Fighting harder at the poker table

by PokerAnon ~ March 17th, 2011. Filed under: Poker aggression, Poker psychology.

You’re one of the better basketball/hockey/soccer players in your city league. You get a break and have one man to beat. One on one you know you can come up with a way to beat the guy in front of you 95% of the time. You think that he’s not awful, so you press a bit with your right foot, then shift your body weight to the left. The slight pressing to the right and shifting to the left gives him what he is looking for; a fake right, go left. Even if he missed the fake right he will see the shift left. But as soon as your body shifts left you push hard off the left and cut right again, leaving your opponent stumbling and you’re in the clear.

The problem in poker is that you can’t beat any single opponent 95% of the time in any given one on one situation the way that you can in sports. And you can’t increase that winning percentage by just trying harder, running faster, or being more aggressive. Even the worst six handed one table sit and go players will win one once in a while. Sure, if you played the same group of players over and over the best player is likely to win the most money, but putting more effort in doesn’t help. You actually have to give up, fold sometimes and give the bad player his winnings, not press harder, chase faster, or make more moves.

That’s one of the toughest aspects of poker for me. The fight or flight response wants me to dig in, fight harder, get my adrenaline pumping, narrow my vision and press harder. Even if it doesn’t come down to an actual fight, the fight preparation (think dogs snarling and baring their teeth) is part of the preparation for a potential fight.

The problem is that each poker hand is a fight, but the best player cannot win them all. Each hand is only one small confrontation within an entire battle. The cards are random. You need to win more with your good hands lose less with your bad hands than your opponents, bluff and win sometimes without the best hands, and in the long run you will also sometimes fold the best hand. Fighting harder at the poker tables does not mean putting in more adrenaline, tensing more muscles, being more aggressive, or pulling out fancier moves.

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