by Kathy of Players Choice Magazine
Poker can be a very frustrating game at times - even a heartbreaking one. As you've no doubt seen in televised tournaments time and time again, having the best hand at the start doesn't always mean you'll win the pot.
As a matter of fact, since you have to decisively commit your chips when you have the best of it, a premium hand can actually cost you the tournament. It's the case of the right play at the wrong time, pure and simple. But that's part of poker - the thorn in the rose, so to speak.
The same applies to cash games, where a lucky draw-out by a bad player can cost you dearly. When it happens, you have to remind yourself that it's those lucky catches that bring poor players back to the table again and again. Now hear this: That money will come back to you over time if you continue to play a patient, solid game.
In poker, as in life itself, there are no guarantees. You can only make the best decisions you can and hope for the best. That means, among other things, practicing patience by awaiting good starting hands before entering pots.
But even 'pocket rockets,' the heart stopping A-A that's the highest possible starting hand in
, loses a substantial number of pots - especially against several opponents who are all chasing draws or hoping to hit a second paid or three of a kind on the last betting rounds. One of them is bound to hit something and snatch away what you already thought of as "your pot." Let there be no mistake about it - it really hurts when that happens.
The same is even more true for "pocket cowboys," or K-K. A casual browse through any online poker forum yields numerous posts from players recounting how their kings were beaten so many times in a row that they hated to see "those ace magnets" appear once again in their hands.
The truth? K-K makes considerable money over time, but when you're running badly, "bad beats" causing them to lose can seem to happen a lot. If an ace doesn't flop to give someone playing A-small the only higher pair than yours, it seems that the turn or river all too often rewards terrible players who "chase with an ace," in the hope of catching one of the three remaining aces in the deck.
Mathematically, it's terrible play to chase that "three-outer" but you'll see it time and time again, especially in the low-limit games that constitute 85% or more of all poker games spread in North American casinos. There will be times that none of your excellent hands hold up against the chasers. Again, it's all part of poker.
But the real problem comes if you react emotionally to such beats and let them pull you off your best game. After you've lost a good number of chips with premium hands to opponents who had mangy dogs all the way, only to catch "miracle cards" on the end, it's easy to lose your patience completely and throw discipline completely to the winds. DON'T!
For players lacking patience won't win consistently. Lowering your starting hand standards for lack of patience is liability you can't overcome, no matter how much you've studied. Without patience, knowledge can't bring success. Knowledge is important, but patience is crucial. Without it, you'll never be a winning player.
Tip: When you're on tilt (over the edge emotionally to the point where you've lost all patience and discipline), you're in real trouble. Take a break until you're able to return to your usual solid, patient, selectively aggressive game. your bankroll will thank you.
It's worth remembering that you don't have to be one of the best players in the world to move into the plus column on a regular basis - that's one of the great things about poker. A moonlighting musician makes money. So can a moonlighting poker player.
Of course, you'd have to play at a much higher level of understanding to beat the world-class players you see on TV. Just remember you don't have to make a full-time career of poker right now. But with discipline and study - and a great deal of poker patience, you can become a consistent winner.
Remember: All forms of poker incorporate an enticing blend of skill and luck. Skill and patience always reward good players over time, while luck reel in the fish that constitute their prey. Which would you rather be?