has anyone ever told you they were a good poker player? Sure, I’ve heard that from time to time and, sure, I’ve even practiced it for a while. But, when I got to the point where I could call $10 a good bet, I realized that it was seldom true. Sure, I got in cheap; that’s a step in the right direction. But, where I differ with most of my poker contemporary is that I play in a largely negative expectation game.
Sure – the odds are something. The truly skilled poker players tend to be in that category – but, they also know that the odds aren’t always in their favor. These types of players play negative expectation hands well, take advantage of bluffs, and know that the most common outcomes range from losing a pot to winning a pot. These types of players also grasp the fact that, if they are to survive long enough to get to a tournament final table, they need to start out with a big stack.
After the first half of this article, which should be fairly challenging, take a look at the next three reasons why you can’t afford to lose at poker.
Reason #1: Don’t Play Consistently Or You’ll End Up Losing
I know, you’re thinking this is going to be hard to believe, but a good poker player will win more than he or she loses over time. This may be hard to believe, but the results of even a skilled poker player over time are likely to be mixed. In other words, over time, even the best poker player will lose a lot.
First, why is it that a poker player will lose more than he or she will win? Suppose your poker player has been winning and has a big stack. Your opponent calls you with the nuts and the board flashes 4-7-J. Although you’re a stronger player, you’re beaten by a lucky flop. How can this possibly happen? Suppose you are holding pocket tens and you miss the flop. Instead of slow playing and trying to trap, you raise. The small blind calls and the big blind folds. There goes your big stack.
Ok, what was going on here? Poker is not merely a game of good hands. It’s not even merely a game of strong hands. It’s about the skilled player gaining a big advantage over his or her opponent. The bigger your stack, the better your chances of winning. But, if you run into a hand that is really, really strong, you will lose. It’s just not probability. So, if your stack is down to less than it was, you fold.
Reason #2: Run With What You Have
I know, you’ve been in a poker room; you’ve seen a guy who has been playing really well; he’s kind of dressed up, and he seems like a really nice guy. But, you’re not sure that you like his hand. You raised preflop with pocket 7’s. The guy behind you calls, and the flop comes with another 7. How do you know that the guy who raised you is chasing a hand? It’s implied odds, and not necessarily proven odds. To make a decision with mathematically correct odds, you have to play 100 hands from this point forward. If you consider all of the hands, you will probably make an error somewhere. So, if you run into that hand, you will probably lose.
Reason #3: Bluff Too Much
Bluffing is a skill that takes a lot of practice and getting to know yourself as a poker player. But, bluffing is a tool that you can use to end up with a big stack. And, that’s what you want. It’s a tool that will help you get you out of tight spots and make your opponents fold.
But, just using a bluff as a way out of a tight spot is no good. You are going to catch someone out and you are rarely going to get it back. So, save your bluffs for when they are totally unexpected. And, when you do use a bluff, keep in mind that you are trying to represent big hands.
Reason #4: Don’t Bluff Too Often
Once you learn to play Bolagila, you are going to learn a lot about when, when not to bluff. And, bluffing is not going to be an easy task to do. You don’t want to start bluffing every game, because you’ll just end up giving away pots. Some players can do it and some can’t.