What the Pros Have Taught Me About Poker

This is an old post I wrote, and just never got around to getting it up. I’ll post it now, only because it ties in somewhat to my next post.

At a poker game I hosted about a month ago, I came in third place (of 8, where 4 players did a rebuy, meaning I essentially beat out the equivalent of 9 players rather than just 5).

That doesn’t seem particularly astonishing; unless you consider the fact that I only won four showdowns and two pots where other players folded. Despite almost never winning, I was able to outlast other players who won several (up to 5x) more hands than me. I was able to last long enough to place “in the money” thanks to a minor change in my game play that I’ve been working on for quite some time.

The problem with poker is that it can get to be quite an emotional game. You get upset with yourself when you fold a hand that you would have won had you played, and you get upset when you lose a hand because somebody sucks out on you. Those two cases are quite normal.

But you also get upset when you’ve put a large portion of your stack in the pot to try and prevent someone from outdrawing you, and some psycho calls you with a long shot drawing hand and gets their draw.

There is also the situation where you commit a large amount of chips pre-flop, just to be reraised by another player, or get called by another player with junk and you get a junk flop.

Essentially, anytime you commit a large amount of chips, then later realize you’re going to get beat, it’s extremely frustrating and has often caused me to go on tilt. Going on tilt, of course, results in getting busted out early.

But as I’ve watched the pros over the years, I began to realize that a major factor that separates winning pros from losing pros is the ability to keep one’s emotions in check. Committing a large part of your stack, laying your hand down after realizing you’ve been beat, then collecting yourself and continue playing based on proper tactics rather than emotion — those are the hallmarks that separate the good from the bad.

This change in play is about the only victory I can take away from recent games, as I am currently on an 11 game losing streak. Prior to this losing streak, I had won 8 of the 30 home games I had hosted, averaging a win 1 in every 5 games.

Now my average has dropped to a win every 6 games. And while a few of those games were simply the result of a couple bad moves on my part, for the most part it just seems that the stars are against me, as in the last several hundred hands I’ve played, I couldn’t sell my soul to the devil to get decent cards.

But no worries. The stars always rotate back around, and the wins shall return.

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