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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Boot Camp: Advancing in Level Thinking

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You've got A-K in a No-Limit Hold 'Em cash game. You raise and an extremely tight player in middle position calls. The flop comes K-3-Q rainbow. You bet the pot, and the player raises you. You call. You bet the pot on the turn because it's a harmless 8, and he pushes all in. What do you do?

Well, if you're a Level 1 thinker, you shove, because, hey, you've got TPTK (top pair, top kicker). But if you've played a bit, maybe read a book or two and studied the game in other ways, maybe by reading this site or checking out the e-mails sent to you from the Full Tilt pros, then you pause.

He may not have A-A, but he may have a set of 3s. He may have two pair. He may have a set of queens. He may even have a set of kings.

You fold, and he shows you his set of queens.

Congratulations. You've just graduated to Level 2.

Now let's say your toddler has been stuck inside all day, and all you've done is put out fires with the twins and basically ignored him (we are, of course, speaking theoretically, of course). And he keeps getting into the kitchen drawer and finally pulls down the drapes. Do you yell at him, or do you think about why he may be acting that way? Do you stick to Level 1 (he just pulled down the drapes; he's a bad boy) or do you move beyond it?

Level 2 thinking is a great way to make money at the poker table. But it's also a good way to keep your relationships with your spouse, your kids and your friends healthy. Unfortunately, putting ourselves in someone else's shoes is challenging. Poker can help us build those skills because if you don't think on Level 2, you'll eventually lose your stack. I have to think on Level 2 all the time around my family, especially when I'm watching my toddler.

Jayden is a challenging 2-year-old boy (what boy isn't at that age?). When I'm watching him, times can get tough, especially on Fridays, when I have him all day. So I'm constantly trying to remind myself that he's just curious when he's opening the kitchen drawer for the seventh time that day. I remind myself that he's bored when he wants outside for the 12th time that day. I remind myself when he cries for the fifth time when he's supposed to be down for his nap that, hey, it always takes me a while to settle down before I go to sleep as well.

By doing that, it prevents me from getting angry or frustrated - well, too angry or frustrated.

I've used the same exercise on my twins. They don't know it's 3 a.m., for instance, all they know is that they are hungry. And of course Kate snapped at me - she hasn't slept for three days.

Level 2 thinking can help you avoid going on tilt at the table as well. Tonight, as I'm writing this, I just lost a huge pot to a two-outer. I had A-A. He had J-J. I was unable to re-raise the flop, as I was the first in, so I could not drive him out. So he had every right to be in the hand, and yes he beat me with a lucky card, but he wasn't an idiot. It was a legitimate hand. So I'm not tilting. Not much, anyway.
Level 2 is the only way you'll get better at poker. It helps you make great lay downs, keep the pots small when they need to be, and even make more money on your great hands. In fact, if you're still stuck on what you're holding, instead of what your opponent is holding, it's time to educate yourself.

And if you're still stuck on yourself in your relationships, well, it's time for a little education before your partner educates you first.

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