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Alan25main’s 6 Cardinal Poker Vices

October 10, 2018

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October’s a month full of scares, but don’t let your sins at the table haunt you! Alan25main shares the 6 cardinal poker vices that he thinks you should avoid.

Initial overconfidence. Good starts do not guarantee good finishes. Just like pretty people can break your heart, pretty cards can break your bankroll. Either will leave you crying. Hold’em is a seven card game; if you haven’t seen all seven cards, your information is still incomplete and you may still be beaten. That translates to mean sometimes you WILL be beaten by the river. Note that “sometimes” could well mean seventeen times in a row or only once during the remainder of your lifetime; that’s what random means. Other than not playing, there’s no pattern that’s perfectly safe to follow before the final card hits the table, and even then there is often doubt about the strength of your opponents’ hole cards. If you don’t act with some caution, you expose yourself to more risk than you may desire. Act accordingly.

Arrogance. “The odds don’t apply to me unless I have great starting cards, and then they favor me SO much, any time I lose it’s a BAD beat.” Not really. It’s just a beat. Suppose you have 6-6 in the hole and the flop is K-6-K. It looks impressive. You go all in. Two opponents call. What do you suppose they hold? Yes, they each have a K. Are you the favorite to win? Yes. But, there is another card in each of their hands, which likely means there are six “outs” between those two players, just for the turn and an additional nine outs if the turn misses. The only possible improvement for you is the single cased six, which might be in another player’s hand already. So, yes, you can lose. If so, it won’t be a BAD beat, your opponents were justified in calling. It’s just a beat. Six outs are 50% more than the four outs to hit an inside straight (nine outs are the same odds as a flush draw)–and how often do inside straights (or flushes) show up? Often enough to call for caution.

Failure to know your customers. If Player A only comes in when he has big cards, be cautious raising him with your pair of 8s. If Player B raises the minimum every hand she’s in, you need to open your calling range a bit. If Player C always smooth calls with top-pair-top-kicker or a set when under the gun, beware of a sudden check-raise (and be aware some play that way even from the button, those sandbagging rascals!). Most players follow patterns of betting. Learn their patterns and you can often read their hands without having to see their cards by calling their bet. For example, I know at least one player who always uses the entire betting clock when he has no hand, but can’t get his chips in fast enough if he connects to the nuts.

Lack of awareness and/or not paying attention. Failure to consider how each new board card changes your prospects or how a “perfect” river card for the opponent(s) can destroy you might be fatal for your stack. If a hand is possible from the board cards, it’s dangerous to assume that top hand isn’t out there somewhere just waiting for you to bet into it. I recently saw the following hand: All folded to the Cut Off who smooth-called with K-3 off-suit. Little Blind called, BB checked the option. The flop was K-5-A rainbow. Hmm, this has possibilities, thought our player. Little Blind checked. Big Blind went all in. What do you suppose BB held? Our man called all in. And lost to A-x when neither improved. Could the loss of that stack have been avoided? Of course it could. Our man called with a “bad” K (1st mistake), then compounded the error by calling with what he should’ve known was not the top pair (2nd mistake). And then complained about it, loudly. No, the player wasn’t Phil Hellmuth.

Lack of courtesy to your fellow players. This can have many forms, such as hostile chat, constant hyper-aggressiveness in betting, an offensive player name and/or avatar, playing when so distracted by outside concerns as to be untimely at the table, and I’m sure you can think of more. If you hope to receive kindness from your fellow players, you must be kind to them as well. None of us can wait for some authority figure to come along to enforce “kindness.” Just like obeying traffic laws, we each have to do it on our own or the system fails for all of us.

Learn to live with unsatisfied curiosity. Leon was the worst poker player I’ve ever seen. He only played family games at the kitchen table, 1¢ – 2¢ limit (he always lost at them, but he’d cadge coins from his wife’s stacks). I let him play in the monthly 5¢ -25¢ game exactly once. That game’s average loser would lose $1.50 to $2.50 over five to six hours. Leon lost $15.50 in three hours before he went home broke.

Leon’s problem was curiosity. He HAD to know what the next card was. He called every bet and raise of almost every hand. I think he folded twice at 7-stud when he could see from opponent’s up-cards that he was drawing dead. Other than that, he kept EVERYBODY honest. Think about it: why would anyone bother trying to bluff when they already know they’re going to be called?

Observation shows about 90% of all the chips we win here at Replay come from only about 10% of the hands we play. A majority of our other hands get folded before the showdown. We must minimize the chips wasted on our marginal hands by folding our less-promising cards as early–which means as cheaply–as possible. Or, risk being Leon.”