In tennis when a set is tied they go into the tiebreaker, when one person makes a point the announcer says “advantage so and so.” When it comes to discipline at the poker table I feel I have a very real advantage. The Kount’s second rule for winning at low limit stud is to be extremely disciplined. I consider myself to have an advantage because of the following factors:
· I was never a gambler when I was young. I grew up in a neighborhood where you might not be leave a home game with your winnings, even if you were lucky enough to win. There might be an “altercation” upon trying to leave. However, I learned as much as I could about all the games.
· My first bet was placed at the racetrack as an adult. I became interested in the races while working with a person who was a real fan of thoroughbred racing. As accountants during the busy tax season we worked around sixty-five hours a week. On Saturday’s we quit at three in the afternoon. As soon as three o’clock rolled around we went to Keystone Race Track (now Philadelphia Park). You got in free for the last two races. So this became our relaxation at the end of some very tough weeks. I bought some handicapping books and started going once a month or so for the full card. But it took too much time to be good at it so I stopped. I consider myself a player not a gambler. I know that much has been written as to whether poker playing is gambling or not. By a strict definition of gambling we are all gamblers in poker, but those of us who study the game and work at it, know we have an advantage. We limit the element of trying to beat the odds by not making crazy bets with little positive expectation. I didn’t sit down at a poker table until I read all the basics about casino poker and Roy West’s 7 Card Stud 42 Lessons. That book seems so basic now after about a dozen other books that have improved my game.
· By nature I am a rather conservative person. This comes from my accounting background, which is how I make my money to play poker. As a group, accountants are normally not great risk takers. That’s not to say that some accountants don’t take inordinate risks but I believe in general we are less prone to risk taking then the average person.
· Patience is another quality needed to have discipline at the poker table. Raising three boys gave me some real lessons on improving patience.
The above factors have helped greatly with my poker discipline. This directly conflicts with the gambler type you find at your tables. These are the folks who have to have action. They are betting the horses, playing keno and maybe leaving the table for while to play craps. They are the reason we have all the simulcasting at the racetracks and Slot Gacor casinos. The gambler can’t wait a half hour between races he needs stimulation every couple of minutes. I found that a half hour sometimes wasn’t enough time to properly handicap a race. The gambler just wants action and you’ll hear them say they have a great bet on the “2” horse. They probably didn’t even look at the Racing Form but had to get a bet in. He can’t wait a half hour for a good playable hand to come along either. While playing stud this type player plays way too many hands. He figures he can’t sit here for an hour without getting in the action. This can be an advantage and disadvantage to the disciplined players at the table. Along with playing too many hands, betting patterns are many times very erratic. Just because the pot isn’t big enough the gambler may try to grow it all by himself. He may be bluffing but he may have a monster. Don’t worry about those times he does have the big hand. Maintain your discipline, play only quality hands, and you will beat him in the long run and most likely the long run will be the length of the current session.
I work at my discipline. It is not just the ability to play only quality hands and avoid the temptation to go with whatever has been dealt. You must not let the mood of the table swallow you up. If everyone is playing loose and raising like crazy, you must stay conservative. Yes, you can loosen up in these circumstances but not to the extent that your positive expectation criteria go out the window. Be sure you are playing well, not just winning pots. Know when to get up and change tables or go home. Don’t stay there because this is your only night to play. It may be the night that makes you a loser. Don’t play unless you are alert. If you find you aren’t watching how the others play, you have lost your discipline. When folding hand after hand, be sure to watch what is happening in the game. Test yourself by developing a plan on how you will attack each player when a playable hand comes along. Put each player in a category and develop a feel for what they play and how. With all this said the most important discipline you must have at low limits is to never go on tilt. When you do, they have won, you are lost. Maintain your cool. You know and I know very well they are going to do stupid things and draw out on us. That helps you, it may not be that session but if they keep playing like that you will get their money.
I normally play in Atlantic City. It is about an hour and a half drive from home. During the first part of the drive I talk to myself about how I want to play, what image I want to project on the table and how I’ll play certain hands. During the last half hour of the drive I continue to practice. No I don’t practice hands or bets, I practice saying “nice hand, well played” with as little sarcasm as possible. It takes a while to get the sarcasm out of my voice. But it works, they think you have complimented them and they will continue to draw for those gut shot straights. But you know you’ll get more of their money then they will of yours over time.
You must develop what works for you as far as discipline is concerned. Learn to recognize when you are losing it. Develop a plan of action for when this happens. Perhaps you take a walk around the casino. Or maybe call your friend and have a five-minute conversation on a topic other than poker. Many times when I feel I have started to play badly or get restless, I go back to my car and read my notes. I have 3×5 cards with notes from all the poker books I’ve read in my glove compartment. Reading some of these in the area where I may have shown weakness, gets me back to my disciplined style of play. If you are or have been a gambler type, analyze the negative effect that can have on your poker game. Try to separate those tendencies from disciplined poker play. You can get action from any of the other casino games and the horses, but when you play poker don’t expect action. Just work on playing with extreme discipline and you’ll see that your winnings are all from poker, not the other action. Remember you only have to win one big bet an hour to be successful in poker. Playing with extreme discipline will make that happen more times than not.