A Good Loser

by PokerAnon ~ January 31st, 2011. Filed under: Instructional posts, Poker psychology.

To be a long term winner at poker, you have to be good at losing.

You’re going to lose. You’re going to lose often. The more you play the more times you are going to lose. It’s the nature of poker. Poker has too much luck involved for a person to become the New England Patriots, Chicago Bulls, or Montreal Canadiens of years gone by when they dominated their respective sports.

Just before I started writing this post I played a short session of four tables of $50nl full ring for a total of 230 hands. A session of 230 hands is nothing but I lost a lot of hands during that time. I lost $1.50 eleven times; four raise/folds to re-raises, one set mine/fold, two call/folds on bad flops, and one bet/fold with bottom pair in a limped pot. I also folded the big blind seventeen times and the small blind twenty four times. To be a long term winner you have to be able to manage your losing. And I had one big loss; my KK lost to AA all in preflop. In that one hand I lost $53.75.

That adds up to $86.75 in lost money in 230 hands, or 173.5 in big blinds. Playing with only a total of $200 ($50 x 4 tables) that’s a 43.375% loss ratio.

I lost money in 53 out of 230 hands, or 23% of all the hands that I was dealt. That’s a lot of losing. If I’m going to lose money in 23% of the hands that I’m dealt, I’d better get good at managing my losing.

Could I have lost less? Sure, there were some situations where I could call rather than fold after being re-raised preflop, and maybe could have won the hand later. Or some instances where I could put up more of a struggle on the flop and not fold, or times where I could raise or call rather than folding the big blind or small blind and maybe I would have won. And once in a while I might not get all in preflop with KK and end up losing less than all my stack to AA. But given the specifics of each situation and my knowledge about the opponents in each situation I’m fine with how most of these played out. That being the case, I need to be okay losing money in 23% of my hands and losing $86.75 of $200.

I’m trying to manage my losing. I try not to lose more when I’ve only risked a little and don’t think I have a good chance given my hand and the likely hand range that I put my opponent on. I try to avoid playing awkward hands from the blinds against a raise. That’s the cards/situation aspect.

The other part is psychological. I try to mentally be able to give up comfortably when it’s time to fold because I’m going to have to do it over and over again. And I try to not let it bother me when I get coolered with KK against AA. Imagine how stressed I’d be if I anguished every time I raised or called a raise preflop and folded? Or if over 100,000 hands I smashed my keyboard every time my KK ran into AA?

Again, this took place in a 230 hand sample, but I used it because I thought that it was a good microcosm. 230 hands is nothing. I normally play closer to 400 in one session, and until your total sample is at least 10,000 you can’t consider your results to be anything other than short term results. That’ll mean a lot of lost hands, a lot of lost dollars.

I did win some hands in this session too, but if you’re going to play poker, get used to losing. You’re going to have to do a lot of it. How you manage your reactions to losing is going to be a key factor in determining whether or not you are going to be a long term winner.

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