Poker psychology

How tight or loose is your poker game? Or better yet: is your game tight-enough?

I’ve read many articles written by good poker players and they all seemed to agree on one thing: the winners are all folders.

There are many people, however, who still advocate going for the kill hand after hand every single time. There are players who are so taken by this idea that they could swear everyone else is after the same thing: trying to win every single hand they play. Is something like this even worth a consideration or should we just move on to the part where we all agree on how basically wrong this whole concept is?

Even if the strategy itself is not one hell of a reasonable issue to discuss, the reasons that lead players up to acting this way are certainly worth a closer look. What makes someone act like this and then on top of that be proud of it? Ego, stubbornness? Both? Could be…

The question is: do any of these things have a place in poker? And mind you, I’m not talking about calculated risk taking, and boldness. Those features are certainly a must for a winning player, however abusing them will have a serious impact on one’s game in general.

Poker is a game of endurance and it’s certainly not lottery. Making some crazy move and then getting lucky and ending up with the pot doesn’t make you a good poker player. Being a winner is all about consistency, scoring many small victories in the longrun and outlasting opponents.

What do you suppose the greatest enemy of a reasonable poker layer is? Going on a tilt. When on a tilt, even the best of poker players will lose because he plays a lot of negative expected value situations, and such a play will take its toll on even the most solid of stacks.

Poker is a game of positive expected values. If you take your hand down the stretch as often as you can in such situations you will eventually end up a winner.

On the other hand if you decide to call raises in desperate situations, or try to bluff others out of the hand when you in fact have nothing, you’ll be playing on negative expected value. I’m not saying this won’t come in handy every now and then and it won’t be a successful approach from certain positions, but provided you keep on doing it for long enough, you’re bound to end up losing.

A desperate “I must win every hand” approach will – after the initial successes – provide a huge rush for the player, making him emotionally even more unstable than he was beforehand. In case the successes never occur, he’ll be going down the road that leads towards tilting faster than he’d believe. Just as soon as the tactics start backfiring at him he’ll tilt and that’ll be the end of his/her bankroll.

Online casinos especially cherish players that tilt, because such players will usually pay above the regular house edge the casino would be entitled to anyway…

Opponents will also love a tilter, and they’ll hang around at his table until his stack runs completely dry. This leads us to another major psychology issue in poker: playing when on a bad-luck streak.

Many players manage to avoid going on a tilt but they keep on playing anyway to chase down their losses. Whenever you’re unlucky the other players around the table catch on to this fact much faster than you’d think it’s possible. That’ll make them bolder and they’ll pull much bolder moves on you thus further reducing your chances to catch up with what you’ve lost.

Think of players around the table as if they were a bunch of sharks: as soon as they notice someone’s bleeding they’ll all throw themselves upon the unfortunate prey and not rest till they hack it to pieces and eat it all up.

The same fate awaits you when you’re running a bad-luck streak. The answer: get out of there asap and give the whole thing a rest. You should minimize the time you spend playing when plagued by bad luck and in the same time play as much as you can when you’re on a roll. The same psychological effects I mentioned earlier come into play again, only this time it’ll all be in your favor and it’d be a crying shame not to take advantage of them.

poker is psychology, and as such, it leaves no room for pig-headed macho bravados… Make sure you stay cool and always give common sense a chance… it’ll help.