Head Games; Raising the Pots; Finding the Edge in Poker and Life Pt. 2


head games



Head Games: Dealing With Tilt And Poker’s Ups And Downs

Jonathan Little, Tim West and Noah Schwartz Share Their Thoughts

by Craig Tapscott  www.cardplayer.com     

The Pros: Jonathan Little, Tim West, and Noah Schwartz

Craig Tapscott: What are some good ways to deal with tilt at the poker table that have worked for you long-term?

Jonathan Little: I firmly believe that in order to control tilt, you have to figure out what tilts you and why. For example, some players get upset when they get unlucky, some get mad when the dealer makes an error, and others get angry when they make a mistake. The reasons for tilt are endless. I personally get somewhat tilted when I do something that is blatantly dumb, at least in my mind. In order to deal with this at the table, I write down the hand and make a point to forget about it until I review all of the hands from my session once I am done playing for the day. I then figure out why I went wrong and make a point to not let it happen again in the future.

It is mandatory to address the reasons you go on tilt in order to cure it. If you get mad when you get unlucky, you must accept that poker is a game where you will constantly get unlucky. I am shocked at the huge number of players who get angry when they get all-in with 70 percent equity and lose. It is as if they do not realize they are going to lose 30 percent of the time, and 30 percent of the time is a lot. Once you accept and embrace that this is an inherent part of the game, you will no longer tilt from it. If you get mad when the dealer makes a mistake, realize people make mistakes. Sometimes people have a bad day. Sometimes people are incompetent at their job. Everyone is not perfect. As for my tilt issue of getting mad at myself when I make an error, I had to accept that I am not perfect and that I will make mistakes. I make a point to better myself in every way possible and I work hard to think everything through such that my errors are kept to a minimum.

Another thing I do to alleviate tilt at the table is to listen to a short mp3 on my phone by hypnotist Elliot Roe that calms me down and gets my mind back in a serene state. It helps me relax and breathe, which are two things people fail to do when tilting.

Tim West: If I have adversity at the table I like to slow things down. I might do some push-ups or even grab a healthy drink. I think the best advice I can give for tilt at the table is to stay in the moment. Strategizing is one thing, but too much anticipation or dwelling on past hands or events can do nothing but negatively affect your mood and decision making.

Noah Schwartz: Discussing tilt and the various things that may cause it can be extremely tricky, because it can resemble a 24-hour stomach bug that just creeps up on you out of nowhere (laughs).

When playing cards, there are a lot of different instances that can cause a person to tilt, but usually the number one culprit is getting unlucky in a hand. But when you look at it closely, that is something that is completely inevitable.

In my opinion there are several positive ways to combat tilt. The first is to try your best at remaining cool, calm, and collected. Because upsetting yourself and going on further tilt is only going to lead to worse things. The mind is such a powerful tool. When you are tilting your mind isn’t processing information in a way in which you need it to for good decisions. If this approach is hard for you, another way is to simply take a break for a couple of minutes away from the table and just clear your head. This enables you to not make a bad situation even worse.

When players are in what I like to call tilt mode, they tend to make irrational decisions, which on the poker table will lead to one’s demise. My advice is to just take a few deep breaths, allow the oxygen to flow to the brain, and you’ll be on the right path to coping with full blown tilt.

Craig Tapscott: Poker can be a very brutal and disheartening game at times. How do you deal with the ups and downs of a poker life on a daily basis?

Jonathan Little: You must accept that sometimes you will win and sometimes you will lose when you play poker. Most people feel as if they are excellent at the game, whereas in reality most poker players are long term losers. They think they should win most of the time when they play because they think they are superior to their opponents. Of course, if you are a long term loser, you should expect to lose more often than not. If you do not keep records, play in games with a huge rake, and constantly have to reload, you are a long term loser. You can either accept this fact or work diligently at the game.

If you are a winner at the game, you must keep a huge bankroll and a huge nest egg on the side to pay your day-to-day expenses. One of the most useful things I did when coming up in the poker world was to keep my poker money and my life money totally separate. And I made a point to play only games I was properly bankrolled for. For live tournaments, you need at least 100 buy-ins in your bankroll. If you are playing $1,000 tournaments with $20,000 to your name, you must accept that you are degenerate gambling, even if you are confident you are a long term winner in the games. Once you know you are a long term winner who is constantly working to improve his game and you are also properly bankrolled, you will be well on your way to not caring at all about the standard swings that occur on a daily basis.

Tim West: I used to weigh about 280 pounds, and at that time I honestly didn’t care about health or prosperity in my life. All I cared about was having fun, playing poker tournaments, and eating room service. But at this point in my life’s journey I believe the best way to handle the stress and turmoil of poker is to prepare myself both physically and mentally. One way I do this is by making sure I exercise on a regular basis now. In addition, I pay attention to what I eat and consume nutrition that I take pride in and know is healthy for me. You can occasionally indulge yourself, but you must also find a balance.

Through my eight years playing poker seriously, both live and online, I have gained a lot of perspective in this world. When I hear people complaining about mundane things like congested traffic or a bad beat on the river, it reminds me that no matter what (barring a true life tragedy) we are extremely lucky to be breathing and taking a new step each and every day. In summary, nutrition, exercise, perspective, and family is what keeps a smile on my face every day no matter what I encounter. So you take a bad beat at the table. Get up, take a breath, and count your blessings.

Noah Schwartz: When talking about the high and lows in poker, it is analogous to a roller coaster, and being able to deal with that variance is something that takes time adjusting to and getting used to.

Let’s first discuss the lows and struggling for a given period of time, because I know it is something for the most part at one point or another is inescapable.

Take cash games as an example. One thing I have really enforced for myself when things are not going my way, no matter how hard I try, is to set a maximum loss or stopping point. In other words, I limit my exposure to a number I am completely comfortable with that won’t have an impact on me later that night or the next day or week. So this way when I am in a funk I make sure I don’t dig myself into a black hole. Another thing I do a lot to deal with the lows is go to a great spa to seek some type of mental and physical healing and mainly to get my mind off things and rest.

When we talk about the other end of the spectrum, I think Napoleon Bonaparte said it best, “the most dangerous moment comes with victory.” And it makes perfect sense when you think about it. I think what he meant by this was that the highs tend to cloud our judgment and provide our ego with this fuel that enables us to be more prideful and arrogant. So that when we come down off those highs it causes us to easily crash and burn. ?That is why when I am on a huge upswing in poker and things are amazing, I just take the time to bask in it. Why? Because I know around the next turn there is going to be a downswing or a low period. This is why it is so important to live in the now. That is what poker is all about in my opinion; being aware of the ebbs and flows of the game and learning to approach them more consciously. ?




Special reasons for raising that pot

by Irene Edith www.gamingtoday.com    

Raising in poker has always intrigued me. I was discussing the topic with my co-columnist, George “The Engineer” Epstein. He sent me a copy of a column he had written back in 2012 for Poker Player newspaper, describing “The 13 Reasons for Raising.”

He developed this list with the Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group, for which he serves as the director. (Now nine years old, the group has grown to over 200 members!) The list was fascinating. George agreed I could share some of his reasons for raising with our readers in GamingToday.

Most players understand raising provides means for building a pot (raise for value), and an opportunity to steal a pot or bluff to force out your opponents (win the pot by default). Here are a few raising strategies you may never have considered:

Improve your betting position: You are in a middle/late position with a decent drawing hand; several opponents call to see the flop. Your raise at this point may force out the players behind you who have yet to declare; the double-bet (usually more in a no-limit game) scares them off. Thus you gain the virtual button position – last to act for the rest of this hand, giving you an edge over the players who declare before you.

Get important information: Often, you are not sure how your hand stacks up against your opponents’ hands. That information can help you make better decisions later in the hand when the bets grow bigger and more is at stake.

Raise to “see” how your opponents respond. A reraise by a solid player suggests your hand likely is second-best; be cautious from then on. But, if the reraiser is a deceptive player, he may be trying to bluff you out of the pot.

That’s why it is best to use this raising strategy only when you hold a strong hand or lots of solid outs, in case you are reraised. This strategy is best (less costly) on the flop, when the bets are smaller, rather than on later betting rounds.

Isolate a maniac: It seems more and more maniacs are populating our limit games. They love to bet, raise and reraise – almost with abandon. (I saw one raise without looking at his hole cards.) It’s best to be seated just to the left of the maniac.

Example: You are in a middle position. Preflop, everyone folds to the maniac. He makes his “customary” raise. A maniac often raises with a “random hand.” You reraise. Facing a double-raise (a three-bet), your other opponents fold.

You have isolated the maniac; and have position over him. Of course, you want to have a decent starting hand when you try this, in case you are called by an opponent other than the maniac.

While you did not succeed in isolating the maniac, you did learn your opponent who called your reraise probably has a strong hand, most likely a big pair or premium drawing hand. Be cautious.

Earn a free card: Everyone loves something for free! In poker, it is being able to see the next card dealt without risking a single chip. This strategy readily applies to both no-limit and limit games.

Say you called to see the flop from a late position with two honor cards. You did not connect on the flop; now you hold six (or more) outs, such as two overcards to the board. There is a bet before you and two callers. By raising at this point, you may “earn” a free card on the next round of betting, the turn, when the bets are doubled.

Since you just raised on the flop, your opponents respect, perhaps even fear you; so they all check to you. If the turn helps your hand, you can bet to build the pot or force out drawing hands that could “river” you. If you elect not to bet, you see the river for free. Or, you might make a bet as a semi-bluff.

Your choice…

We invite your comments. Email to IreneEdith@GamingToday.com.


finding an edge 14


Finding the Edge in Poker and in Life: Part 2

by Robert Turner www.gamingtoday.com

At the end of the movie “Casino,” Ace, the Robert De Niro character, laments the passing of the old Las Vegas. “In the old days, dealers knew your name, what you drank, what you played.” I miss the old days, too, but if you are to survive today, you have to adapt to the changing landscape.

In Part 1, I touched on the subject of finding the edge in poker if you want to survive. I would like to expand on that idea and show poker players how they have the power to improve their playing conditions and even elevate the game itself.

Poker players may not understand how valuable they are. A player supporting a card room could be worth up to $50,000 a year to that casino. If your favorite casino provides all the right deals, you will become loyal and very valuable to them because you support their games with all the hours you play. I have always preached you can’t produce revenue if the players are not coming through the door. Whether you are a professional or recreational poker player, as a group we are worth millions to the gaming industry.

Casinos should understand a high limit poker game is worth over a $1 million in real money per year. When you factor in the money from their friends and other income they bring in, that is the X factor. This is an intangible number the bean counters miss on their spreadsheets, and that’s when you see perks start to disappear. The casinos have a bottom line, but you have to operate your poker business and manage your bottom line above all else.

However, some casinos do understand your worth and really reach out to their players. Many casinos are now adding extra perks for the poker players. They have rakeback up to $6 per hour and even free transportation to and from the casinos. That’s important as players search for the best return on their investment.

One of the casinos that is listening to their players is Pechanga Resort and Casino around 90 minutes outside of Los Angeles. They offer high hand money every hour beginning at noon, a free roundtrip bus ride and $10 in free play for patronizing their casino on certain days. The drop is $1 cheaper per hand than other casinos in Southern California. That alone is a reason to consider playing there. The $50 they give away every hour in high hand money for the Omaha game and $250 per hour for hold’em games is an added bonus. The fact they are adding that much money back to the table really helps a poker player’s bottom line.

Where you spend your valuable time and money is a very important decision that affects not only you, but the entire gaming industry. It’s time for players to take a stand and not just accept the status quo. Express your opinion to upper management. As someone who has spent many years on the tables and in boardrooms, I can say the higher the decision maker the more receptive they are to suggestions. They did not get to the top without the ability to listen and adapt.

If they don’t listen, play somewhere else. It’s that simple. This is the only way things will improve. The casinos are all vying for your time and money. Take the time to find the best deals and patronize those places that cater to their players and avoid the ones that provide no added value.

Speaking of added value, it’s long overdue for tournaments to add money for the players. In the old days tournament players would say, “That was a great tournament. They treated us so well. I can’t wait for the next year.” Nowadays I often hear players grumbling about the fees, the structure and all the other things they don’t like about the tournaments, yet they continue to play them. Instead of complaining to each other, wouldn’t it be more productive to take grievances to the decision makers who can change it?

At the end of “Casino,” as the images of the old casinos being imploded are shown, Ace says, “The town will never be the same…Today it’s like checking into an airport.”

In the old days, everyone knew your name. Now registering for a tournament feels like checking into an airport. The accountants have taken over, and casinos can sometimes feel like cold, sterile places. But there are still some places that remain dedicated to their players; it’s our job to find and support them.

Remember, you are the most powerful weapon. Your choices matter, whether it’s in poker or in life. That’s the greatest edge of all.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiard marketing expert, best known for inventing the game of Omaha poker and introducing it to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has over 30 years experience in the gaming industry and is co-founder of Crown Digital Games. Twitter @thechipburnerRobert can be reached at robertturner@gamingtoday.com.


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