Ok, so you’ve been playing for a few years now and you think you should be on your way to the final table of the World Series of Poker, but these stupid donkeys keep sucking out and putting you on tilt. Sound familiar? Well, you’re in good company. Lots of good player have gone through that stage.
The great thing about poker is that it’s a skill game, which means you can actually get better if you work on it, AND an odds game, which means in the long run, the good players win out over donkeys. The key is to keep your emotions in check because sometimes the long run is pretty darn long.
So what do you do to improve? First, make fewer mistakes. Sounds simple, right? But at the tables, I see players repeating the same mistakes—calling when they should fold, for example—instead of thinking about the opponents and the situation and making a logical decision. Poker on TV highlights Degree All-in moments, dramatic Phil Hellmuth blowups and horrible beats, but winning poker is all about making fewer mistakes than your opponents.
Next time you’re in a hand, stop and ask yourself what should I do here? If the board shows KK64 three spades, with two all-ins in front of you, your pocket aces are no good and they belong in the muck. It’s gross, for sure, but don’t call and complain after your chips get shipped across the table to some newbie who flips up K9 or A3 spades. Instead, take a breath, fold and congratulate yourself that you lost the minimum amount. Money saved is just as good as money won, and we all know the landlord won’t take a bad beat story for the March rent!
Second, one of my poker friends once told me, “If you play perfect poker, all the beats will be bad.” It’s really true and when you realize that, it makes the beats a little easier to take. While poker is a skill game, there is an element of luck which, when it goes your opponent’s way, can really ruin your night. The key is trusting the math to pull you through. If I get my chips into the pot with the odds in my favor and my opponent sucks out, over time, I know I’ll get his money. I just take a breath and move on to the next hand so he can make another mistake. He will, as sure as that Corona he’s drinking!
Bottom line, if you focus on making fewer mistakes and getting your emotions in check, it might not get you on ESPN, but your poker game and bankroll will improve…ALOT. Try it!