Taking a LickingThe art of winning in poker requires seeing the bigger picture, even if you have to take a few hard hits.
To outwit opponents at the poker table, you need to get into the head of the typical gambler to see how he or she thinks and behaves, then deviate from those behaviours in your own actions. Of course, playing online, with players in a constant state of flux, the learning curve is much steeper since by the time any opposition comes to grips with what you’re doing, you already have most of their chips.
So how does a gambler pick up the pace to keep everything in check? We all keep score using the gaming session as a unit of progress or loss. And a losing poker player will realise that a shaky game plan isn’t going to help to get even for the session. To mix it up, he’ll stubbornly apply self sacrifice in the hope of creating big opportunities sticking to a game plan. In a fog, and on tilt, he’ll try to rationalise his behavior, which you can easily sniff out and exploit.
The usual advice for people seeing red is to hit the ejection button, but under such duress, you’re actually well positioned to make some money as the proverbial fists come raining down on you and your chip stack. Other players will obviously see you’re stuck and expect you to keep going headlong into despair by playing a lot of hands, raising on unsound values and bluffing left and right. Having that information about your opponents allows you to turn the tables by derailing their assumptions with unexpected tactics. Play solidly and don’t bluff. And if you can catch some hands, you might just impress yourself—as well as others—with your ability to come back from the brink.
Everyone sets their loss limits differently—if at all. If you’re a weak player prone to tilting, limit your losses conservatively. But if you’re an accomplished player who can control emotions, you’re overlooking a good situation from which to earn some money when you find yourself in a rut. Professional poker players generally don’t set limits on their losses, because they don’t want to pass on proven moneymaking situations that reveal themselves when they’re in the throes of losing big.
The Power of Leverage
In poker, leverage is the psychological seed you plant based on the implications of an early-round wager. If you run a bluff on the end, an opponent knows you’re not semi-bluffing with a draw––but he also knows he’ll get to see your hand if he calls. If you make a wager on any of the other three betting rounds, unless one of you goes all-in, the opponent has to consider how much more money the hand might cost him if he calls. There is of course some leverage at limit poker, but far more at no-limit, where the next barrel might be all your chips.
Leverage is responsible for most of the intimidation in no-limit hold ’em. The player who does a lot of betting and raising uses leverage to win a lot of pots with the worst hand. He also doesn’t need to jeopardise a lot of chips doing it if he uses leverage well.
There’s nothing in poker like having both a good hand and a strong arm. When your good hand turns to trash after the flop, your strong arm can still win the pot for you. So go put that leverage to work.