Losing your cool is arguably one of the single worst things that you can do while playing a game of poker. This is because the game is more a test of skills than simple luck. Contrary to what people think, merely being ‘lucky’ is not enough. At least not in poker. Let us see how the game can affect your mood and behavior, making it easy for your opponents to gauge your next move.
The Long Wait
Imagine that you have been sitting at a poker game for hours and are yet to acquire any playable cards. It seems as if luck is not on your side, as hand after hand turns out to be worthless. Every now and then you do get a few good cards, but the other players end up with better ones and your draw does not seem to improve at all. Under the circumstance, all you can do is sit back and wait for something to change. Over the passage of time, your stack of poker chips seems to have dwindled down to a very small pile. Meanwhile, the other players think that you are a gutless, tight fisted player who should not have been in the game to begin with.
All you can do is bluff your way through, but the other players have seen your game play and see through your bluff. They call you out time and again. In such circumstances, it is possible to lose your head and throw in everything you have in one massive bluff. A brief and succinct piece of advice—Don’t! If the players are any good, they will know exactly what you are doing, and your chips will end up being divided among them.
Think of it along the lines of ‘Chinese water torture.’ It’s not one big loss, but the ‘slow drip’ of losing a few chips at every hand might push you over the edge. If your cards are not supportive, agree with them and fold (while you still can).
“I Should Have Won!”
Let us say that you have been dealt a mediocre hand—a mishmash of low cards without any reasonable advantage. Eventually you will have to fold, right? Well, guess what? Once the others show their cards, it turns out that the winner had a hand even worse than yours. He was just bluffing his way through. So you reason that if it can work with him, it will work with you as well and the next time you get a really bad hand, you throw in the pot!
Bad move, because this time the others were not bluffing, and you are down and out for the count. After watching bad hands taking the poker pot, a person loses his concentration and replicates his opponents. This is where you can mess up big time, because you are trying to mimic someone else’s game. This is not a good idea.
“I Should Have Won Big Time!”
This is a similar situation to the ‘I should have won’ scenario. But much worse! There is a large pot and the poker players are getting ready to make a play for it. At this point in time, you are actively considering making a really tough call. But you are not sure if your hand can back your play. You decide that ‘discretion is the better part of valor’ and fold, leaving the others to fight it out.
And once the smoke clears, you realize that your ‘straight’ was miles ahead of any other hand in the game and you could have swept the whole pot. You look at the towering mountain of chips and curse yourself for being a ‘pansy’ and not having the guts to make that crucial play. Muttering bitter recriminations, you go all out the next time the pot swells in size, without even looking at your hand. And promptly, you pay the price, by being wiped out. If such an eventuality occurs, simply take a few deep breaths and leave the table. Don’t go back till you are completely calm and composed.
Don’t Bank on What You ‘Think’ You Saw
In the movies, the hero is always well versed with certain ‘tells’ of the other players. The opponent will raise his left eyebrow when he has a bad hand, or blink rapidly when he has a good one. Or he will lean well back when he decides to bluff. Or he will nibble his chocolate chip cookies a certain way, if he has a monster hand.
However, that is Hollywood for you. In real life, people are not that easy to read, and the same goes for poker players as well. In fact, a good player will be notoriously difficult to read and just might lead you up the garden path to take all your chips. Don’t lose your head if you see a player rub his hands in glee. In all probability he is setting you up for the fall.
Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight Can Get You Killed
A befitting example of this situation is when you have ‘Three of a Kind’. Everyone is raising and re-raising the pot. And you figure that they are all trying to give you their money. But that is till you show, and one by one you are faced with a Straight and a Flush, and so on and forth. Moral of the story, unless you have a Royal Flush don’t take your opponents (and by extension their hands) for granted.
The one surefire way of ‘not’ becoming a consistent winner at online poker would be to lose your head every time you sit down to play the game. In Rudyard Kipling’s immortal words:
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs….
…If you can make one heap of all your winnings and risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, and lose, and start again at your beginnings…
.. Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”