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Bluffs, flops and what TV has done to the game

By Jim Feist


It’s easy to get frustrated. We do it all the time, standing in line at the bank or driving at a snail’s pace in congestion traffic. However, it doesn’t make any sense to endanger yourself by driving in the oncoming lane, or to start hollering in a bank at the folks in front of you. It won’t speed the line up – and it may get you in more trouble.

The same applies to poker. You must remain calm and focused, even during long tournament play. Frustration leads to poor judgment, which will lead to lighter pockets. I’m not talking about pocket aces but pocket cash, which is the whole point for serious players.

So let’s go through some common bad habits frustrated poker players can fall into when things aren’t going their way. Too many players fire a shot on the flop and give up on the turn. Instead, don’t be afraid to shift gears, such as trying to fire another barrel at times. Frustrated players can get trapped into calling a flop bet with draws or overcards because they believe it will take the play away from them on the turn. Sometimes you need to fire another barrel to take them down.

In addition, don’t fight over small pots just for the sake of getting a desperately needed win here and there. Some players get in the habit of making pot-sized wagers just to try and steal small pots. What happens is that player is either going to win a tiny stake or create a larger one if called, often times boxing them in with consequences that aren’t carefully thought out or prepared for. Then they are forced to give up a steal attempt or play more chips to try to win a pot they had no business mathematically attempting in the first place. You can get away with it at times with a small pot, but plan your next move cautiously – which means less money than more. Helping to increase the pot without the proper odds in your favor will give others at the table better chances to collect – and that’s not a long term winning strategy.

Also, at the end of a winning hand don’t show your cards. It’s a sign of an amateur player. I see players showing cards all the time because they’re proud of some move they pulled off, such as a big bluff. What they’re doing is boasting to everyone how smart they were — while revealing their cards and strategy. Good players around them will soak that knowledge in and then use it against the big boaster down the road. The less your opponents know about how you play the better a player you are. Just like a gunfight at the O.K. Corral, if the opponent wants to see your cards, make them pay to see a showdown!

Frustrated and novice players will also use bluffs too often. Instead, use them sparingly. It’s generally a bad idea to go all-in on a bluff when a call would have you drawing dead. It’s smarter to go all-in to double up rather than get your opponent to fold. Television is the main reason new players will fall into this mind set. During TV tournaments, the appearance is that a player bluffs all-in every ten hands or so, when in reality a good player will use it every few hours or less.

All of that ties into ego. Frustrated players can take the bait when someone raises their bluff. That forces the emotional play to make forced or foolish moves outside the limits of the proper odds. Instead, think. Always think and play the odds with the correct move, as opposed to letting ego and emotion rule the day. Frustrated players will make far too many incorrect moves and not realize it – until their chips are gone.

So what to do? Well, of course, don’t get frustrated, or walk away when your emotion is infringing on your focus. One thing to do at the tables when you notice this to help regain control is to shift gears in your play. For instance, start playing loose when you have been playing consistently tight for a while.

Frequent gear shifts can help you regain focus and will keep your opponents off balance. All of which will mean regaining control of your emotion – and your game.


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