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Winning at poker
Acronym - Winning Attributes of A POKER player
The POKER Acronym – The Mindset On Winning Consistently In Texas-Hold’Em Poker
I have been playing poker for about 5 years now and I can honestly say I am a profitable player. I don’t play for big money, so I am not here to tell you how to become a pro, nor how to win the millions. I am however, going to tell you that you can consistently WIN at Texas Hold’em poker.
Money is just the results indicator of whether you are winning or not and is a nice bonus if you are playing for any real stakes. When you play, you should not play to make money, you should play to win, although paradoxically, you have to count your coin at all times to monitor whether
or not you are in the profit zone. I can’t guarantee you will win every time with my tactics or advice, however, if you want to play and not have to rely solely on luck, then I think you will find benefits to my consistent winning strategies.
So here is how I have proven to myself that I am constantly a profitable poker player. As I stated before it’s paradoxical because you should play to win, but not play for money, but counting your earning and losses is they way to monitor your progress. I have this generally outline in my head that proves I am above even money over my last few years of playing poker.
Online: I had bought in $40 and $50 dollars years ago, on two separate poker sites, and I respectively have $220 and $180 in both accounts. Mind you, I did build up those accounts playing low stakes over a long period of time, and albeit I do just play for fun, but I always keep in mind that I should be UP in money or what’s the point of playing?
In Local Games: with friends, we play cash games quiet often and I am consistently up. On average we buy in for $20 I usually cash out with $30-40 at the end of the night.
Casinos: I have also played at $1-$2 tables at a casino buying in for $100.00 three separate times (total $300.00) and cashing out a total of $640.00. That’s like 110% on my investment and that was in 6 hours of play, hence I made about $57.00 and hour at the casino. Additionally, once I played at a 33-man tournament and cashed out in second with $200.00. Buy in was $20.00. That was the only multi-table tournament I ever participated in that consisted of mostly players I did not know.
Okay, so hopefully you believe me that I am good to double money on most nights. Let me warn you first; I will not be giving you any ‘secret’ hand strategies. It would be pointless for me to do so. You can find thousand page books that cover poker theory and the math behind it all. I do understand most of it, but only at a rudimentary level so I won’t pretend I am an expert in being accurate in implied odds, pot odds and outs to the exact number. I can’t show you that. You either know it, or you don’t. What I am going to do is show you the mindset you need to create a winning attitude, mentality and persona. Now, let’s get to my POKER acronym. You need to think about these while you play at all times, this is what POKER is all about.
Okay now, let’s further examine each one and see how they help us become winning players.
Patience – I hope this one is blatantly obvious. Everyone should know this, play a limited amount of hands and don’t get jaded when you don’t pick up AA every 5 hands. In general, the more you limp in and chase and try to hit big, the more you’ll lose. You see the problem with gambling is that people get what I call SS - selective sight – people only see what they like and don’t see the rest. Meaning that if someone chases a 16% draw and catches it they remember it and are really happy about it because they won a BIG POT. It sticks out in their memory. Or maybe they saw a pro chasing a flush on TV and they won a big tournament when they hit. Selective memory. People don’t like to remember pain. It is a biological, survival mechanism. We seem to forget the other 86% of the time that we miss our draw and discounted it as “bad luck” or “I’ll catch it next time”… that’s not patience, that’s gambling idiocy. Being patient does not only mean waiting for big cards, it means relaxing and showing the table that you are discipline and can FOLD at anytime. Folding and patience are one in the same in poker. When you have the discipline to fold you accomplish the following three things, it earns you respect, it saves you when you lose, it earns you when you win. Being patient and folding is referred to as being tight. Being tight, first and foremost helps you show your opponents that when you bet you mean business. Since you fold often, you ‘must’ have a good hand when you do bet. Let me describe to you one of my favorite plays in poker. Fold as many hands as you can, then when you hit KK, AA, AK suited or maybe even queens, you open up for a huge exaggerated bet. Likely everyone will fold, then you reveal your hand and say, “aw shucks I should’ve bet less”… If they call, all-the better, you are likely to win and everyone will see when you raise, you have the goods. Even if you lose by some bad beat you can still reveal your hand and everyone will notice you had a big hand when you raised the pot. Later in the game when you bet big even with bad cards in your hands and everyone will likely fold. That’s the respect you earn from being tight and patient. Secondly, other players won’t bet out at you too much when they have a killer hand because they know you’ll fold and they don’t want you to. This will save you a lot of money on pots that you’ll normally lose because of the way the cards came. Example. Let’s say you have KQ and your opponent is holding 66. The flop hits KQ6. This just sucks and most people can’t get away from this situation. However, since you have folded every time someone bet out at you, your opponent might just check the flop and bet a small amount on the turn and river. You will lose, but you probably will lose the minimum amount. If you were a wild player (or perceived as one), your opponent would go all-in and you’d call in a heartbeat and go home two heartbeats later. Lastly, being patient ends up allowing you to win big, when you do hit your hands. Here is why: Because you can assume with a lot of certainty your hand will be the best. This means you can do whatever you like after the flop hit, check-raise, slow-play, bet a lot, steady-bet, etc. Let’s say you play KK and the flop hit K47. You know you are leading and asides from some silly straight draws you could assume you are leading and you can take control. When you play hands like 10-8 off suit, and the flop hits 10JJ you put yourself in a lot of trouble. How do you know you are leading? You can’t assume nobody has a 10 with a better kicker or any loose J in their hand. Actually the odds are, in a full table, someone does have you beat. So the first rule in poker is being patient. Be calm even when you are beaten by bad luck, it’s normal and it is just fine because at the end of the day you will win more often than not if you are playing with the odds in your favor.
Overall Perspective – This is very important in poker. You need to keep an overall view to become an overall winner. Winning in poker is not a one-time event unless you win millions in a big tournament then you are probably all set. For most people, to win in poker means being up more times than being down. So keeping tabs in your head at bare minimum, or even better on paper (or excel) is important. If you find yourself losing all the time, you are obviously not doing something right and changes need to be made. It could just be your competition is better than you. When we used to play with my friends there was a player who consistently won and they often won with big earning nights. I was usually above average in terms of money. Let’s say I made $10 and $10 profit on back-to-back nights, and then I was up a total $20. He on the other hand often had one big night because of his volatile style, winning usually $100 one night and then the next losing $20. Nonetheless, overall he was up $80, which was a lot better than my $20.00. So I decided, I had to start playing better against them, change some things up, maybe taking more risks with certain players since they obviously took bigger gambles. Often really aggressive players are easy to tame down simply by being aggressive with them first. Whatever the case may be, overall he was a winning player. Now if someone only came on the second night and saw that one guy lost $20, they would think he were a weak player, which is obviously not true since he won $100 the prior night. You see, overall perspective is seeing the BIG PICTURE; do I win more often than I lose? That’s what is important. Forget about specific hands
”Oh I lost with AA!!” The worst thing to say in poker is “if I only stayed in that hand” or “I got so unlucky”. If you stick to looking at the big picture then you’d less likely to be effected by the fluctuations in chips or hands in any particular game. Although, in cash games, I do like to set aside my winning piles once I grow my bankroll. You have to do this in your head. Let’s say you buy in for $20 and you build your chips up to $30. In your mind, try to only gamble with the $10 you’ve earned. That gives you security that you’ll still be up even if you lose and also allows you to still play tight because you have forbidden yourself from dipping into your $20… meaning you’ll still play tight. Plus, if you wake up with AA or KK in your hand or hit the nuts on the flop you can now allow yourself to dip into your $20 also and turn your $30 into $60, because you ‘lift the ban’ and can use it to earn more when you are a sure shot favorite. Overall perspective means winning overall, in the long run, not just that night. Remember that and winning will be a progress, not a landmark.
Killer Instincts – “Know when to hold them and now when to fold them”. Predators don’t just run around gunning at any prey they see, that would be an ineffective method and a huge waste of precious energy. Predators have killer instincts and in poker you need those same types of instincts when you sense weakness or when you sense danger. Here is my rule for myself: When you win, win BIG, when you lose, lose LITTLE. I say that to myself often to remind myself that anyone can get a great hand and everyone will at one point, so no matter how good you are you can’t outplay someone holding a four of a kind. This is probably the major area that average players lack in. Many players are ultra aggressive and can win a lot because they often push in a lot of chips, but this also has its downfall, you can lose a lot too. Killer instincts is about reading the game, reading the players and reading the situation at hand. Let’s say Johnny has AA and he raises the pot quite a bit. Johnny is normally tight and has not played many pots, so you assume he has a big hand. You decide to call because you are the chip leader and your hand is decent JT, you are in position and you think you can outplay Johnny. The flop comes down TJ4. You are convinced Johnny has QQ, KK, AA or AK and you believe you are winning. Johnny likes the flop so he bets. You know you have Johnny beat, so you re-raise all-in which happens to be about 5 times what is in the pot and enough to put Johnny all in. Johnny calls and you add another huge amount of chips to your stack. These are killer instincts not because you pushed your chips all in but because you knew Johnny would call, you made it look like an exaggerated bluff, however it was really a please-pay-me-off bet. You have to behave like a BIG CAT predator or like a SCAVANGER vulture, just waiting for opportunities to pounce. Say a cheetah during a hunt, it does not just try to kill just any prey it sees, it targets weak, slow, unprepared prey, it can’t waste it’s energy trying to take down the fastest fittest gazelle on the planes, sure it would be a nice kill if it succeeded, but it’s odds are far too low. To ensure success, a predator, such as a cheetah, targets its prey. Also it knows it has to survive too. And when it sees a pack of hyenas and it is outnumbered, tired and hunger it has to get out no matter how strong it my think it is. Sure you might have TT, a pretty good hand. You raise the pot; you are strong like a cheetah. Then right next to you Johnny throws in a re-raise, and then out of nowhere Marty jumps in with a re-re-raise. So the lion and the hyenas have entered the playing field at this point. Don’t be brave, yes cheetahs are tough, like TT is, but it ain’t that tough. Get out. Timing is everything is poker. Let’s say you are on the button and 6 players limp in to you. You have been playing tight and throwing out healthy raises when you do raise. So this time you raise 6 times the big blind with a really weak hand and everyone folds, you are a vulture picking up scraps, because you know that most people probably limped into the pot with a mediocre hand. Even decent hands know they probably have you beat, but your huge raise make calling unjustifiable unless they have a real big hand. It’s timing; you have to do it when the situation is right. I have noticed that at most cash games, even at casinos, people like to see cheap flops, so when you have position, you should try to take advantage. However, raising 6 times the big blind under the gun with a weak hand is like begging to be re-raised or called by a stronger hand that will leave you trying to fire bluffs out on the flop, turn and river. Dangerous. Killer instinct also means trusting your gut. If you have that wretched feeling in your stomach where somehow you know your beat, you have to learn to trust it. I’ve noticed that when I feel confident that I am up, I am rarely surprised by a bigger hand and usually win. When I have a great hand and just have a feeling that I beat somehow, that feeling is correct, most of the time. Often you can’t consciously pinpoint it, but your subconscious mind picks up subtleties in your opponent or in the situation. Just recently I had a king high flush and after the river I was re-raised the exact amount that I raised. I just knew that I was beat and of course a king high flush is great especially when there are no pairs on the board (eliminating the potential for full boats). This means only 1 card in the deck has me beat. But I knew my opponent had it, so why even call? Well stupidly, I did, mostly because of pot odds and the raise was not high enough to justify folding the second nuts. Nonetheless, the Ace high flush did beat me and I lost. Through the whole hand I kept thinking, “are they chasing with the Ace of Spades?” Low and behold, they were. When my opponent revealed their cards, I gave myself the “no shit, that was so obvious” muttering speech. The moral is: Trust your gut. Go with your instincts and most of all, when opportunity knocks think about how you can maximize your rewards. On the flip side of things, when you are going to lose, try to put up the damage control. This mostly is done through folding or assertive (“find out where I am at”) bets.
Enjoyment – This is the easy one. If you don’t enjoy the game for what it is: A game (that consists of A LOT OF LUCK), then you shouldn’t be playing. Gambling for the money takes the fun out and statistics show, most gamblers lose. Gambling is designed to make you lose. So play for FUN and use money as a monitoring indicator of how well you play. If you are always down in money, then you are either playing really bad consistently and need to make dramatic changes (in fact play the opposite of how you usually to just change the pace a little) or you need to quit playing all together, for money at least. Going into debt and losing your house and/or relationships does not sound enjoyable to me. If you play for fun, you can lose with a smile on your face. Sure I like to play for money, but the stakes are very low. Just enough to keep it interesting, but low enough not to really affect anyone’s breadline.
Resilience – When I think of this word, I think of strong and flexible, like Plexiglas. In order to be a long-term winner you can’t be predictable. So you have to be willing to gamble at times when it really makes no sense mathematically or by any other poker logic and at other times you need to fold when you really shouldn’t. Resilience means hanging in there because you believe you are playing correctly and knowing in the long haul it will work out (as discussed in Overall Perspective) simultaneously being able to make major shifts on a moment by moment basis. Be strong, yet, flexible. I remember playing a friendly low stakes in-house game. It was someone’s birthday. No names here. But there was quiet a bit of drinking, and 12 players in all. Some experienced, some just loose gamblers and lots of seriously silliness going on. I know that’s an oxymoron, serious silliness. At any rate, let’s say I had my pocket tens run down by k-6 off suit (which called a huge pre flop raise) hitting a flush. The chip leader and the birthday person were siblings and they just kept raising and re-raising every pot making it impossible for smaller stacks to call, and even if they did to make stand, their hand would likely get run down because on this table getting multiple callers was the norm.
I lost my first buy in completely on two big hands, which I was leading in both pre-flop and was run down. With that said, I bought in again and just could not get back in the game because the fluky chip leaders kept raising like 10 times the big blind as a standard. Once this got out of control, I made a decision along with an announcement. “I will call any raise with anything.” Now the reason I made up my mind to do such a silly thing was because I knew I had far more cash in my wallet then anyone else. I mean WAY more. Most people were floating with about 100 bucks I had about 25 times that amount for various reasons. My tenant just paid me rent in cash and I had a lot of cash on me for holiday shopping. Regardless, I knew that if I just keep calling, luck would eventually hit me once or twice, and it did. After a few losing hands, I woke up to pocket 8s in the big blind. The short stack made a small raise, I guess as a play for the blinds but the chip leader re-raised (as always) claiming, “I have to, I have big hand”. What’s new? I thought, but I believed I was beat this time, I just had that feeling, but I thought I have to follow my rule 8s are a decent hand. So I called anyway because of my decision really. The original raiser called too. The flop came down 6-8-3. Perfect I hit trips and hopefully someone else hit something too. Small blind (chip leader) checks so do I and the small blind goes all in. Then the chip leader goes all in also. I looked perplexed, but said thank you and I call. The chip leader had TT and the small stack was bluffing with 2-4. I did win with the trips and made a truckload on that hand. Enough to make up for everything I had lost before and then some. Now by my typical playing rules after a raise and a re-raise, I would likely fold the snowmen. 8-8 is a good hand in short handed game, in position maybe, sometimes, but normally I would just lay it down with a raise and re-raise, but in this case with such a loose table and the IMPLIED odds of actually hitting the hand on this type of table was so good that laying it down made no sense. In fact, calling with anything might be justified on this table, added with some KI, you will hit big at least once, then you can start putting your patience and overall perspective game into play and keep your stack in the green, once you are up in money again. I showed this as an example of how and why being strong and flexible often prevails. I was playing online the other day and lost $80 within an hour. Nothing was going my way, so I joined a 20 man sit and go that cost $10 to enter into. I came in first, won $80.00 back and logged off for the day. Sometimes just changing it up might do the trick. Obsessively trying to recoup yourself on the same table is called being an addict and you will probably just lose more and more. The best predictor of the future is the past. So if you keep losing on a certain table, with certain people or playing a certain way, why do you continue to do so? I know I sound contradictory, since I said that if you play properly then, stick with it, you’ll win in the long run, but I am not contradicting myself. I am talking about when you call with KK and you lose to AK, you made the right call. Stick with it. That is different than joining a $20 sit and go on the same site all the time and not making it in the money more than 25% of the time or more (which is about what you need to be profitable). If you keep doing the same thing and it is not working then by Einstein’s definition, ‘you are nuts’. Or maybe you are just an addict. Gambling should be fun, but you need to be resilient if you want to be a winning player. Be strong, know when to quit, but be flexible and gamble when you know you can risk your money and the rewards (POT ODDS and IMPLIED ODDS) are really good.
Being a resilient player, that enjoys the game, who has killer instincts an overall perspective and a lot of patience and you will likely be a winning player. The only type of player that I know of that can compete with this type of player is, a Persistent player will a lot of Oversight and Knockout power, who is Excited about the game is a solid as a Rock and as flexible as Rubber, but that’s a whole new story. You get my drift hopefully. Poker is not really about LUCK more then it is about PERSONALITY. The only way to change your game on the felt is to change your inner game; in your mind and emotions.