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Poker Strategy | Beginner's Poker

Boot Camp: Taking A Time Out Can Really Help Your Game

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Whenever my 2-year-old, or my 2-year-old, or my 4-year-old does not display what I would call ideal behavior - like smacking me - I put her, her or him in time out.

But I'm also learning to put myself in time out when I'm not playing what I would call ideal poker.

Hey. The game is frustrating. Let's look at all the ways you can lose at poker.

1. You can have the second-best hand. So if you have a set of Aces, and someone calls you all the way down with K-2 soooted and hits their flush on the river, then you have the second best hand and you lose.

You can get sucked out on. See #1.

3. You can call all your money off when you're behind, with a flush draw, and of course you don't hit even though you really deserve it because someone outdrew you. Why can't you just hit YOUR flush one time?

4. You can then push with top pair and of course someone has two pair and so you lose yet again.

5. You can get two pair and lose to a set and OMG when is this ever going to end?

6. Screw it, I'm pushing with A-Q. A-K? OMG. Of course the donkey gets A-K when I have A-Q.

7. You can call off the rest of your stack with A-high because you're sure he's bluffing.

8. You can tilt. See #3, #4, #5, #6 and #7.

So you can lose when you're ahead, when you're behind and when you're angry because both keeps happening over and over and over.

Poker can be pretty frustrating. We've all been through at least some of those situations above, and I'd be willing to bet my bankroll that you've been through all of them. I know I have. Yes you have. Come on, admit it. We're friends here.

But I've avoided these emotions a lot more lately.

I'm just not playing as much as I used to.

I realize this is a poker site and I'm supposed to tell you to play at PokerStars or Full Tilt Poker as much as possible.

Well I'm also here to tell you that poker, at times can turn you into those rats that shock themselves every time they get a pellet.

After a while, no matter how full you are of pellets, you just keep shocking away, and you forget why you were there in the first place. You're just so numb to the pain that it doesn't matter any longer.

You really need to take a time out, and when I say a time out, I don't mean just a few minutes in a corner. I mean you need to shut the computer off and keep it off for at least a couple of days.

Here's three ways to tell when you're running bad and you're numb to the pain:

AwFukIt Calls - You start making calls because you know you're beat, but you want to see what the player has, or you desperately want to catch a two-outer and lay a bad beat on someone else, or, worst of all, you're in a funk and you want to keep feeling sorry for yourself. AwFukIt Calls are THE definition of tilt, and they will kill your bankroll.

You're Talking To Yourself - When you start to say things like "Why can't I get lucky?" "When will MY draws hit?" or "Why do I play this game?" it's time to quit.

• You find yourself surfing the Web, chatting online or watching TV. Or all at once. If you're playing poker, you need to play poker, period. If you're doing other things, that means the game isn't enough to satisfy you, and you need to quit and play when you're not so bored with it.

But I'm not here to tell you that you need to quit when you're running poorly. You've read that before, probably from me, after a bad stretch. I'm here to talk about how beneficial breaks are to your game.

Strangely enough, you can play way too much poker and numb yourself to the game when you're hot, cold or breaking even. When you're running well, you want to keep winning. When you're losing, you just want one big hand to get your hot streak started. And when you're breaking even, you just want something, anything, to knock you out of the boredom.

So here's what I did. I made sure that I played no poker on Monday and Tuesday. I made these movie nights. It was a small change, but it made me take two solid days off from poker.

That was a good start. Then I began to ask myself why I was playing on other nights and why I felt a sense of relief when I decided to put down the virtual cards rather than play.

Well, sometimes I just wanted to read or watch another movie.

Poker is a tough game, and I'm raising young twins and an active 4-year-old, as I said earlier. That's hard enough, and sometimes that relief came because my brain was saying, "Oh, good, we don't have to think much tonight. Man, that's good. I need the break."

So go through these three steps before you open up a table to play:

#1 - Make sure you feel an itch to play. If you don't feel that itch, I don't think you should play.

#2 - Ask yourself when you open the tables if you still want to play if the games aren't that great. If the answer is still yes, that's fine; that means you're playing to play and not to make a lot of money that night.

#3 - Promise yourself you will quit the moment you realize you're bored, you aren't enjoying it or you are playing to make up for the losses you've taken that night.

I can't stand it when I'm at the table and players suffer a bad beat and they ask, "Why am I playing this game?"

I usually only respond with a question: "Well, why are you?"

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