Poker skill comes from doing your homework

April 19, 2016 3:00 AM


Live PokerConfidence is essential to success in life; likewise in playing poker. We all want to go home with more money in our pockets – winners!

You have studied the game for many years; read all the good poker books (learning the wisdom offered by experts such as Doyle Brunson, Mike Caro, Daniel Negreanu, Dr. Alan Schoonmaker, George Epstein, Tom Green, Mason Malmuth, David Sklansky, Johnny Chan, Lou Krieger, Dr. Art Reber, and Ed Miller – notice I did not include Phil Hellmuth’s book); and you continue to learn from many poker publications (including GamingToday).

You have attended poker lectures to learn the experts’ secrets for winning; sought advice from others whom you respect for their poker skills – and put those skills into practice at the poker table, with good results.

Add up all this plus your many years of polishing your hold’em skills at the table. You have lots of solid experience. So, you have every reason to be confident in your expertise – your ability to WIN! Have you noticed the cards seem to come your way when you have confidence – almost like magic!

No, it isn’t magic; it’s just a matter of having the patience to wait for the right cards to come your way. Muck the poor hands – most likely to be losers, the sooner the better to avoid losing precious chips. Know when it’s best to check, call or raise with playable hands; when to be aggressive; how to build the pot when you hold the nuts or other monster hand; when and how to be deceptive – bluff, slow-play or check-raise. You are adept at table and seat selection – making changes when appropriate. You understand the importance of betting position, and use that know-how. You fully understand the various bonuses offered by the casino such as the Bad Beat Jackpot and Aces-Cracked, and, when appropriate, are prepared to play accordingly.

You fully understand the difference between made hands and drawing hands, and how to best play each type. What’s more, you have learned how to “read” your opponents and observe their tells, using that information when making decisions.

You understand the math of poker; especially how to estimate the poker odds so you have a positive expectation – when the pot odds are higher than the card odds against improving your hand. Of course, you fully recognize situations when it is wise to bet for value to win a bigger pot; or to raise to gain position (a big edge) over your opponents. You never act on hunches; logic – common sense – predominates when you have a tough decision to make.

Yes, you are quite confident in your ability to win – properly so.

What exactly is “confidence?” It is self-assurance – firmly believing in your abilities. Confidence! That’s what makes a major league baseball player a star, and helps him earn a huge salary. When you are highly skilled – knowing when and how to use the winning strategies and tactics – you deserve to have the utmost confidence in your ability to win. Sure, there is the luck factor; bad beats do happen. Luck (chance) is something you cannot control. But, in the long run, skill will make the difference. Inevitably, skill dominates the game.

Poker is a game of skill. Think positive. When you find yourself well ahead at the poker table it is easy to feel quite confident in your ability. But, there is the matter of variance – the ups and downs in your fortune. Variance is bound to put you behind – losing – on many an occasion. That could very well serve to discourage you.

Resist that emotion. Instead, THINK POSITIVE: You KNOW you are highly skilled. Do not allow yourself to go on tilt and start to play irrationally. Don’t “push your luck.” Don’t make plays you know are wrong. Don’t start to chase by betting on a drawing hand with only a few outs. Avoid obvious mistakes. Use self-control. Be patient. And, always THINK POSITIVE.

P.S.: Recently, I read about a psychotherapist who was concerned about people worrying too much. Her advice: “Replace the negative thoughts with positive ones.” She labels this “cognitive behavioral therapy.”

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