Target Practice

Some people have an amazing way of painting targets on their face…  The problem is most of them have no idea they are being targeted, or why for that matter. So to start off today, I’d like to talk about some things that can make you a target at the poker table.

With poker being a game that utilizes most of our senses one of the very first things we notice at a poker table is smell. There’s nothing worse than sitting at a table next to someone with poor hygiene! Please take a shower. Wear clean cloths. Brush your teeth. In a worst case scenario, at least take the cologne bath… If you are experiencing issues with any of these things and playing poker comes to mind long before showering, you and I need to sit down and have a chat… I mean seriously, in the shortest poker games you’re going to be in an enclosed close quartered area for 1-3 hours. Please have the awareness that you’re not alone and that everyone around knows you smell. This smell will most likely have people looking to knock you out of the game as soon as the chance arises. No one will feel the slightest bit sad that you are gone. I’m not the only person who thinks this. The WSOP added a rule during the 2010 World Series of Poker just for this.

The next people that comes to mind are the “loud mouth know it all” guys. We’ve all played cards with that guy who’s loud, obnoxious, and berating. An interesting article written about this supports my theory. ( Let me just say this, you are instantly a target. No one wants to sit with you. Don’t be that guy who thinks he knows everything at the table. If you are the guy who yells at players for beating you, or yells if a player gets lucky, you aren’t welcome at my table. Everyone has their own version of playing poker. No one is right, and no one is wrong. Sure there are rules of thought to this game, but not everyone is tied to them. The aggressive players at the table are going to turn over sub par hands more times than not, and the tight players are going to turn over top 10 hands. But that doesn’t make one player better than the other. That doesn’t give you the right to yell at a player. There is no reason to raise your voice at a table. I understand this can be an emotional game, if you want my respect, stand up and walk away. Express your emotions somewhere else. Come back to the table with a calm collected demeanor, and you won’t have the target the loud mouths have developed.

The next player that inevitably gets targeted, is a close cousin to the loud mouth know it all. He’s the guy that never shuts up. “I folded 7-2 off suit there… It’s would have won!” “I’ve had that hand 6 times today…” Really? Do you think people at the table are actually listening to you? All they’re thinking about is first break, that first chance to get a break from you. You may be the nicest person in the world, and have the kindest intentions, but if you are the motor mouth at the table, be ready for the target. Nobody wants to hear about all the hands you could have won if you would have played bad cards. You’re not gaining any brownie points from anyone. Sure, banter at the table is great! Good conversation can pass the time, but keep the meaningless chatter to a minimum… Every single person has folded cards that have hit. It’s part of poker. No one wants to hear about, every single hand…

Poker is not the liveliest game out there… sometimes it can be out right boring. We’ve all experience it. This is one of the reasons I always suggest people bring some items to keep themselves entertained (books, tablets, phone, music…). So this brings me to the next target, the “Take Forever Guy.” You know who I’m talking about here… The guy who takes a full minute to fold, in first position, pre-flop… Let me put it this way, the decision to fold takes 2 seconds. You look at your cards and make a decision. There is no reason to ever take this long folding pre-flop. If you’ve made it part of your game to take as much time as excessively possible to make your decisions, you have a problem. When a clock is called on you every single time it’s your turn to make a decision, you will have made yourself a target at the table. This guy is almost the worst guy to play with… He drags out the game. He eats up clock time, letting people see fewer cards between blind levels… He forces us to sit longer with the people who invade our sense of smell, and the people who burst our eardrums… I will be the guy calling for a clock to start on you the moment your turn starts. I enjoyed reading this article: (Whats amazing is how many of the things he mentions have actually crossed my mind playing cards with the “Take Forever guy.”)

As I say nearly every time I close, I don’t know everything there is to know about poker… but if these thing I’ve mentioned are part of your game plan coming to the poker table, please rethink your game plan. No one wants to sit with you. When you do sit, you wont be welcomed with open arms… I have seen people cheer when these people get knocked out… This practice is not something I condone, but I understand it… Please be respectful of others at the table. This is a game, and it’s meant to be enjoyed, not exploited…

Thanks again for visiting my little whole in the wall, and may many pots be push in your direction!

Riding the Wave of Emotional Poker

Cool, calm, and collected. Starting each and every tournament with this frame of mind is a start in the right direction. Sitting down with the right frame of mind is one of the most important parts or getting ready to play competitive tournament poker. Taking steps to not letting your emotions get the best of you when you loss a hand, as well as when you win can save you in tight situations.

Frustration is one of the hardest emotions to understand, control, or overcome. Having the ability to overcome this emotion will make you a better poker player. “On the River?!” or “You called with that?!” or “You check raised me?!” are all examples of quick emotional responses to actions that surprise you negatively during a poker game. Having these reactions affect you and many other. The effect can be long-lasting, to you and your opponents.

Here are some steps you can take to developing control of your emotions:

  • Practice calming yourself down. Develop your own breathing techniques that you are comfortable with that soothe you. I like to keep a picture of my kids with me when I play and when the times get stressful I pull it out and take a little “me time.”
  • Getting familiar with the math involved. Knowing that you’ve got the hand 100% locked up is a rare situation. Going into each situation knowing that even the worst hands in poker have math that proves they can win once in a while is calming.
  • Slowing your actions down. Take time to develop your movements. Find a comfortable way to position yourself during the hands. Make controlled actions. Folding with the same movements. Betting with the same movements. (this is also a way to lower the amount of information you’re giving the other players)
  • Take time to use the math and consider you actions. Always know what the possible hands you can lose to are. If you’re familiar with all the possibilities you have a better chance of not getting caught in a trap, and possible figure out what the player you’re up against actually has. If you are ready for it, there are no surprises and the negative emotions have no room to develop.
  • Ask for help from those closest to you. (Be that a mentor, a coach, a teammate.) These people know your weaknesses. They can help you. Talk through the hands that you’ve lost control of your emotions and find the things that set you off… absorb the information and use it.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away from the table for a hand or two to gather yourself. There’s nothing worse than letting those emotions carry over into the next hand and you’re frustration gets you knocked out… don’t let yourself go on tilt.

To add some contrast here, excitement can also affect the game in the same ways. There’s nothing worse that a player who over celebrates. There are many examples of these situation, we see them every time we turn on televised poker. Everyone knows the names of those players because they’re entertaining to watch. Well all love watch Mike Matusow, and Phil Helmuth because we know we’re going to get a show. But at the same time, they are hard to be at a table with.

When Mike Matusow wins a big pot everybody in the room knows about it. He makes sure of it. If you win a hand against Phil Helmuth he sits and mumbles about it, or berates you for just being in a hand against him. These situations have gotten so bad that they have implemented rules to protect players against it.

The emotional roller coaster you go through in any given poker hand can be taxing. Imagine this, you’re all in pre-flop with A-K against a player whose all in with J-10. You’re ecstatic to start because you’ve gotten all you’re chips in, and you’re ahead! Then the flop comes out J-10-A… He’s flopped 2 pair and you’re way behind. The emotions went from exhilarating to blah… Then the turn comes out and you hit your K! Now you’ve spiked again! you have top 2 pair versus his bottom 2. Then the river gives him the Q for the strait… The inevitable disgust kicks in and you are exhausted… After peaking twice and being drug through the mud twice what’s left in the roller coasters shenanigans…?

The key to all of this is control. Maintain your control throughout you’re event. Find ways to channel the emotions. Don’t let the loses get to you. People get lucky sometimes. You get unlucky sometimes. Don’t over exaggerate the wins… Everyone loses. If you are the guy that exaggerates the win you can guarantee that guy you beat will be there pulling you through the mud on your loses.

Here are a few links to other people who have talked about this:

Please read these and use the information. This will most definitely help you on your road to becoming a better poker player!