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LOOK AND PLAN AHEAD

The advantages of poker patience

By Jack Clayton

With sports betting in Las Vegas there are situations on the football fields or basketball courts called “look ahead spots.” This is where a team is facing a bad team, for instance, but has a good team or a rivalry opponent on deck. It could be good to go-against that team as they are “looking ahead” to the next opponent.

In poker, it’s essential for winning players to look ahead, too. This requires careful thought and patience. Understand the importance of being patient, absorbing what is happening and thinking carefully are all essential elements to maximizing your winning (and earning) potential. Yes, the pros think fast in their seats, but that is because… well, they are pros! The player who is still learning doesn’t have to make decisions with haste. It’s much better in the short and long term to take your time, observe everything that’s happening. Folding and cutting your losses can help build a bankroll over the long haul as you learn the game and improve.

For instance, take time to look at your hand and figure out what you have and make the correct wagers and card decisions. In addition, take time to scan your opponents and assess what hands they might have – because the good players are doing that right back at you behind those dark glasses, faceless expressions and pulled down hoodies.

The pros end up thinking and moving faster than the average player, but that’s only after months and years of learning and thinking when they were playing at a slower pace. It is important to understand that every successful poker player has to think logically and make educated guesses.

Another example is knowing when to fold or when to stay in. Many players don’t grasp the correct timing on when to fold up shop, stay in, raise or bluff. The good players understand their odds not based on timing or guesswork, but the chances surrounding the type of hand and observing their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.

Having two face cards is a good reason to stay in, but having two different low number cards might not be a strong hand. When observing other players, if you notice high bets from a player whose tendency is not normally to bluff, then you might be better to cut losses and fold. Understanding when to take risks and when to be conservative is the difference between good and great at the poker tables.

And what about the pacing of a game? I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania before spending time in the Big Apple and got to see firsthand how the pace of daily life shifts. In the city, it was all about el-bowing folks for a seat on the subway, rushing to find a parking spot, beating the crowd home before heading out on a night on the town -a sharp contrast to a small-town environment.

We see this in sports with the slipping interest in baseball over the last three decades, with football taking over as America’s sport. Baseball is very much 19th century, played at a methodical, slow pace. Football is very much 21st century, with speed rushers, deep passes, continuous contact and the kind of fast pace and increased scoring modern fans are attracted to.

But keep this in mind: Does faster mean better, especially when you bring the individual human element into it? While sitting at a poker table there is both a methodical, cerebral “baseball” pace alongside a modern, frenetic tempo. It’s important to understand and master both. The dealer’s constant distributing of the cards or being seated for hours in the same spot can appear monotonous, especially to those who aren’t focused or who are less interested in winning for profit. On the other hand, things are happening at a lightening pace, with flops, folds, players mentally calculating odds in their heads, chips doubling the pot, and winners pumped one minute only to be bluffed into a bad move the next. It can be playing like in games of baseball and football at the same time.

Pro poker players can seem like they are doing impossible things, but the fact is they are really just following basic tips – not from some secret file, but calculations that every player can learn.

Poker is a game of chance, sure, but it’s all about tipping the odds in your favor, just like successful sports coaches, day traders or stock players do. In poker you do this by studying your opponents, reading as much as possible from experts, trial and error at the table, practicing sound money management, and thinking through decisions.

And you learn best not by rushing, but by absorbing and building your knowledge base utilizing patience.

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