Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wanna Win More Money Playing Poker? Forget About The Money!

Poker Reality: Sure It's Money You Are Risking But...

While there is information about bankroll starting requirements and bankroll management, I think another important issue is the meaning you put into the money you are risking.

Gus Hansen at WSOP 2006 Rio, Las VegasImage via Wikipedia

What is your emotional state given the amount of money that you are putting in play at a specific game and/or in a specific hand?

You will be a much better player if the money you are gambling with is TOTALLY inconsequential to you. If the money has meaning to you, you will not play nearly as well. It is true in cash games and it comes into play even with tournament chips that have no face value.


A couple of years ago, I took a vacation and the flight had a 2 hour layover in Las Vegas (what a nice coincidence). I was not going to wait at the airport. I went outside, hopped on the first van and when the driver asked, "Where you going?" I replied, "Your first stop."

The first stop was the Monte Carlo casino. I walked in, found the poker room, and asked for a seat at any table. The seat was a $2-$4 limit hold'em game. I hate $2-$4 limit since everyone in the Bay Area plays no fold'em hold'em.

I took my seat, bought a rack and emotionally the money meant absolutely nothing to me. I was ready to lose the $100 rack.

To my surprise, players folded to my raises in this low level limit game. I could only stay one hour, but almost every play I made worked. If I had nothing at the river, opponents folded. If I had the nuts, I would get called. Without any great run of premium starting hands I won almost $200.

When I got back on the van to the airport, I asked myself, "Why did I do so well?"

Another example:

I read an article by Daniel Negreanu about Nutbar--his name for an exercise to improve your hand reading. In every hand you play, you raise pre-flop and try to outplay your opponents from that point. He warned that the money you were going to play with, would most likely be lost. But the idea was to learn how you could take control of a table, and the importance of reading your opponents in order to bet in a way to win pots.

I bought into a $6-$12 limit game and got a $200 rack. In the first 10 hands I was up about $150, but eventually I went broke .

Daniel was right in learning about Nutbar. But when I left that table, I realized that something else was going on. When I put that money into play, it was lost. I had no emotional connection. I could play better poker because of it. But I believe my game changed once I was winning. Now the chips became money. I actually started to think the money since I was ahead so much in such a little amount of time.

One more example in tournament play:

I see the same thing happen in tournament poker even though the buy-in of $20 or $200 is long gone. At a certain level of blinds, players get hesitant with their chips. It's like they think they can cash in the 10,000 in tournament chips for $10,000. There is an emotional connection to the chips that was not there before. "I'm getting close to cashing, so I better be more careful now." I am at fault as well, in thinking about the payouts as I get close to the bubble. That's why there has been so much written to bubble play.

Your Emotional Connection to Money

My point to all of these examples are this:

1. If you are playing poker and the amount of money you have in play has any consequence to you emotionally, then you should not be in the game. You just won't play at your best.

2. If you are playing in a poker tournament forget about the chips as something you should protect to survive and cash. They are chips and have no value. As you get deeper in the tournament, don't get emotionally involved with potential payour because it will effect your play.


Forget about having any emotional connection to the cash or chips you have in play. You will play better if you think of these things as, well, maybe just things. Heck, chips are suppose to make you forget about the cash backing them in the first place.

Do you think the top pros are linked to their money in the game like you or me? Of course not. I just watched Gus Hansen lose over $200,000 in an online game of Omaha, which maybe took 30 seconds. How would you feel? My guess is that Gus was bummed for a moment. You or I would be sick...a lot more than sick, really.

That $200,000 is going to buy as much stuff in Gus' pocket as it would in yours. But Gus is not linking that money to his emotions in the same way you would. You think and feel different. To Gus, they are just chips to be wagered. To you (and me), it's $200,000 freaking dollars just lost.

While bankroll management is important, maybe you need to think about your emotional connection to the money you put into play. If it has any consequence to you emotionally, then you will not play optimum poker. It doesn't matter that the $20 or $200 has no real meaning to you financially. It is the emotional connection that is underlying your decisions.

There is that expression "don't gamble with money you can't afford to lose." That's fine. But, maybe you shouldn't gamble at a level where your emotions are getting in the way of your poker decisions. You will never be a great player until the money you risk is TOTALLY inconsequential.

What do you think?

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1 comment:

Mitch said...

I'm thinking that you didn't quite use a good example in making me want to start thinking about my chips as anything other than money! lol

As I get my mind ready to play in this tournament in about 10 days, the main thing on my mind is making sure I make it through the first day, which means I'll cash. However, I also know that I can't think about trying to play flat, so to speak. I have to add to my stack, and I have to try to build up the stash so that I have room to breathe. That's the one thing different than cash games in my opinion, and something I'm really going to have to mentally work on before the tournament.

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