Playing limit hold’em, you have religiously used your self-control to stick with the Two-Step concept – as described in recent columns:
Step 1: Select a playable starting-hand. Step 2: Continue in the hand if the flop improves your starting-hand to either a made hand or a drawing hand with at least six good outs. Otherwise, muck your cards (unless everyone checks and you get a “free” card).
In the long run, that should get you more than enough winning hands while playing at that table to overcome the cost-to-play and putting you well ahead in chips. But, for some reason, today it hasn’t worked out that way. You are quite a bit behind and have had to purchase another buy-in to continue in that game. The poker gods and good luck have not smiled on you today. No way!
To say the least, you are upset – frustrated. You are taking special care to avoid going on tilt. Then you would be throwing your money away – until you came to your senses.
You realize the Two-Step does not guarantee winning hands; it just makes it more likely you will win more often than you lose. Because you are so frustrated and want to avoid going on tilt, you decide to take a break from the table. While walking in the fresh air outside of the casino, breathing deeply, you ponder the situation:
There are two or three players at your table who play very loose and aggressive, often raising. (We call them LAGs.) It seems they have been unusually lucky and one or another keeps catching the cards that give him winning hands over yours – no matter how few outs they have on the flop or on the turn. And there is a calling-station whom you can never force out when your hand is vulnerable.
Walking back into the casino, you ask for a table change – hopefully to one with fewer lucky LAGs and calling-stations. Start anew, as if it were another session. The chips you lost earlier are no longer yours. What’s more, when there are several such opponents at your table, you are going to increase your starting-hand requirements so as to invest your chips in somewhat more attractive holecards.
And, you will also tighten up on how well the flop must improve your hand. Instead of staying to see the turn with two overcards for 6 outs, you will increase your criteria to 7 outs minimum. That should increase your chances of connecting with the best hand – helping you to reduce the luck factor.
By way of example, thinking back, while playing $4-$8 limit you vividly recall one hand where you started with 8-9 hearts in a late position, readily satisfying the starting-hand criteria of the Hold’em Algorithm. On the flop, you improved your hand to top pair on the board. So you bet aggressively to thin the field. Two opponents called to see the turn with you: Jack of spades.
As it turned out, that gave an opponent a pair of Jacks that beat your pair of 9’s. (A miss is as good as a mile.) What if you had started with J-Q? Your pair of Jacks with Queen kicker would have had a much better chance of taking that pot.
Does that mean, you should not have invested with the 8-9 hearts? No way. But improving to a middle pair, even if it’s the high pair on the board, isn’t good enough to try to thin the field in a limit game, especially with LAGs and a calling-station at that table. In such a game, opponents with high holecards – no matter the kicker – won’t be forced out.
Instead of getting frustrated when you lose hand after hand, there are four things you can do:
• (1) Avoid playing at tables where there are several loose-aggressive players (LAGs) and calling-stations.
• (2) Increase the criteria for starting-hands. That’s Step 1 of the Two-Step concept. (Play a bit tighter.)
• (3) Increase the requirements for improving your hand on the flop to one more worthy of further investment (Step 2).
• (4) Change tables.