Saturday, May 06, 2006

Cliff Notes for the Reading Impaired

Someone I love and respect very much (Glenn, not YOU, dangit), told me that my post was too long winded, rambling and disjointed. Gotta love that honest injun Glenn!

So in the interest of those of you who want some good poker advice, yet lack the skills to read something that is longer than Dick & Jane, here are some cliff notes:

Someone who is a calling station is the weakest link in the poker world. They cannot hope to win or succeed. I think that they generally have low self-confidence. I say "generally" because sometimes this person is a new player, and simply doesn't know where he or she is in the hand, so takes a step back and simply calls down an aggressive player.

Generally, though, a habitual calling station simply does not have good, healthy self-esteem. He cannot be the aggressor, so he plays reactive poker. Reactive poker has no chance of winning in the long run. A player has to be willing to put his balls on the table and bet & raise, not check & call.

If you are a poker player and you are not sure where you stand in this equation, I urge you to either look over hand histories (if you are an online player), get a mentor or think specifically about your last few sessions.

Hold'em is an easy example for this. Ask yourself, "How many pots have I limped into lately?" "How many times have I open-limped?" "How many times have I opened in late or last position and limped?" If you have been doing this quite a bit, you are being too passive. You should be betting and raising when you are in a pot, playing Hold'em, in general. Not open-limping. There are always exceptions, but for the most part, CALLING is not a good, viable strategy. Hold'em is a game of aggression (as is all poker, but in HE, it is even moreso).

When you have a strong hand, you need to be in there raising. When you start looking for MUBS (monsters under the bed) every time you have a strong hand and play a big pot, something is wrong. You cannot see ghosts around every corner when you are playing poker. You need to assume you have the best hand until you are proven wrong. Seeing those MUBS will make you slow down and become passive, when that is not the right strategy.

A good exercise in aggression is one that I practice occasionally and force Glenn to practice, too.

When Glenn is running bad, his play gets more and more passive. It only makes the bad run worse, because even when you are winning, your wins are smaller, whereas you are still getting charged the maximum when you lose, by decent players. So you need to work on your game, shake it off. Read Dr. Al's book, Psychology of Poker. Study hand histories, ask someone who will be honest with you, and a billion other little tricks that smart players use when they are running and/or playing badly.

Here is the trick I was being specific about, though:

Glenn was losing every session, every big hand he was involved in. I think he got 13 or 14 straight sets snapped off either on the turn or river (this is not even counting the premium pairs that didn't flop a set, and got beat via some other reason). So he was dealt pocket aces while I was in the room. He immediately started whining, "Oh, brother, here we go again!" He still raised or re-raised with the aces, he wasn't quite that passive, but he was automatically expecting to be beat. I immediately jumped up and put my hand over the table, so that he couldn't see the board (flop, turn or river), and told him to just kept his pointer on bet/raise/raise any. The action played out, and we had no idea what his opponent hand was when he kept betting into and raising Glenn, but in the end, the pot was pushed Glenn's way. Glenn went and looked up the HH later.

The important thing was, he got the most bets in with his winning hand. Had he been bet into or raised by his opponent after seeing the flop, he would have slowed down, since he was running so badly, and simply started playing reactive, passive poker.

Once again, reactive, passive poker is LOSING poker, and may also well be a sign of low self-esteem. Running bad usually amounts to playing bad. Sure, everyone goes through bad runs. It is a part of poker, but the majority of the people who go through bad runs start PLAYING badly as well, and then the run is worse, because they stop making the most out of their winning hands, while being charged the most with their losing hands. It's a NO-WIN situation. Believe me, you are not "due" to start winning after an extensive bad run. You aren't due anything. You can and will keep on losing, if you aren't right in there plugging those leaks. Be diligent, be assertive, be aggressive. If you lack the self-esteem to always be putting your balls forward in almost every poker situation you find yourself in, you will not ever be a long-term winner in the game of poker or life.

Felicia :)