Losing happens in poker, but it doesn’t have to be habit

Jul 10, 2019 3:00 AM

Despite all your poker skills, you may find yourself experiencing losing sessions more often than winning.

There are reasonable ways for handling this situation without giving up on the game. For starters, sit down in a quiet corner in your home and ask yourself the pertinent questions. Consider the possible answers; there may be more than one.

Here are some typical examples, to which I’ll offer comments: 

• Are you playing too many starting hands — more than 1 out of 3 on average? If so, you probably are investing with too many marginal starting hands. Sure, occasionally one of those will turn out just right — but not often enough to make up for the losers. 

• Having stayed to see the flop, did it improve your hand? If you don’t catch a made hand, ask yourself: Do I have at least six outs with my drawing hand? Otherwise, you would be chasing. And chasers are losers.

• Are you trying to bluff out a calling-station — who is bound to call even with a drawing hand having few outs? A tight player is a different story; better to be very cautious. Also, are you skilled at using the Esther Bluff tactic to help your bluffs succeed? If not, it’s time to learn. 

• Occasionally you will catch a monster hand (best if it’s the nuts). Do you know how to build “your” pot? Remember, it’s the chips you want to win, more so than the number of hands.

• There’s one player at your table, seated just behind you who often raises (a “maniac”). That makes it tough to stay to see the flop with hands that barely satisfy the Hold’em Algorithm (there are also charts that provide similar starting-hand criteria.) What is your best course of action? 

My answer: Play extra cautiously until you can move to the maniac’s left so he declares before you. Alternatively, consider a table change — especially if there is more than one maniac at your table.

These are some typical questions to ask yourself. There are others. Strive to have the answers and be ready to implement them. 

Having answered all the relevant questions you can think of, consider the cost-to-play. In a casino, that usually amounts to about $25 per hour. Can you make up for it? 

In that case, as part of your winnings, include cash drawings and bonuses from the casino. That could be $50 for the 50 hours spent playing at the tables during the month. Be sure you have a rewards card. 

Many casinos offer a bonus for Pocket Aces Cracked during specified hours. What should you do, if you are dealt two beautiful Aces in the hole during that time? 

Go for the big bonus. Change your normal tactics; instead of raising pre-flop to thin the field (preferably down to three opponents to give your hand a good chance of holding up without improving), just check or call all bets, never raise. You want an opponent to beat your pocket Aces so you can win the bonus.

It’s a different story if a third Ace falls on the board. Now your set of Aces is almost certain to win the pot. In that case, try to build “your” pot.

During certain hours, there are drawings that the lucky players can win. Then, too, there may be high-hand bonuses. And, while it’s rare, casinos usually offer a huge jackpot (thousands of dollars) when your Aces-full-of-tens or better, is beaten — the “Bad Beat Jackpot.” 

Recognizing that poker is a game of high variance — frequent ups and downs, especially with luck playing such an important role, how can you best adjust your playing style? It’s easy if you have the self-discipline: Just quit while you are ahead.

If its too early to leave the casino, you need not go home; just take a long break and have a bite to eat, or go for a refreshing walk in the fresh air. Then start over — a new session, another chance to win again.

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