Thinking Like a Pro, Playing Like a Donkey


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Smoking Donkey with Poker CardsI had the opportunity to stand over the should of a friend of mine while he was playing a low limit game of no limit Texas Holdem at Party Poker the other night. He had been drinking a little bit, but he also happens to be a consistent loser. He wanted me to watch him play to point out some of the weak points in his game and that’s just what I did. I was amazed at what I found.

The first word of advice that I gave him was to avoid playing poker while drinking. Drinking prohibits your brain from making precise calculations and loosens your amount of playable hands by quite a bit. Of course, drinking and playing poker wasn’t his only major leak. I’ve actually watched him play quite a few times and the trend is always the same.

His second major leak was the amount of hands that he played. At this low stakes game he didn’t think much of completing his small blind. “Awe, come on man, it’s just a little bit.” What he failed to realize is that “a little bit” is a percentage of the amount of total chips that you have and it doesn’t matter what stakes you are playing at, completing the small blind still costs the same percentage compared to the stakes.

He would consistently complete his small blind with weak hands such as J7s, 85o, and even 34o. If the big blind raised it just another bet higher he would justify calling another bet by saying “Awe, now I’m pot committed!” If he saw a flop and there wasn’t much action he would do what the title of this article suggests, feel like a pro, but play like an idiot.

I actually saw him raise a person who made a half pot sized bet, but he did it with 34o. “Man, hes got crap! I know I can get him to fold.” I’m not saying that it’s wrong to raise a person in no limit Texas Holdem when you think they’ve got nothing, but it is wrong to raise them when you have a loose table image, no respect, and no type of plan b (no outs) whatsoever.

Professional poker players like to make precise timed raises when they are playing against other players in order to get the other players to fold their hand. The difference though is that the pros don’t consistently do this unless there are reasons justifying their plays. They must either a) have a way out with some sort of draw or b) have a certainty that the other player will fold because of the type of player that is (a tight player will fold nearly everything when a sizable raise is set in front of them) or c) to see where they are at in the hand.

Well, the only thing I really have to say is that my friend has a problem. He can’t identify when he should call and shouldn’t call and he plays too weak of hands. I told him to start to play winning poker by tightening up his preflop hand requirements. Once he has successfully disciplined himself to do that he should learn which hands he should be raising with preflop. After learning that, he must get out of any and all hands in which he a) didn’t raise preflop and missed the flop b) missed the flop and has no draws c) has another player betting before him and he has less than top pair top kicker.

I gave him more advice on how to play better poker, as he had asked me to do, but he just rejected everything I had to say. Why? I asked him and every time he responded with the same phrase, “Because this guy doesn’t have anything! I can make him fold.” Well sorry buddy, the other guy had it most of the time and, even though we both knew that he was beat sometimes, he would call or raise his money away with extremely weak hands.

If my friend sounds anything like you, and you want to improve your poker game, you should first begin by looking up the best poker hands and playing only the top 10. Once you have memorized the top 10 hands and aqcuired some level of skill, you can move to the top 15 hands, and again after you have aqcuired some more skill, move to the top 20 hands. Use this procedure and you will start playing like a pro, and stop playing like an idiot.

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