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Psychological analyses and concepts
IntroductionIn this Article
- Typical problems in a poker game
- How to overcome these obstacles?
Personal management, bankroll management, table selection, creating objectives, concentration during the game, being conscious even over small amounts of time, and the ambition to play your A-game in any situation, determines about 70% of your success.
- Experience helps you to digest bad beats easier
- There is nothing more you can do when having an advantage other than putting your chips into the pot
But poker is not fair. It is fair in the long run, but when you simply look at the few hands of one session, it is not. There are four cards in a deck which can complete a gutshot, and sometimes one of these four cards appears and you're not able to prevent it. Try influencing the situations which you can have an impact on, e.g. the pot odds, which you give your opponent for his/her draw, and which secure your long-term winnings. The other sort of situations, you should simply accept.
- Good players suffer from more bad beats
Once you have played against stronger opponents and you go back to playing at your normal limit, you'll be happy to put your chips into the pot as favourite even if you have to accept a few bad beats and suck outs.
- Think about Ranges
The decisive point is that any player would have pushed his/her set here but the fact that you fell victim to a monster, does not give any information as to whether your call was good or bad. It is all determined by the range which you expected from your opponent.
When playing against an opponent who would have pushed every Ace and 77, and whose range would have enclosed A2+ and 77 (and maybe also AA/KK), there is only one hand which you are behind against. Which hand he really had, whether it was an AK, A4 or 77, is irrelevant. Decide in respect to the range of your opponent, and do not doubt your decision just because he shows a hand which beats yours. If your decision was mathematically correct, then it will stay correct. In other situations, you'll see an A4 or an AT instead of a 77. The question is not about which hand the opponent is holding, but about which hands he would have played the same way as you did way up to the point at which you had to make a decision.
You should follow the same thoughts in regards to bluffs. Let's assume you raised preflop and someone calls. The flop consists of a 754 and you make a continuation bet, which is also called. The turn reveals a ten and you and your opponent check. The river reveals a 2. You now decide to use a riverbluff, since you imagine your opponent holds a 65 or a small pair. But instead of folding, your opponent raises and after you fold, he shows a 22.
Was the river bluff the wrong decision? Not necessarily! It is understandable that the opponent does not fold after getting a lucky rivercard. But the question remains whether he would have folded the hands in his range enough times to turn the bluff into a profit. That is hard to tell. If he was not willing to fold A5o, then the bluff was wrong, since the opponent is only folding few cards in his range.
Think in hand ranges. Do not try to put your opponent into a precise hand, or question your game in retrospect because he is showing the one hand out of his range which beats you. It is only a mistake if you misjudged his range. This is very difficult and takes a lot of experience. Be careful that your assumptions are truly correct.
If someone thinks that his value bet of a middle pair/top kicker on the river will be called by all pairs of the opponent, he is able to bet "mathematically correct." But if your assumed range is wrong, and your opponent does not call with all pairs but only with top pairs, and then beats you with those, then you made a mistake, even if you tell yourself you were simply the victim of a cooler.
- The better decision
Here's a second example: I am in the big blind, the cutoff raises and I bet with 44. He calls and the board shows J54. We go all-in again and he shows QJ.
What's the difference between the two sample hands? In the first example I would have played the way the opponent did. I would have flat called preflop with AA and I would have gone all in with aces full. I was lucky to have quads and to become $400 richer. In this situation, your poker skills won't help you out since no one can get away from a set over set or quads over full house.
In the second situation I also won $400. But this time you can say that I was lucky to hit my set on the flop. Had I been my opponent, however, I would have folded preflop and I would not have gone all-in. If we had played the same game twice, I would have taken QJ once and 44 another time, and I would have still made $310-$360, just because I can fold my top pair earlier.
So whenever you are confronted with a situation in which you aren't confident about your move or whether it might have been a cooler, which pulled you down, think about what you would have done if you had been the opponent. If you make more money out of monsters with your opponent's cards, and if you lose less with bad hands, then you are better than your opponent and you will win in the long run.
It happens sometimes that your opponents receive better cards and make you lose all night. As long as you recognize the mistakes your opponents are making, however, which you yourself would not have made, then you are a winning player.
Another part is to recognize when you are simply lucky. I, for example, dared to take a shot at NL400. I was able to increase my $600 to $2500 in one session, and then leave the table. I felt like the king of high limits, but when I looked at the big hands later, I had to admit that my opponents made only few mistakes and simply ended up in unlucky situations against me. I noticed I wasn't the NL 400 Pro at all, but a general luckbox regular. This insight is helpful to avoid -EV limits.
Remember, not all mistakes you think you notice are actually mistakes. If you are a bad poker player, you will notice mistakes that aren't in fact real mistakes. Another problem appears because some situations favor a certain type of player. If you want to avoid mistakes by giving up good, but not excellent, hands, rocks make less mistakes than maniacs. Therefore, if good hands are playing against good hands, then, according to the above model, rocks make less mistakes than their opponents, even though they possibly are worse players.
- The big pots are important
- Its all one big session
It does make sense, of course, to end a session when you are tilting, if your opponents are better players, or if you want to do something else. Those are reasons which influence your profit. But don't end a session just because you gained $1.20 and don't want to lose money. You might lose money tomorrow and what's the point of having a bit more money on the online account over night?
- Don't try to force a winning
- For members of PS.com, poker is a large freeroll
Instead you should say that you found a hobby which you like, that you additionally own $400, and that you have prospects of wining much more. You made $400 out of $50, and the $50 was a gift. Where did you lose? Be aware that no matter what you do, you just cannot lose.
- Do not try to change your style radically
It is good to think about concrete changes in order to eliminate leaks or to make certain situations more profitable. Maybe you notice that you should complete less at the small blind, or you recognize that you should fold more often with a top pair on the flop because you have a hard time letting go of your hand and hence lose money.
But you should not change your entire strategy like "I should become more loose and raise at least 20% of my hands" or "I have to become much tighter and hardly make any conti-bets."
It is already bad to radically change your game under normal circumstances. Doing so during a downswing is a really bad idea.
- Downswings are mathematically possible
On the other side, it is only human and convenient to call losses downswings. If you cannot distinguish between downswing-losses and losses due to a bad game, then you're likely to lose even more money.
Note the following thoughts on this:
a) A beginner is more of a bad player than an unlucky player. No champion ever fell out of heaven and the majority of beginners are bad poker players. Poker takes practice, and as freshmen, you should never consider yourself a natural talent who simply got unlucky.
Instead you should try to improve your strategy and realize that it will take a great deal of experience (long hours in the forum) to become a good player. Good players, who are playing above their level, should also be aware of this fact.
b) If you have high expectations, you experience few bad streaks, and if you have a winrate right above zero, you have a very large variance. If you have dominated a limit over a long period of time (e.g. with 12 PTBB/100 over 60K hands) and then experience a downswing, you should not consider this bad luck. It is unlikely that such a large win falls this drastically.
On the other hand, if someone only has marginal wins (and this happens especially at high limits), he suffers from downswings quite frequently. If you are sure about your ability to beat the limit, preferably with a large sample size, then you can stay at the limit. Be sure to note that you have a high variance in this situation. If you do not want high variance, you should step down to a smaller limit, which you can confidently beat.
c) Many players increase their losses during a downswing. I believe that 2/3 of the downswings are not simply due to bad luck. Many people tilt and lose 14 buy-ins, while otherwise their loss would have only been 8-9 buy-ins.
There are very subtle forms if tilting. You don't necessarily have to be angry to tilt. Being a bit frustrated or having a larger willingness to call, leads to large losses and is many times not regarded as a tilt even though they hurt you immensely. Ending a bad session is an effective method of preventing tilts.
- Remember your successes
ConclusionThis article was written in order to teach you that downswings, bad beats, coolers and unlucky hands are simply part of the game. You cannot always win. You should not let bad streaks influence you, but you should ask yourself whether you played the hand the right way, whether you would play it the same way again, or whether there is something else you can learn from your experience.
Those are the ups and downs of poker. You can still win if you learn how to deal with setbacks and if you look at every hand as part of a larger session in which you sometimes win and sometimes lose. You can also win if you apply the above information and win more than you lose in the long run while concentrating on making the right strategic decisions. That will put you into an excellent position over all the players who are not able to heed this simple advice.
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