Poker strategy talk
During football training this morning, I gave one team of young players I coach a bit of advice when they found themselves 3-1 down, despite having the run of play. First pointer; 'don't put your football coach in goal! (me)! And secondly 'never give up!' 'Keep your head up and keep playing your football!' Strikingly similarly to competitive sports, in Poker, it is the moments after losing a hand with a bad beat perhaps that are the most dangerous as you can 'tilt' and lose even more money, mostly unnecessary. Either take a quick break, a deep breathe or read Larry W. Phillips' Zen and the Art of Poker (which I will review in the next blog post.) and meditate for a while...let it go...
In the end, the football players kept their heads, persevered and eventually came back to win the game 5-3.
Of course everyone wants to win money and prizes using the best of their capabilities, but they must also remember that every single other player out there is also trying win the money. Some do this way better than others. If you are not careful they will find ways to exploit you and your money too, if they find a weakness. There is no other substitute to playing experience and game time, that much is true, but an ocean of inevitable errors can be avoided by reading up useful gold nuggets of information from a good selection of poker books. In the long term that is what can give you the edge. Knowledge is power after all.
ENJOYING THE GAME
I think the reason we love poker so much is that it is a simple game to start off with with easy-to-learn rules, but there are so many nuances due to bet sizes, type of game, odds, circumstances and styles of play that can influence making good or bad decisions and lead to a wide variety of results.
I find it a deeply fascinating game still after many years and highly enjoyable to play (otherwise I wouldn't play it) and like with any sport actually, whether you can call gambling a sport I'm not sure, there is always something new to learn. Cease playing and you fall out of practise. Although, to be fair the fundamentals of skills you learn over time, like with any other sport stay with you and don't go away when you do learn. Just like a retired footballer, but surely it isn't better to become successful when your young than when you've retired?
THE POKER PLAYER
What makes a good No Limit Hold'em player good? What makes an excellent player excellent? What makes a bad player bad? Why time after time do we see the same old faces at the final tables in big cash prize tournaments?
An interesting point is made in David Sklansky and Ed Miller's 'No limit hold'em theory' which discusses that even if you did adopt the PERFECT strategy, you would be likely be only in the top list, but not top, and I will share with you some of the book's content below, to hopefully explain why.
Let me quote;
'Making mistakes intentionally to exploit your opponents is the right thing to do. All the best players do it. But such a strategy requires vigilance. You are leaving yourself open to attack, and sooner or later, some shrewd player will come along and start probing your weakness.'
'Say you play against people who routinely enter too many raised pots out of position. Position is such an important advantage that no one can win consistently playing a great majority of their hands from out of position. Being too willing to play out of position is a mistake. What mistake should you swap for it?'
'When these players limp in you should play more loosely and aggressively from late position. When they limp in, raise modest hands such as Js 9s suited.' 'By maximising the number of pots you play in position, you can overcome the slight weakness of your starting hands and make more money.'
'The point is, always be aware of basic no limit concepts. No matter who you are playing, the fundamentals remain the same. For every play, try to think of what the perfect play might be. Then adjust that strategy to capitalise on your opponent's weaknesses. Be aware of how your strategy deviates from an exploitable one, and watch out for opponents who might be trying to exploit your mistakes.'
As a final emphasis the writers add; 'Poker history is full of hot shot maestros who quickly racked up big wins by making just the right mistakes to exploit their regular opponents.' 'Unfortunately their egos didn't allow them to recognise their deviations from perfect play as theoretical mistakes, in their minds they were natural talents playing an unbeatable game.' 'Then the sober, seasoned players moved in, systematically targeting the maestros and their mistakes.'
David Sklansky and Ed Miller No Limit Hold'em Theory (Page 120)
I think the main point here being is made is that by over-capitalising just like by being over-confident can sometimes actually be a bad thing, if someone else knows how to exploit this. Over confidence can lead to a reduction in quality of performance and results, and disaster if you meet the wrong player on the poker table. As is qouted in the film 'Rounders' don't be the sucker, just after Matt Damon loses out to a better full house when he is holding A9 on a A99 flop. Be vigilant, aware and know your open, just as much as you know yourself.
KEEPING A CLEAR HEAD
In turn, how can reading books on poker help you improve your game? I think it is essential to not become over obsessed with playing poker, let's face it it can be addictive, and so it's important to keep your ideas fresh and maintain a healthy mental balance by turning your attention towards a variety of different key books.
There are countless self development books on how to invest money in other ways, work out the stock exchange (index funds!), money making ways of thinking and a regular pile of fiction and non fiction novels. In my opinion, it all helps. Take a holistic approach to learning. It's important not to just be always thinking poker, poker, poker otherwise you'll wear yourself out (and become one dimensional card board cut out girl or boy with poker tattooed on your forehead.)
My favourite writer being (off the card talk topic for a moment) Bernard Cornwell who created the Sharpe Chronicles and the Last Kingdom - I can highly recommend these novels if you are in to adventure/historical/war themed novels. Both these series are also on Netflix I think.
If you are looking for an action adventure novel connected with gambling and the Casino lifestyle, turn to no other than Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond books. The character of Bond is developed as not just the womanising, drinking, all time heroic winner who defeats the bad guys in the name of the UK secret service, but also as a more holistic rounded figure with multi faceted personality, the opposite of the perhaps one dimensional secret agent depicted in most of the Hollywood films. Although arguebly the films with Daniel Craig give Bond more substance.
Remember the ridiculous scene in Casino Royal where we see all four remaining players reveal monster hands (full houses and flushes) for a multi million euro pot? Only for Bond's hand (the last to act) to show down 7s (spades) and 5s (spades) and win with a straight flush. I will admit, that is one of my favourite hands in poker and I have won big atleast twice with it; and laughably I think every time I was inspired by Daniel Craig in this movie as I clicked on the 'call' button.
Of course knowing the stuff is only half the battle, as you've then got to go and apply it, but reading books to develop your knowledge is priceless. So the overall moral of this article is read and learn because the more you learn, the more you'll earn!
Thank you for reading.
One final note: like with many of these low suited one gap connected cards such as 7s (spades) 5s (spades) use them sparingly and only when you feel the time is right. Sometimes you hit those dream flops and catch the opponents holding AA and KK unawares, for instance, but don't over play them, unless you want to lose a lot of money that is.
Next up in the following two posts: 4 short poker book reviews. Daniel Negreanu's 'Hold'em Wisdom for All Players', Phil Helmuth's 'Play like the Pro's', Larry W. Phillip's 'Zen and the Art of Poker' David Sklansky and Ed Miller's 'No hold'em Poker Theory'.
Good luck all on the tables! Hope the Poker Gods are with you. Just like Bond. James Bond.