Live poker professionals generally do a horrible job maximizing their time at the table. Far too often do I see known and suspected professionals not making the most of every opportunity by listening to music, staring at the TV in between hands, or generally just being lazy. Something seems to get lost in the leisurely social guise of a live poker game. We are here to make money, and have an obligation to ourselves and our families to maximize profit. Technical skills are obviously critical and the backbone of our livelihood. However, we should not forsake out of the box ideas to make money at the poker table.
People come to a casino to gamble. period. How often have you heard a player who is losing say something along the lines of “I’m about to just go bet this all on blackjack/roulette/craps/whatever”. I bet it’s fairly often, right? This guy and nearly everyone else at the poker table is trying to get their gamble on. Poker is slow. People can become bored. My guess is that if you have guys dying to give their money away to the casino and not you. You are not being a very good professional.
We should be enabling these people to gamble. Listen carefully to what they are saying or doing and sooner or later you will find an opportunity to make a small side bet with someone. People often make bad attempts to put people on specific hands and love to announce their reads. If somebody makes an announcement that is clearly wrong; try to find a way to book action on it. See if the person in the hand will say or show their hand. Admittedly, this will not work out very often, but I argue that there is no reason to try other than laziness.
People often say stupid shit. If you find something who for some reason believes something that is completely wrong (and you can prove otherwise) this is a prime time spot to make some easy cash. I was in a game where there was a lot of drinking going on. The bartenders were freely pouring shots for most members of the game this evening. An argument breaks out over how many fluid ounces a “shot” of alcohol is. One player says that it is “2oz” and is vehement about their conviction. I immediately book a $20 bet and win. You might be thinking “So what?”. I made almost an hours worth of work and had virtually no risk!. How often do you get paid double time in poker? Thanks Google!
Get good at shooting paper balls or empty water bottles in the trashcan. Seriously. People will actually bet a small amount of money on this (maybe up to 5 dollars or so). If somebody looks like they are about to attempt to shoot something into the trashcan, make a small bet that they cannot if it seems less then 50/50. People often times dislike being told they cannot do something, and will agree to this from time to time. if you lose, most people will oblige you by allowing you to win your money back if you can make the same shot. Alternatively, you could try sandbagging and missing a shot. If someone talks trash, try to book a tiny bet on the next one and sink it!
It should be noted that I would not advise running a side betting campaign for large amounts of money unless I knew the person was good for it. By keeping it small we keep the atmosphere friendly and increase the likelihood that we book action while simultaneously decrease the possibility that they renege or that the dealer throws a fit. Even if somebody seems hesitant to pay up, the table will often times come to your aide and provide some peer pressure to get you squared away. While I have never incurred the wrath of a dealer or had a player renege on a bet, I’m sure it happens from time to time, so proceed with caution.
The moral of the story is that while technical superiority is our bread and butter, this shouldn't stop us from keeping an ear and an eye open for alternative and creative ways to make a little extra cash. If we are trying to make a living or earn a side income playing poker we have absolutely no reason not to. If something is said or happens at a poker table, your first thought should be “How can I make money off of this?”. Even if it is something as silly as trash can basketball. A full time professional attempting to make +EV side bets at least once every session should net several hundred to even a thousand dollars a year in extra income. Aside from moving up stakes, it's about as close to a pay raise as you're likely to get.