by Doyle Brunson [Originally appeared in Poker Player Vol 1 Issue 1 pg. 3]
If I had to pick my favorite game, I guess it would be no-limit hold ’em. Poker is a game of people, and nothing brings this fact out as clearly as a no-limit confrontation.
When you're playing limit poker-even a big limit game like $200/400-you never have to face the fear of a man jumping up from out of nowhere and moving all-in against you. You can bet $400 on the last card knowing that worst thing-the VERY worst thing-that can happen is you'll get raised another $400.
If you've got some middling hand when that raise comes, then you've got to make a decision about whether to call or fold. That decision, though, doesn’t pack the same agony that arises in a no-limit situation when you bet $400 and suddenly are facing a $5000 raise.
I've always been a believer in attitude. If a man thinks he'll win at poker, then he's more likely to prevail. Confidence won't make you any luckier, but it can make you play better. Assuming you have enough skill to win, confidence will keep you from turning against yourself and letting self-doubt and panic prompt you to make poor decisions.
The difference between limit and no-limit poker can be as broad as a Texas pasture stretching from here to the horizon.
Rochester Ricky didn't understand that difference. He was from New York and talked his way into our game in Fort Worth in the late sixties. He strutted in proud - some local champ from far away - and sauntered away quite sadly. He'd chosen a tough game. Besides me, there was Amarillo Slim, Puggy Pearson, Johnny Moss, and Sailor Roberts. All would turn out to be world champions in the future.
I once wrote that there are five great fears that haunt gamblers. They are: (1) The fear of getting broke; (2) The fear of getting robbed; (3) The fear of getting arrested; (4) The fear of getting cheated; and (5) The fear of not getting paid.
Of course, I was writing about my early career as a poker player in Texas and the southern United States. There were no legal casinos there to protect you against robbery, arrest, cheating, or deadbeats. You were on your own. If you always play in a licensed casino, I guess the only real fear remaining is #1 - getting broke.
Most players will participate in private games sometimes. These may be played among friends - your typical Friday night variety of poker. The purpose isn't only poker; it's purpose is also bonding.
Something that can destroy a bankroll in a hurry is bluffing for the wrong reasons.
Bluffing successfully can be gratifying. But it can also be addicting. And I've seen an addiction to bluffing humble the proudest of players.
Young poker players do foolish things. I Revolution wasn't one to frequently flash money, but it seemed to be a costly habit that a lot of up-and-coming players had. Perhaps it was their way of announcing that they were somebody - before they actually were anybody.
Everyone starts somewhere, and it's never at the top. If you don't like the idea of beginning at the bottom and working your way up the poker ladder, let me present the alternative. It's beginning at the top and working your way down. Now that's not a pleasant prospect, but I've lived enough years to see it happen to young players again and again.
When you're emotionally upset, you just can't play poker the right way, the profitable way. I used to back players I believed in. One was a kid named Craig who impressed me with his discipline. I mean, he was just unshakable, never getting out of line. He would siphon off the money from the table so methodically that it became a fearsome thing to watch.
"Don't accept a gift in the big blind in hold 'em," Kelly told me years ago. He was wrong. In hold 'em there are no antes. Without antes or something to replace them, there's nothing to fight over, and if you're against wise opponents who are playing perfectly, you should sit hand after hand, badly bored and mumbling mantras about your cattle farm. Finally one hand you'll find a pair of aces. Logically, only then can you play, because you can defend aces against other intelligent players with equally perfect patience.