Winning Poker As A Way Of Life

In previous posts I wrote about not paying attention to winning, rather play your best possible game, making correct decisions and observing carefully how your opponents play and winning will follow. So why am I writing about making winning poker a way of life? Simple, follow a few simple ideas and winning will simply become a fact of life. Not winning every hand, every session, or back to back sessions, rather winning consistently over time.

Making Correct decisions

Your first correct decision is to select the game that is right for you. Choosing a game that you can consistently beat and that is within your bankroll management requirements is a matter of discipline. Making the wrong choices will, I repeat WILL, cost you money in both the short and long-term. Being in a game with players of weaker or equal skill to your own will provide you with an opportunity to earn profits as opposed to being in a game where you are easy money to more practiced players. Choosing the right game is a critical correct decision upon which all other decisions rest.

Your second critical correct decision is to never let losing put you on tilt. Losing generally has two main sources in poker. Either you are in a game in which you are outmatched or you are doing something in your own game that is inviting losses. The first problem is fixed by following the suggestion above for selecting the right game. The second requires careful analysis of your play to see where you are making incorrect decisions. Analysis, not steaming, is the correct path to follow when you are experiencing losses. When you allow yourself to go on tilt you rob yourself of the precious ability to analyze your own play, a mistake that will cost you money.

You Don’t Have to Play in this Game

You wake up with a headache, you didn’t get a good night’s sleep, you have something pressing on your mind, it makes no difference what puts you off your ability to concentrate, to focus on your game, if you are experiencing something that interferes with your concentration then, by all means, don’t play poker this day. Wait until the distractions pass and then resume.

You are sitting at a particular table and you can’t seem to gain any traction with your opponents. You aren’t catching a fair share of playable hands, your opponents are outplaying you, you aren’t concentrating. Get up, take a break, go to the bathroom, but no matter what, when your concentration wanes at the poker table it is time to do something else. Whether doing something else is a 20 minute break or you cash in your chips and leave the poker room, you don’t have to play when you are not at your best.

In fact, any time you determine that you are not playing your best game, no matter what the reason, it is time to quit for now. You can always come back and play later but only when you are mentally ready to concentrate. You cannot play effective poker if you are tired, unfocused, or otherwise not engaged fully in the game. Learning to recognize these problems and acting on them is a correct decision.

When Players are Weak Keep Playing

Your bread and butter playing poker are players that are weaker than you are. They are easy money. If you are playing at your best, even if they are playing at their best, they will be lured into making mistakes by your play. Profits in poker are the sum of your opponent’s mistakes less your mistakes. If you are at a table where your opponents are making more mistakes than you, by all means, keep playing. It is likely that you will collect a large portion of their stacks.

Encourage your weaker opponents to stay at the table. Never call them donkeys or otherwise berate their play. Because you have a winning expectation playing against weaker players you want to keep them around. By the same token, don’t encourage them to play better. I never discuss strategy with them at the poker table. I may answer their questions but only on a superficial level. I won’t complement them on a well played hand either. You want your weak players to like you and want to play with you but you don’t want to give them the idea that they have holes in their game that need fixing.

I like to talk about hypothetical hands that weaker players won with absolutely awful starting hands. This talk is never directed at particular players at the table, rather I am talking in general but the idea is to give my weaker opponents enough rope to hang themselves as they play weaker than normal starting hands with poor post-flop play. This table talk will add to your profits if you play your best game.

Playing Your Best Game

All of this boils down to the idea that you must play your best at all times. This is harder to actually do than it is to talk about it but part of growing up as a poker player is to internalize a discipline that allows you to recognize the warning signs of not playing at your peak and then having the courage and discipline to do something about it. Playing at your competitive best takes discipline, practice, study, analysis, and a mental attitude that breeds success.

About the Author:
Roger Fischel began playing poker with his friends in high school. Seven Card Stud and Five Card Draw were the games of choice back then. Over the years, Roger turned to Texas Hold ‘em as his game of choice. During a long career as a teacher, Roger learned the value of sharing what he knows with others as a way to give back to the community in which he shares, thus, Rags to the River Poker was born. Come visit us today.

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