Watch poker. Watch poker on TV, watch poker in person, watch poker on the internet – if you want to get better at raking it in on PartyPoker than you need to watch other people play it.

While I enjoy televised poker as much as anyone (by the way, High Stakes Poker on GSN is, for people who are somehow unaware, by far the best poker show in the recorded history of the world) most shows are not real poker. I mean, yes they are real poker with real cards and real players and real stakes and real whatnot – but they are not really real poker.

You see, most of those shows are edited down to include only the “most interesting” hands (whatever that means.) The hands where everyone folds to a pre-flop bettor are generally left out of the telecast. This is a shame because not only do viewers miss out on the money that has changed hands, they miss out on the psychological effect that those pots have on a table. For example, people who have never seen Phil Ivey play live don’t have a good idea of just how many pots he actually wins during an average game. Nor do they understand how few pots Phil Hellmuth ever even gets involved in (but when he wins one it is almost without exception huge.)

Not to mention the fact that you only see what the camera sees – so if you are interested in the guy in seat 6 and just want to watch him for a few hands you are out of luck. Televised poker tends to be nothing more than highlights.

It is for this reason that I bring up PartyPoker. More specifically, it is for this reason that I bring up the high limit section of PartyPoker. Because the best place to watch poker is exactly the same place that you play it in.

The next time that you go to PartyPoker, don’t go straight to the $2/5 table or the $55 Sit & Go, head to the highest stakes game that you see being played. Especially for players who like to play with $50-$200 at a time, just watching the action at the high stakes tables can be as educational as it is exciting. For people who don’t know – you are allowed to watch any game being played on PartyPoker without ever buying into it.

For example, I watched the NL Hold’em $25/50 10-person table (table 126853) for about twenty minutes and was enthralled!

7 people were seated. Short stack was Patishh with $925, big stack was dolomite117 with $12,279 and the average stack was about $7,000. Remember that this was all real money not tournament chips.

I watched ultimate8s take two hands in a row with a raise to $200 pre-flop each time (it is fascinating to see the same bet work two hands in a row.) On the next hand, dolomite117 limps in after ultimate8s finally folds and there are three people headed into the flop. Flop comes A Q 10 with no flush possibilities and everyone checks. Turn comes another Ace and dolomite117 (the big stack) gets frisky and bets out $100. He is re-raised to $2000 by Promazal777 who promptly takes the pot and shows AQ giving him a full house.

Here is where it gets interesting. First of all, never ever show your cards. Just don’t do it, never give information to players that you don’t have to – it serves no purpose but to betray your own future play. And especially do not showing off an AQ full house into an unraised pot. By showing that AQ, everyone watching should have learned two things: 1, Promazal777 is looking to trap and 2, Promazal777 is looking to set up a bluff. How do we know that he is looking to set up a bluff? Why else would he show his cards after making a big re-raise? He is trying to make his big bets seem credible.

So the very next hand, table folds around to dolomite117 who raises to $200. Promazal777 calls as does the Big Blind. Flop comes 10H 8D 5H, Big Blind bets out $400 which dolomite raises to $1000. Promazal777 calls and the Big Blind folds. The turn comes the 8H pairing the board and putting a flush out there.

Then it became apparent why dolomite117 was the big stack at the table. The pot is getting pretty big, $3067 and dolomite bets out $1000 after wasting all but one second of his play clock. This looks like a weak continuation bet on a board with probably a thousand ways to beat his likely AK or overpair. Promazal, who we know is looking to make a play with his remaining $7000, does just that and raises to $3000. Dolomite takes his time, lets Promazal think that he’s got him and then goes back over the top for everything.

It takes Promazal maybe 10 seconds to fold.

Now if this had been on TV, the hand before the big one probably would not have been shown. But in actuality, it was that small hand that set up the ensuing big one.

And if that wasn’t reason enough to go into high stakes rooms just to watch, know that you can also request a hand history any time you want to: as long as you know the hand and table number, you can go right into the PartyPoker lobby, make a few clicks and see precisely what everyone at the table was holding that hand.

So if you want to get better at poker – watch poker. And not just poker on TV, go watch real poker. Go to the final table of a large tournament just to watch (the WSOP starts on May 30, take a trip to the Rio in Vegas.) And if you can’t make it to a final table, open up a high stakes table on PartyPoker and request a few hand histories.

You’ll be shocked at how much you can see if you give yourself a chance to watch.

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