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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Grinding Online - Don’t Play Poker When…

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Most poker players look for any excuse to sit down and play a little poker.  The beauty of the online poker experience is that a game can be found any time and anywhere you have your computer and an Internet connection.  What I have found is that, with 24-hour availability, it is much more important to know when NOT to play poker.  Here are a few tips:

Don’t play poker when: 
Your wife (or husband) calls you on the phone in the middle of a hand.  I can’t tell you how much money I have lost continuing to play while talking to my spouse about one issue or another.  Both poker AND your relationship deserve your full attention (at least if you want to last long at either of them).  If you are in the middle of a tournament, and the call is not an emergency, let your loved one know it, and call them back.  If you are playing in a cash game, click on the “sit out next hand” button, and focus on your spouse.  Both your bankroll and your home life will thank me.

Don’t play poker when:
You know that the technicians from the utility company are coming to do work on your home, and will be shutting off the power to your house (and hence, your Internet) any minute.  Yes, this happened to me just two nights ago!  I knew they were coming, and as the truck pulled up and they came around to the back of the house, I got involved in “just one more hand” of no limit hold’em.  Fortunately for me, I clicked on my all in river bet about a half-second before the power went out (I went back later and saw that the money was safely in my account).  

Don’t play poker when:  You’ve had more than one alcoholic beverage.  Yes, the Eli Elezra - Scotty Nguyen heads-up cocktail party-cum-bracelet race made for entertaining television awhile back, but the quality of poker for two great players wasn’t very high.  I’ve found that one drink can add a bit of an edge to what might be a more passive style, and can throw off opponents who think they have you pegged, however, any more than that usually leads to reckless aggression, sloppy decision making and loss chasing.  Don’t mix your entertainment with your poker business, and you will have more money left over at the end of the day for additional entertainment!

Don’t play poker when:  You notice that you are playing and/or chasing too many hands.  There often comes a time in a session when you realize you seem to be hitting hands on the flop like middle or bottom pair, or a weak two-way draw in high-low stud.  You see those hands to the bitter end, only to realize you are beaten yet again.  Remember that, to paraphrase Zen and the Art of Poker, poker is a series of passive folds punctuated by a few acts of controlled aggression.  When you find yourself simply coming along for the ride too often, just walk away.

Don’t play poker when:  You are angry.  It is very ineffective to try and take out your frustrations at the poker table.  Anger is likely to breed more anger, and, as a result, the first time you are beaten by a miracle river card, your anger will increase tenfold, and before you know it, you will be on tilt, leading to a major hemorrhaging of your bankroll or the destruction of a very expensive piece of computer equipment.  Do what you need to do to get yourself in the proper frame of mind BEFORE you sit down at the table.

Don’t play poker when: You are tired.  I’ve read the exploits of online players who have literally fallen asleep in the middle of late-night tournaments, and have woken up to find that they still made the money!  There are times when I’ve been so frustrated with the quality of my play that I felt I would have done better by doing just that (and haven’t we all been knocked out of tournaments long before the dead money players who never showed up!).  But, as a general rule, you will play better when you are well rested.  You will notice more of what is going on, be more aware of what other players are trying to do, avoid traps that are being set for you and have the clarity of mind to determine your best course of action.  I’ve found that the first thing that usually disappears when you are tired is your patience.  When your body is crying out for sleep, it is much easier to convince yourself to throw away the rest of your chips on a prayer that a more rested self would know has zero chance of being answered.

Don’t play poker when:  The fish finally busts out, leaving only the sharks behind.  A lucrative cash game can quickly dry up when the player who is fattening everyone’s bankroll either loses all their money or finally realizes they are the weakest link and leaves.  Unless you know you are a better player than most of those still at the table, simply move on and look for another juicy game.  The beauty of online play is that there are always thousands of tables to choose from and lots of players eager to lose money at many of them.  Always be on the lookout for changes in table dynamics, and don’t be shy about leaving when they change for the worse.

Don’t play poker when:  Your seven year-old wants to sit on your lap while you are playing.  I remember a story about gambling my late father once told me.  He had begun to bet on football games in the late 1950’s, and was watching a game on television with a friend of his who was a much more “serious” gambler.  His friend’s young son walked into the room to give his dad a hug, just as the father realized that he had lost his bet on the game.  The dad, furious that he had lost, smacked the kid hard across the face without even thinking about what he was doing.  My father realized at that moment that he could easily become just like his friend, and decided to stop betting on football.  

My point is this:  One of the attractions of poker is its intensity.  It is a place where we challenge ourselves against others, where money, sometimes lots of it, changes hands rapidly.  It brings out many of our deepest, and some of our darkest, emotions.  It is essential for our own health, and the health of our relationships, that we learn to separate what happens at the poker table from what happens in our other interactions.  When you give your child your attention, the payoff is higher than any pot you will ever win in poker.

See you at the tables!  

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