are bound to find a channel that is dedicated to poker 24 hours a day.
Watching poker on television is one of the best ways to learn from the professionals because of the on-screen display. Usually, you will be able to see what cards both players have as soon as they've been dealt them - you don't have to wait for the showdown to see the cards and you never experienced that annoying wondering when someone mucks their hand.
Being able to see all of the whole cards at once put you in a unique position. It's really interesting, because you can see at a glance who has the strongest hand from the perspective of the odds.
But as we all know, the person with the strongest hand isn't necessarily the person who's going to win. And this is why watching poker on TV is so addictive: you get to see how the professionals approach these situations.
You see the little tricks and manouevers they employ against each other. You see which ones are effective and which ones bomb out.
I bet you never realised how much you can learn by simply watching TV.
Leaning on the virtual rail
Another way that you can learn a lot from the professionals is to join an online poker room that allows spectators. Become a rail bird. Some of the best online poker rooms will allow you to watch the action on their high-stakes tables as it unfolds.
It's a little different than it is watching on TV in that you don't get to see the players' hole cards unless they elect to show them at the end of the hand. But this doesn't detract from the sheer tension of what you see going down in front of you.
There is an added layer of stress and excitement involved, because most of the TV networks only broadcast tournament poker, but at an online poker site, you will be able to watch ring games and heads up sessions - some of the most brutal poker that is played anywhere in the world.
In the online community, cash pots in the region of $1 million or more change hands routinely. Who cares about chips stacks when it's real dollars sliding across the virtual felt?
More importantly, as much as you can learn amazing things by watching professionals play poker on television, if you are planning to play most of your own poker online than makes more sense to watch poker online, because this is the world that you're going to play in.
Online poker is a very different beast to face-to-face poker in a casino. For one thing, it tends to be a lot faster than the casino equivalent - you have much less time to act, so decisions need to be much quicker.
Also, since you cannot physically see the other player, you cannot rely on being able to read body language and physical tells. In my opinion, this is actually a good thing because it teaches you to judge a player more by their betting actions, which is the truly revealing part of their play. Tells can be and are routinely faked.