“There’s nothing I fear more than failure,” I admitted to a close friend recently.
“Does that hold you back at the poker table?”
This received a quizzical look. It made me think for a second.
In my professional life, I do fear failure quite a bit. I worry about having an opportunity handed to me which I do nothing with. That is unforgiveable in my book, especially when my father worked himself to the bone as a commercial fisherman.
But in poker I’m fairly relaxed. I love playing cards. And I can’t control what happens at the poker table.
I also have a very well-honed B game. This prevents me from massive failure.
Most poker players tilt because they’re secretly insecure of their game. This is understandable. No one wants to be proven as an unworthy player. However, this can be fixed by developing a good B game.
Having a good B game doesn’t mean you always play your B game. It just means you know how to play good solid poker when you’re overwhelmed, when you lose a big pot, when you get a bad night’s sleep, or when you just don’t feel your best. It means if you get deep in a poker tournament and you feel yourself getting nervous you know you can deliver a solid performance.
If you do not know what the basics are in No Limit Hold’em, then you can’t deviate from them. I think most players would do much better if they established their basic game before attempting to do all the fancy plays.
Try these ideas the next time you play a poker tournament and you feel yourself getting heated.
For one, do not flat threebets out of position unless you have a suited connector, a suited connector 10-8s or above, or a good suited ace. If the threebet is more than 2.7X your bet try to fold even more hands. There’s very little money in flatting out of position and accepting a small profit loss early can prevent a large one later.
Secondly, do not call turn with one pair. The average player is awful at double barrel bluffing. If you feel yourself dazed and confused, it’s a better idea to just fold all but the best pairs on the turn. You’re likely to not have the gut instincts to make a close call at this moment on the river, and if you make a big mistake there you will be truly heated.
Third, let’s talk about that river call. When you fold to the river how angry do you get? A little angry, but you forget about it later. But what happens if you call and you’re wrong? Well, then you really lose your cool.
If you can only beat a couple hands and a complete bluff just fold the river. The average player is horrible at triple barrel bluffing. It’s better to hedge on the side of caution.
Fourth, try to open when it’s unlikely you’ll be threebet, and threebet when you’re unlikely to be fourbet. This will help you rack up profits, because doing either of these plays with any reasonable range is profitable in every analytic I can find.
Fifth, if someone raises you on the flop, turn, or river, assume they’re doing it with the best hands. Your top pair with a weak kicker probably isn’t enough to play back, or even call. The field is generally terrible at checkraise or raise bluffing postflop. You’re also in no state to make a judgement call.
Are these strategies a little tight? Yes. But you can make up for it by value betting more thinly. We’re in a golden era of poker right now where every 1/3rd pot bet on the river is a value bet, and yet no one folds to it. If you pick up 10-15 big blinds twice then you’ve picked up a second stack.
Don’t worry about being bluffed. It happens to me every time I play. I deviate from the above strategies regularly in high stakes tournaments, but I’ve won many low stakes tournaments deviating from these strategies infrequently. I’m sure I got bluffed at least once in every single one of those tournaments, but it doesn’t matter. I avoided the 10+ sinkholes that
I would have fallen into if I’d let my tilted self play the deranged style I wanted to.
I hope these tips help you the next time you play. Good luck to all of you.