This is my 200th column in this modern Poker Player Newspaper series.
I say “modern,” because I was editor-in-chief of the same-named publication founded by Stanley Sludikoff—also the current publisher and founder— during the 1980s. I wrote many early columns for that pioneering newspaper, before this series began. In fact, the newspaper you’re holding is a revival of the original Poker Player that helped put poker on the map.
Enough history. In today’s self-interview, the interviewer has decided to ask for clarifications about poker tips that I’ve provided in my previous 199 columns. And I’m fine with that.
Question 1: In your first modern column, today’s word was “Idiots.” And you called people idiots who devalued psychology in poker. Could you elaborate?
by Paul 'Dr. Pauly' McGuire - @taopauly
by Diane McHaffie
A few years ago, Mike and I were on our way to the blackjack salon at the Rio, when a well-dressed gentleman brushed past us, a scowl furrowing his brow, muttering in an agitated matter. Roller-coaster: The gentleman introduced himself as Brent, acknowledging that he was aware of Mike’s reputation, said he wasn’t much of a blackjack player, but had been running badly at poker. He was only going to invest $1,000. He then fell silent, except for occasional mutterings. Because of his apparent emotional state, I was concerned about his ability to make good money decisions.
by Lou Krieger
Maybe it was the day, or the time, or just a random confluence of forces, but there’s a big difference between younger and older no-limit hold’em players. What brought this clearly to light was a full table no-limit game, where seven of the table’s players looked to be on the downhill side of 50. And the majority of older players made one similarly shocking error. They significantly overvalued big pairs.
As we continue our series of self-interviews, I’d like to deal with a special request. The persona who usually interviews me has taken today off. His replacement has asked if he can ask questions seeking poker advice that applies strictly to him.
I said yes. I’m gambling that any advice applying to him will also help others. So let’s see. Here’s the interview…
Question 1: I have a $500 bankroll, which I’ve gradually built from $20 playing at 50-cent and $1 blinds, no-limit hold’em. Last night there was a game with $1 and $3 blinds that had very loose and weak players. Should I have sat in that game, instead?
Some players quit playing poker every time they lose. Would you quit playing baseball, chess, or golf when you have a bad day? Losing is part of the game; just like winning. So this is not about quitting poker. Like Scotty Nguyen jokingly says, "When I don't make 4 million dollars poker in a year, I'll quit."
A guy named Philip used to be a regular at my home game. A quiet and somewhat socially awkward fellow, he could often go unnoticed for most of the night until everyone suddenly realized that he had silently accumulated a sizable chip stack.
This is not a comment on the age-old debate of whether poker is more skill than luck; it's about the one skill that some players have since childhood, and others must develop. When you did something wrong as a child, were you good at escaping trouble, or did you get caught every time? If so, you may lack the very skill you need to be good at playing poker.
It's the skill of being a good liar. In fact, most skills in poker are traceable to this one skill. Whether you are bluffing, avoiding being read, or avoiding giving out tells, the one common denominator involves lying.
There are three kinds of poker games. One is where most of the players are gambling-playing any two cards and counting on "lucking-out" with a flop. These players are chasing hands with low odds.
Others prefer to play solid cards and will only play with good odds of making a hand. Still, you will find tables where gambling and solid poker are both being played. Yet, the nature of poker is that players don't play the same and depending on their position and what has preceded them, they may bet on nothing-just to be playing poker.
I appreciate the reception that my article on when not to play poker has received. One of my points was never to play when you are in a slump. Actually, as some of you have said, it's impossible to avoid slumps if you play a lot of poker. So, as a follow-up I thought that instead of avoiding playing poker when in a slump, that it would be better to list some techniques for surviving the inevitable poker slumps.