We have all been there at some point in our lives and faced that horrible feeling – when every poker strategy we applied failed to yield results and we kept losing, losing, losing… till it felt like the end of the world!
The most important personality trait for a good poker player
The world of poker, like many other things, is a place of uncertainty, a scene of chaos punctuated by some semblances of control – our ability to raise or call or fold at certain moments.
Despite this, poker is a very profitable game for some people and a losing proposition for many others. Do you know why? It is because of the way how some players handle this uncertainty. The best poker strategy when all goes wrong is to keep a level, rational head and act in a sane manner even when your opponents are pummeling you hard; the best poker strategy when all goes wrong is to try and decode the weird playing styles of some of your opponents to the best of your ability.
You also have to create your games and keep those games running for as long as you can. Often the line demarcating a weak player from a strong one is a thin one. It is not how good you play when you are already winning that is the deciding factor. It is how well and how skillfully you can play even when you are on a complete losing streak that decides who is a truly good player. Let me explain with the help of an easy metaphor.
Both a good captain and a weak one will be able to steer their ship to the harbor in calm weather. But it takes nerves of steel and infinite amount of skill to weather a bad storm. The case is the same with poker when everything goes wrong. At the risk of belaboring the point, the nature of poker is uncontrollable and unpredictable – it hardly ever goes as expected, which also is pretty much what lends beauty to the game.
Some things to keep in mind
There are two qualities always found in top poker players who consistently win in high stakes skill games. One is their relentless observational skills. (Most weak players are characterized by their lack of observational skills, they are too engrossed in their own hands to really bother about how their opponents are playing. Nor do they care to absorb or follow all the action that is happening around them).
Good or strong players watch every single action around them with keen hawk-like eyes and improvise accordingly. The other factor which separates good players from weak ones is how they react and respond to value bets. Weak players make a lot of huge mistakes while dealing with value bets.
The problem with most poker players who are on an endless losing streak is that they start becoming fatalistic – they think fate is conspiring against them. In reality, there is probably something wrong with their game. And when you are losing right, left, and center, it is time to reexamine your game, take account of your mistakes and sharpen and refine your own skill set.
When players are on a winning streak and are blinded by the money they are acquiring, they do not really care to indulge in any self examination because they are too busy reveling in the success and rubbing their opponents’ faces in it. The same players when on a losing streak turn into a brooding introvert and curse the gods when they should be dissecting their strategies and mistakes.
Change gears to reduce the rate of loss
Let me offer you a strategy that you may adopt if you are losing continuously. While playing a game of poker, all players change their gears consciously as per plan. So their playing styles become different towards the end of the game. When a player is on a losing streak, I will advice him to gear down. You don’t require speed now, you need loads of traction. And it is also time now to play the best possible starting hands – the excellent starting hands only and nothing short of that. This translates into throwing away several good hands one after another, many of which would have been winning hands. And performing such a strategy requires a lot of discipline and patience.
When you gear down while losing, it minimizes your fluctuations in bankrolls and you can squeeze out a few wins as you are avoiding all those close calls and speculative hands that may result either in a win or a loss. Your usual average hourly winning rate will go down and you will have to sit at the poker table for longer hours, but the game will become a lot more predictable as you’ll mostly win the winning hands you play.
Bluffing isn’t such a great idea when you’re down
When a player is continuously winning at the poker table, he can get away by bluffing with impunity because his table image is formidable. But when you are on a downward losing spiral, your image takes a beating and you can’t afford to bluff as you will be caught easily. Don’t let that happen to you by bluffing. It’s bad enough that you’re on a losing streak without letting your opponents kick you even more. It doesn’t matter if you were the biggest winner in a particular game of poker throughout the last couple of years. If you have lost the last three times in a row and are about to lose this one too, your opponents will call your bet, raise even with weaker hands and take pot shots at you. In short, your strong image is busted in their eyes and they will take direct hits at you.
The only way to rectify the bad image your losing streak gives you at the poker table is by winning a few huge pots. As soon as you start winning, your opponents will perceive you differently again, and you will be able to get away with the kind of bluffs that you can’t at the moment. However, it all comes in good time. Until then, gear down and get your basics right.