“I waited all night, but I got even with that idiot!” Tony announced at about 5 a.m., as he was leaving the poker room.
“What are you talking about?” I asked, as we strode side by side toward the parking lot. It had been a great night for me, so I was in a tolerant mood, willing to play along with Tony’s peculiar and perpetual need to always share his poker exploits as if nobody else mattered.
“So, I start at noon,” Tony began. “and everything’s going fine. After about an hour, this guy I’ve never played with sits down and bluffs me three hands in a row! He shows the hands. And he’s gloating. I can hardly stand it.”
He paused and walked in silence for about 20 seconds, then continued.
“I was worried he would leave the game, but he stayed all day and all night. In fact, he just quit a few minutes ago. I was patient the whole time. You would have been proud of me. I just stopped playing almost everything and waited. When he came at me again, I was going to be damn sure I could beat his ass! So, about half an hour ago, he tries this huge bluff and I have the four kings! I call, end of story.”
“So, how did you end up?” I wondered.
“That’s not the point. I lost a little, but I recovered almost everything on that one hand.”
“And how did he do?”
“He won, but he gave half of it back on that same hand! It took me over 15 hours, but it was worth it.”
Now, let’s stop and ponder, you and I. Let’s analyze. Let’s examine. What really happened? There’s an important poker lesson here.
What really happened is that Tony surrendered many opportunities for profit by targeting one opponent. He was patient, but sacrificed opportunities. Tony got even with that opponent and might have gotten the best of him dollar for dollar. Who knows? You’d need to weigh the amount Tony lost by being bluffed against the amount of his final dramatic win. Then you’d need to consider what happened in all those additional hours of confrontation. But, let’s give Tony credit and assume he ended up ahead of the targeted opponent in player- vs.-player combat.
I say, so what? Tony’s success in that regard actually illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of playing poker for profit. And, sadly, it’s a misunderstanding shared by many players, even some top-level professionals.
Now I’m going to share a secret that I want you to remember forever. It’s one of the most important psychological tools in poker.
Here it is. Your mission at the poker table is to make money without caring about the source. It doesn’t matter who your profit comes from, as long as it comes from someone. So, getting even with a specific opponent isn’t a factor you should ever consider.
Most times you play, someone will beat you, even on those days when you win hugely. That shouldn’t bother you. And, actually, you probably don’t even know which players beat you overall and which players didn’t. It’s only when an opponent embarrasses you that you take notice. That’s when many players vow to get revenge (today’s word).
But revenge has no part in poker. Seeking revenge means sacrificing profitable play in order to focus on a single foe. That can be expensive. Revenge is not your job. Your job is to make good decisions and hope to win. And where that profit comes from shouldn’t matter. Successful poker is just a matter of weighing money won against money lost and seeing the scale drop in the right direction. Which opponents are on which side of the scale shouldn’t affect you emotionally.
Never let revenge interfere with profit. In poker, satisfaction doesn’t count, if you can’t spend it.
Mike Caro is widely regarded as the world’s foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. A renowned player and founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy, he is known as “the Mad Genius of Poker,” because of his lively delivery of concepts and latest research. You can visit him at www.poker1.com or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.