Realizing right time to take break during poker key to winning

Sep 11, 2012 3:00 AM

Unlike a tournament, in a cash game, you can leave the table anytime you want. Is there a “right time?” Whether you just sat down at that poker table or you have been playing for several hours, it is likely that a time will come when it is to your advantage to leave that table. Consider the possibilities.

Table texture

Shortly after being seated – perhaps just 15 – 20 minutes, you realize that this game is not to your liking. You prefer a more loose-passive game (table texture). This one is much too tight. Three or fewer players seeing the flop usually translates to small pots when you catch a “monster” hand.

On the other extreme, perhaps the game is too aggressive, making it too costly to stay to see the flop with your drawing hands that will fail to improve two out of three times. You can always seek a table change or take a break during which the table texture may change, as players come and go.

Getting tired

Winning poker requires intense concentration on the game – trying to gather as much information as possible so you can make the best decisions. It takes mental effort to evaluate your opponents – what kinds of hands does each play, how does he play them?

Trying to “read” their hands is a mental exercise. What hands do I think he likely holds, based on how he is playing this hand and the type of player he is? With time, that effort is bound to make you weary. Complicating that task are players going and coming to the table, or changing their seats. Passing time also wears on you.

It’s time to leave the table when you’re tired. We are only human, after all, not robots that can function normally so long as our batteries are charged. But, it’s too early to go home.

“I still have plenty of energy,” you say. One way to solve his problem is to take as long a break from the table as is permitted by the casino. I’ve seen people leave for over 30 minutes at a time. They take periodic breaks from the game – even just sit out a round of hands rejuvenating their human electrolytes and brain power.

Avoid going on tilt

If you play much poker, you are bound to experience extended periods when you can’t seem to win a pot. Catch top two-pair on the flop, only to be beat out on the river by a small set. You bet it all the way, but your opponent wasn’t going anywhere, staying in until he “rivered” you. Again!

For the first hour, the only hand you win is a bold bluff – thanks to having the Esther Bluff tactic in your arsenal of poker weapons. Still you had to go into your pocket to buy more chips. Bluffing alone won’t earn a winning session for you. It’s imperative to hold some winning hands at the showdowns.

You try changing seats. Still the winning hands seem to elude you. The irony is when the person who took the seat you just vacated, goes on a roll, winning hand after hand. You are at your wit’s end! At that point, it would be wise to leave that table. You don’t want to chance going on tilt.

Final analysis

Don’t hesitate to leave that table whenever it seems appropriate to you. You’re the best judge as to when and how to take your break, whether to change tables or take a break – or perhaps call it a night. Tomorrow will be another day.

Taking breaks from your table can help your game. . .

“The Engineer,” noted author and poker teacher in greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].