by Diane McHaffie
Impulse is an abrupt, spontaneous urge to act, often with dire consequences in poker. How long would you survive if you allowed impulsive actions to govern your decision-making? Not very.
Moods. Don’t allow impulse to dictate decisions in poker. What sort of mood are you in? Upbeat is good. Depressed is bad. A negative attitude means you probably won’t play your best game. Go to the park instead. If you’re coming to the table to improve your mood, I’d reconsider. That doesn’t work. If you’re angry with someone, chances are your nasty mood will lead to impulsive decisions. Not good!
Observe the players prior to joining a game. Do they appear to be rookies? If so, expect them to act on impulse, and that’s money for you. If they’re meek players, calling frequently, but rarely raising, you’ll likely be rewarded. They’ll make impulsive calls when you hold big hands.
Rookie bullies. If you see rookie bullies flaunting their aggressiveness by attempting to steal pots, then you probably want to choose a different table. You can beat them, but they’ll annoy other players and make your table less profitable. If you choose a table of skilled players, then obviously your chances of success are slimmer. I prefer tables filled with laughter and light-hearted chatting. You can joke, have fun, and reap stress-free rewards, surrounded by impulsive actions.
Laughter. Why is it so important that you reside at a table of weak players who are laughing and having fun? It’s because they’re being entertained and don’t care so much about playing excellent poker. It’s all about skill; your skill pitted against that of your challengers. And opponents who are playing for entertainment, rather than profit, are less skillful.
When I arrive at a casino, I hope to play. But, I’ve learned to observe the games before jumping in. I’ve never been an impulsive person. I don’t buy things on a whim, so I’m certainly not going to join a game merely for the chance to play. I’ve sat at tables where there is very little conversation. Let me tell you, it’s dull and boring, often causing my mind to wander which can prove costly. If I don’t find a fun table, then I’ll drive to another casino.
Higher limits. Many times, players impulsively join higher limit games, thinking that by competing for bigger pots their bankroll will increase faster. I suppose it also boosts their self-esteem, thinking they’re playing with the big dogs. Unfortunately, those big dogs often enjoy them as a snack! You need the skill, the confidence, and the bankroll to play bigger limits.
Before you decide on a whim to swim in deeper waters with the big fish, weigh your chances of survival. Will you be at ease playing higher limits? Will you turn a bigger profit than you would at a lower limit game against weaker opponents? Another impulse is to bluff. Is it the thrill of the chase, the chance to fake someone out, the opportunity to lie that encourages one to bluff? Perhaps it’s the danger. Can you successfully pull it off? Hmm. The time to bluff is when you have an edge. It shouldn’t be an impulsive decision.
Mike says don’t fall victim to FPS (Fancy Play Syndrome). Too many times players feel the impulse to impress with elaborate plays. Have you ever felt the urge to be the final raiser in a pot? How many times could you actually pull it off and benefit? Playing a weaker hand is similar to taking a hairpin curve at 60 mph. It’s the impulse of testing the limits!
Assessment. Poker is much like feeling the power of a car racing around the corners, not braking, accelerating through the curves.
The adrenaline is rushing. Then you spot the car ahead, and it’s going to slow your progress. You have the urge to pass. Pause! Reconsider! So, it is in poker. Pause and determine whether you’re about to proceed on impulse or on a valid assessment of the situation. Make the right choice. Occasionally, you’ll proceed with your intended action and profit from it. But, regardless, you’ve changed an impulse into a good judgment.
Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at firstname.lastname@example.org.