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The State of Live Poker: How to Improve and Stay in the Game

James Williams
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  • "If you really love the game, study it, practice... get as good as you can," says James Williams.

  • UK pro James Williams discusses both the challenges of live poker and what's great about it.

Late last year James Williams took down the 1,100 buy-in 888poker LIVE London Main Event, topping a 656-entry field to claim the 121,000 first prize, a career-high best score for the U.K. pro.

Williams — and PokerNews — returned to London again this month for the 888poker LIVE London Kickoff 2019 series, and while there Williams shared some thoughts with our own Sarah Herring about the state of live poker today.

The conversation begins with Williams remarking on the kinds of players comprising the field in London and how they presented specific (and different) challenges to him. Some of the issues he describes are quite common to lower buy-in events featuring a mix of skilled opponents and those with less experience.

"I struggled with working out what people were thinking... I struggled with working out what hand ranges they could have," Williams notes.

The discussion moved to more general strategy advice for smaller buy-in events, including how "a solid style is best" and how important it is to recognize when opponents don't fear busting shy of the cash (and thus pressure doesn't necessarily work the way it would otherwise).

From there Williams touches on several other points, such as

  • how difficult online poker at the highest limits has become,
  • how solvers don't apply that well to low-limit live events, and
  • how live poker can often provide a different, more meaningful experience than playing online.

Finally, Williams offers some thoughts about how poker players can survive long term.

"If you really love the game, study it, practice, try and get as good as you possibly can," says Williams. "Don't go crazy with bankroll stuff, don't play stuff you can't afford, don't put yourself in a position where you might get into trouble money-wise."

Most importantly, he says, "enjoy it" — referring to all aspects of the game, including the thrill of winning and the challenge of matching wits against others. Take a look:

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