No self-control-ics Anonymous

by ~ May 25th, 2009. Filed under: Philosophy and approach, Poker aggression, Weaknesses.


There was an interesting article in a recent “The New Yorker” (“Don’t!“) about self control. It stared with a test done years ago with a number of four year olds in nursery school. The children were asked to choose a treat, either marshmallows, cookies, or pretzel sticks. Once they had chosen one, they were told that they could have one now, or they could have two if they could wait a few minutes until the adult returned to the room.

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Some kids managed to wait, some didn’t. What’s interesting is that the four year olds that did manage to hold off until the adult returned generally grew up to do better scholastically and to be more focussed and “successful” as adults. In fact they discovered that this ability for self control was a more accurate predictor for academic success than intelligence.

I’ve been watching a lot of poker videos recently. “Self-control” is not specifically mentioned very often in a poker context but one poker coach did mention the term when referring to an opponent who showed the ability to raise and then later fold when indications were that he was behind. I’ve been searching for an appropriate term for this for a while. The opposite has lots of descriptors for a multitude of examples of a lack of self-control. If you can’t stop calling hoping that your bottom pair is good or you’ll hit your gut shot straight you’re a calling station. If you become hyper aggressive after losing a big hand you are on tilt. If you are overly aggressive you are a manic. If you are not quite a maniac but tend to err on the side of too much aggression you are a spewtard. I also have problems folding to small re-raises or small check raises or donk bets on the flop following my preflop raise, but I don’t know if there’s a specific name for these. Maybe “non-believer of idiot plays”

Admittedly it’s a pretty finely tuned line that you need to develop in order to have proper self control in a poker context. With beginners it’s probably as much a matter of not understanding as it is lack of self control, but for players who should know better you’ve got to be able to manage this self control every time that you play. Can I fold when a passive player raises? Can I 3 bet AA preflop and fold to significant aggression on a QJ9 flop? Can I play Raise/Fold with a flush draw instead of passively calling down? Can I fold J3 from the big blind in a mulitway pot on a J98 board?

Do I have the self-control required?

Do I need to join No Self-control-ics Anonymous?

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1 Response to No self-control-ics Anonymous

  1. Pat

    I think human curiosity plays a large role in some of those examples… You just need to know! Unless you find poker a bore, you’re not going to get away from wanting to know. But that’s all a part of the beauty of the game.

    I would assume that most poker players would reply to your examples with: “It depends [if I could lay it down or not]”, or, they would say: “Well, I’m so good I’ll always know when I’m beat.” – Interesting example with the AA, though. Against an LAG then I’d probably be a bit cautious… but if you raised sufficiently against a TAG then it’s doubtful that they would have something like KT on that board. I would guess that holding a pocket pair like QQ would be an automatic all-in preflop for anyone if they were 3 bet.

    And that’s a very interesting study you brought up… I think I’d be one of the greedy ones…

    Great post. Thanks.

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