Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2013) in Poker Player newspaper.
This is another one of those days when I’ve instructed my interviewer to ask non-specific questions. I’m not in the mood to be pinned down.
You might argue that, since this is the latest in my series of self-interviews, I’m actually instructing myself to ask only nebulous questions. Well, you can complain and quibble all you want, but that’s the way it’s going to be.
Question 1: What would you like to talk about first? And please explain what it means.
Let me answer it this way. The question, as I understand it, is when should you quit a poker game? There are several reasons to quit, and solid reasons to keep playing, even when many players think they should quit.
Here’s the deal. The trick is to find games where you can make the most money possible at reasonable risk. Notice that I said, “the most money possible.” That means you shouldn’t always remain in a game that’s profitable. There may be more profit in switching to another game. And if the profit is too thin to justify the time you’ll invest, you’re probably better off not playing. So, quit.
One thing you shouldn’t do is quit in order to preserve a win. That’s never a good reason. Dividing your playing time into artificial days or sessions is silly. The only reality is how you do overall. It’s much better to win $500 once and lose $50 three times than to win $50 three times and lose $500 once. In fact, in the first case, you net a $350 profit and in the second you suffer a $350 loss — so it’s a $700 difference.
Yet, somehow, some players feel better about amassing many wins, even if small. Winning many days in a row shouldn’t be your goal. Only your long-term results matter.
Specifically, you shouldn’t quit a game because you might lose your profit. That profit is potentially fleeting, and you’re just as likely to lose it tomorrow as today. It should be considered only a small part of the big poker game — one that lasts forever. Mentally breaking it up into segments doesn’t change this simple reality: The more hours you play under profitable circumstances, the more money you’re likely to win.
If conditions are favorable and you’re not tired or impaired, physically or emotionally, stick with it. If you quit now, you’ll only be playing fewer profitable hours — whether you end up winning or losing this time.
But, if you’ve been losing and opponents are inspired and playing better against you, because they perceive you as a target, that’s often a time to quit. You don’t have psychological control of the table.
Question 2: Thank you. Could you answer my second non-specific question now?
Sure. Here’s the simple answer: The way to make opponents call more often with losing hands is to be unpredictable, but nice.
Some players take the opposite approach. They try to manipulate other players toward confusion by being hostile and by criticizing opponents; decisions. That’s a sure way to temporarily make opponents uncomfortable and, perhaps, play poorly.
But it’s too short-term to be a profitable solution. Those same weak opponents will now avoid some of your pots for fear of further embarrassment. They may even decide not to play against you at all in the future. If so, you’ve damaged your poker business by alienating your best customers.
Yes, you should try to bewilder opponents. But do it in a fun and friendly way. Then they’ll call you again and again, when they’re taking the worst of it. And they’ll do it gladly, because losing to you will seem almost painless.
Question 3: My third question is directly related to what you’re about to address. So, could you talk about that?
Bluffing is a key factor in poker, and your question does nothing to diminish that fact. Still, bluffing isn’t always important for the reason that most players think.
The truth is that almost all poker players lose money bluffing for their lifetimes. Why? It’s because the aggregate of opponents exhibits the weakness of calling too often. And if opponents call too often, then bluffing — on average — is unprofitable. That doesn’t mean there aren’t special times, against certain opponents, when you can make money bluffing. But it does mean that, for most players, if they had never bluffed, they’d be richer today.
So, more money is made by the threat of bluffing, not by the act of bluffing. That’s why you should try to development a playful and confusing demeanor that will bring you more calls, because opponents think you might be bluffing.
Once you’ve established that image, you don’t need to bluff at all.
Question 4: My final question relates to several other things that are important to serious poker players. Would you care to discuss them?
Maybe some other time. Your question doesn’t seem focused to me. Or maybe I’m just losing my train of thought. — MC