I recently went on a poker road trip that took me through Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. I was pleased to visit two excellent poker rooms in the Greater Pittsburgh area: The Meadows, about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh in Washington, Pennsylvania, and The Rivers, located right in downtown Pittsburgh.
These rooms each have a lot going for them. They are in full service casinos with all the amenities, including excellent restaurants and other gaming opportunities. The Meadows even has a race track. Moreover, they are relatively new rooms with a high percentage of relatively unskilled players who have not yet lost their money or gotten discouraged and quit. This makes for good games!
The first part of this article explored four reasons why thoughtful, serious players may be losing. Here are five more reasons.
Reason No. 5: Your opponents may be much better than you think. Just because other players looks like they’re laughing it up and not playing skillfully, doesn’t mean they are bad players. Some of the best players deliberately adopt a happy go lucky attitude in an attempt to loosen up the game. Serious players tend not to get as much action as happy and easygoing players. Some players mix up their sound game with some deliberately bad moves just for the advertising it gets them. You might mistakenly identify someone as a wild and crazy player when he is really crazy like a fox.
“Why am I losing?” This may be the most frequent question asked by good, thoughtful, and skilled players. They’ve read the books and articles about poker strategy and keep meticulous written records. Despite that, they find themselves losing to players who seemingly aren’t nearly as smart, attentive, or skilled.
The thoughtful player is used to mastering whatever challenge he takes up. When he was a student, if he studied, attended class, and applied himself, he got at least a “B,” and often an “A.” When he worked at something he was generally successful. But here in pokerland, though he has applied the same approach, he finds that he’s failing more often than not—while others, so it seems, are succeeding.
I see nine possible reasons why the good player may be losing while the poor player appears to be winning. Let’s look at each in turn. This will take me a couple of articles—so please be patient. I think it will be worth it.
I have two poker buddies who play at Foxwoods. This past Friday they went down without me. They came back with a story of a hand where they faced off against each other. In the telling of the tale there is some good poker instruction.
Jim is primarily a no-limit player. He’s surely a looser player than me—and though I don’t like to admit it, a better one too.
Andrei is a limit hold’em player. His style is the typical tight and aggressive style that beats the low limit game—not fancy but fairly effective. I’ve seen him play in Las Vegas and Foxwoods. I’d say he is much better than average, if not yet able to make a living at the relatively heavily raked $4-$8 game where he usually finds himself.
I run fundraising poker tournaments for charities and non-profit organizations. It’s a way for me to earn a little extra money, and it raises a lot of money for the charity. I also do group and individual poker lessons. Both of these jobs require that I teach poker to people who may never have played the game. I’ve developed a novel way of teaching the game that I think you might want to employ the next time someone asks you to teach them how to play your favorite game.
I imagine that we all learned to play the game in roughly the same way. Here’s how I learned.
For some, luck is not immutable or unpredictable. It is both predictable and “influenceable.” These superstitious souls believe not just that they can recognize lucky trends but that they can attract more good luck for themselves and repel bad luck by adhering to certain superstitious behavior.
I am a firm believer in rational thought. The notion that something may supernaturally influence the cards I’m going to be dealt is, to my mind, absurd. Even so, I’m observant enough to notice that others may be superstitious at the poker table. To the extent that I can understand their superstitions, and somehow divine whether my opponent is feeling especially lucky or unlucky, I can exploit them.
In the January 17 issue I asked four 7-card stud poker questions that involved doing some math. Below are the questions and then my answers.
Question 3: It’s fourth street. You have (2c-As)2d-7c. Your sole opponent has (x-x)Qs-4c. You brought it in, everyone folded to him, he raised, and you called. He bets again. There’s $44 in the pot. Do you call, raise, or fold? Answer: Though it’s a closer call than you might think, the best answer is usually to fold.
I gave you four stud questions in the January 17 issue. I answered the first in the last issue. I’ll tackle the second here.
Question 2: It’s fifth street. You have (Kh-9h) Ks-6c-7h. You are against (x-x)9d-Ac-5s. He called your third street raise, then check-raised on fourth street. You called and now he bets out. The pot, before his bet, had $144 in it. The folded cards were the 3d, 5c, 7s, 8d, 2c, 2s, Jh. Call raise, or fold?
In the January 17 issue I set out four stud questions for you to ponder. In this article I’ll tackle the first question.
It’s fourth street. On third street you started with (Kh 9h) Th. A player to your left brought it in with the 3d. Everyone folded to the Ac who was a couple of seats to your right. He raised to $10. Everyone folded to you. You called as did the bring-in with the 6c. The folded cards were the Js, Qc, 6d, 9s, 9c. On fourth street you caught the 7d. The Ac caught the Qd. The 6c caught the 4h. The ace bet $10. Call raise, or fold?
Most poker books and articles generally keep the poker math simple. They give you examples with one card to come, have you compare pot odds to drawing odds, and then show you that when the drawing odds are shorter than the pot odds, that you should call. Let’s look at one simple example of that—as a refresher if nothing else.
It’s sixth street and you’re trying to fill a flush, with five of your suit accounted for, and the pot has $180 in it. Should you call your opponent, who bets $20 when he appears to have aces-up?