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Alan25main’s 5 Cardinal Virtues of Poker

September 18, 2018

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What your personal “virtues” when it comes to poker? Player Alan25main shares his top five — the cardinal virtues that he always keeps in mind when playing the game. Read his list, and then share your own in the comments!

“Every poker player has virtues and vices. Let’s look at the virtues today and save the vices for later. There are others, I’m sure, but these are the virtues I consider “cardinal.”

Patience. As anyone who has played more than a few hands can attest, most hands are not worth playing and should be discarded as cheaply as possible. Yes, there will be times when the situation forces you to play cards you know in your heart are inadequate–say, in the final rounds of a tournament when it becomes win or die–but such times should be the rare exception, not the normal rule. It takes a lot of patience to wait for that good situation to develop.

Should you try to rush the game with prematurely large bets and raises, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to “fit or fold.” You also establish yourself as the player with the target on their back. Aggressive should not mean foolhardy. We’ve all seen players–and others–blessed with wonderful starts that never come to fruit. Don’t confuse a great starting hand with a good finishing hand; what matters is how it ends, not how it begins. Conserve your chips to invest in hands that are promising, not the marginal ones.

Patience also means you should play at levels you can afford without constantly having to replenish or add chips to your stack. If you have no patience, you’ll still have few chips months–or years–or a lifetime–from now.

Respect for your opponents. If you begin by assuming your unknown opponent is a fool, at least one of you will be correct. Your opponent has reasons for the moves they make just like you do. When they call your bet, they must have some hope of beating you. Yes, when they bet or raise into you, they may be bluffing, but it isn’t always worth the price of finding out. Learn what their habits are; we all tend to fall into patterns of behavior. If Player A never bets or raises without the top pair, suit your response to that. There is danger in judging others by what you would do. Rather, judge them by their own thoughts and actions.

Emotional stability. How often do we see a player react from anger after being beaten when he thought he had the pot won? How often do we see a player call a big bet with a marginal hand out of sheer frustration? How often do we see players give up in tournaments when they still have chips but are very unlikely to finish in the money? Some days, the cards just seem unfavorable. How do you handle that? (Hint: see Patience above.) When a player is thinking clearly, better decisions get made resulting in better outcomes.

Knowledge. Knowledge breaks down into four parts in this order: the rules, your opponents, yourself, and the various odds of something happening. The rules are simple, but essential. Every day, someone misreads his hand (I’ve done that within the past month). If you can only be expert in one thing, make it the rules.

It’s important to know what your opponents are doing. The best guide to that is by knowing what they’ve done in the recent past. Study them, then beat them.

You ought to think about what you want from the game, what YOUR objectives are. They may not be the same things I want or what your friends want; they don’t have to live your life, bear your burdens, or enjoy your triumphs. You do.

Finally, there’s knowledge of the basic odds. It isn’t necessary to memorize vast tables of mathematics, but you do need a basic understanding. It won’t make much difference to you to know the odds of hitting an inside straight are 11.5 to 1 against, you only need to know it isn’t likely to be a good bet unless the pot is very large compared to the cost of calling. What you need to know most is when you do–or do not–have a good hand, with “good” being relative to the situation and the known board cards (if any).

Caution. We all know that unlikely things happen at the tables. Caution is what keeps us alive and in the game when over-confidence gets us busted out. Royal flushes occur about once per every 650,000 hands. If you check the statistics, you’ll see that within the past day or so there have likely been not one, but two to four here at Replay. I don’t know if that includes any that happened in Royal Poker, but it doesn’t really matter. In live games, I’ve only seen two in about 60 years of playing. When there are this many games going on and this many players participating in them, practically every possible occurrence will happen to someone at some time. Be aware to the possibility of a sudden reversal of fortune.

If you practice these virtues, at and away from the games, two things will result: you will be happier and your bankroll will grow. Be virtuous and prosper.”