Poker Observations

Earlier this evening, while I was out at the Gateway Community College Hall of Fame Dinner, a woman stopped me to say she had been reading my website. “You write about poker a lot,” she said.

That reminded me. I really haven’t written much about poker at all recently. Let me change that.

Our poker playing had become hot as could be over the summer. The original $250 stake had rolled itself to well over $1,000. I was feeling good and maybe a little too confident.

My play started to suffer. I took foolish chances. In poker parlance, I was on tilt. Before long – actually last week – we were back to that starting $250 and still sinking.

I knew my play was poor, yet was unable to play correctly.

It’s the strangest thing. I knew my moves were foolish as I was making them. Everything I knew about the math behind risk/reward in cards was out the window. Maybe it was a desire to rapidly leverage my winnings or the thought that I was such a good player I could do no wrong?

As I realized I’d soon be out of money (and it seems foolish to want to send more to Costa Rica under these circumstances), I took a long hard look in the poker mirror. Changes were necessary.

First, I made a vow to play conservatively. There would be no chasing or bluffing. My biggest, hardest losses had come when I was too aggressive.

Second, I stopped playing in turbo games. In these games the blinds (forced bets) go up in value very quickly. If I was going to be conservative, I’d have to have enough time to wait for the right cards to come. Slow play, not turbo was what I needed.

Even where I had good cards, I wouldn’t try to take it all at once. That’s a sure strategy for failure in a game where you can win a zillion small and moderate hands and bust out with one single loser.

So far I have been playing this way for over a week. I am a much more consistent winner than I had ever been before. I’ve made up the deficit and am well over my original stake.

Helaine, whose play remains steady and dependable, is also moving the needle upward.

Now, the question is, can I avoid this temptation again? If I got up a moderate amount, will the small incremental wins I’m getting be enough to make me happy? It was my undoing before. Maybe I’ve wised up?

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