Optimist poker players will always out earn pessimists
September 26, 2017 3:00 AM
by Irene Edith
An optimist is a person who is confident the future will bring good things for him. On the other hand, a pessimist believes the worst is bound to happen. As we will explain, their perspectives while playing the game of poker are so much different. At the poker table, which would you rather be?
Yes, there’s a big difference, and it effects how each plays his hands. As a result, the pessimist is bound to be a loser in the long run. On the other hand, the optimist will win more often than not. Let’s illustrate the difference as they play the same hand:
In a game of limit Texas hold’em, starting with, say, K-K in the hole, the optimist is confident his pocket Kings will hold up, especially because he will take steps to enhance the probability (chance) it holds on to the lead. On the other hand, with the same cards dealt to him, the pessimist feels certain an opponent will catch an Ace or make two-pair – or better – to take the pot away from him. So, he reacts by playing scared poker. He simply calls, hoping his K-K will hold up; he fails to protect it. (No one can win that way.)
To be more specific, the pessimist wants to see if an Ace will fall on the flop before investing any more chips in his K-K overpair. In the event an Ace does fall on the board, he is certain his hand is beat and folds to any bet – even if the bettor is a loose-aggressive player who often bluffs. (The pessimist doesn’t even try to read his opponents.)
If an Ace does not flop, then he just calls any bet rather than betting out or raising on the flop to give his K-K, an overpair to the board, a better chance of keeping the lead and winning the pot. He may well know this strategy, but being a pessimist, he fears the worst: What if an opponent flopped a set, or an Ace could fall on the turn or the river – while he does not improve his hand. He gives little thought to the odds – the fact that his K-K may well be the best hand, nor that the odds are 7-to-1 against an opponent with an Ace in the hole catching a second Ace on the turn or the river. The pessimist probably never pauses to consider the card odds. “Why bother,” he says to himself. And, of course, the pessimist is more susceptible to being bluffed out of the hand.
On the other hand, the optimist plays this same hand entirely differently. He realizes his K-K is quite vulnerable; there are so many possible hands that would beat it. So, he raises preflop to thin the field; then, his pocket Kings has a much better chance of holding up to the river. And, optimistically, he ponders: “Wouldn’t it be great if I caught another King. Sure, I know the odds are about 7-to-1 against that happening. But, even if I don’t improve my hand, there’s a good chance my pocket Kings will hold up, especially with a little help from me.” Toward that end, on the flop he bets out – or raises a previous bet, while he uses the Esther Bluff tactic to support his goal to thin the field.
There may well be good reasons why a player is pessimistic. He may be unfamiliar with the strategies and tactics essential to being a winner at the poker table. He only wants to play, turning away from books or seminars that could teach him how to be more skilled. Why take the time? He came to play! Because he loses almost every session he plays, he lacks confidence. That, in turn, leads him to play scared poker – the best way to become a loser. Contrast this with the truly skilled player who has every reason to be confident: He is a winner! He’s an optimist!