I can only speak for myself, but I know that when I’m in the midst of a particularly bad session, my whole thought-process changes. I try not to let these mental annoyances affect how I play the actual game, but there certainly is a shift in personal confidence.
Take for instance a hand I played today. It was in an 8-16 limit hold’em game, and I was running cold. It seemed to be just one of those days where I couldn’t find traction, no matter what I did. Raising, calling, check-raising and folding all had the same outcome: a loss. So, with perhaps an eighth of my stack still intact, I tried again: I raised pre-flop with Kc-10c. I got called in four spots. The flop was Q-J-3 rainbow. I bet, and got called by two players.
The turn was an Ace, giving me the nuts. I bet again, and the player behind me raised. The third player in the hand folded. Let’s pause here for a moment. I have the stone-cold nuts. I have exactly three big bets left in my stack right now. I’m heads-up against a player who raised me. This is an almost perfect scenario for any player! But here’s how the preceding session-events alter my thought-process from that of a confident, winning player:
Action: Re-raise, three-bets
Thought-process: Hell yes! Finally, I can build a pot with the nuts! This guy is donking into me with some two-pair type hand. See you at the river, buddy, where I’ll get some more of your money…
Action: Re-raise, three-bets
Thought-process: Ahh, shit. Well, I have the nuts; I know I’m ahead right now. I kinda’ want him to fold here. I just wanna’ win one pot! Just once, please god! Don’t pair the river!!
You see, the play is exactly the same. Of course you must re-raise; there’s no doubt about that. But when things are going well, you’re thrilled to see all the money going into the pot with the best hand. And this is the absolutely correct way to feel. I should feel the same way when I’m losing! But I don’t! When I’m losing, I’m not thinking about the nice pot I’m about to win; I’m thinking about how I could possibly lose this hand, too! I’d rather just take it down right there, let’s not give this guy a chance to hit whatever crap he needs to hit! I’m scared, you see? It’s been happening to me all day long.
The river, of course, paired the board. It was a Queen. I bet, and he raised me all-in for my last $16. He had Q-J.
The outcome doesn’t necessarily justify my total lack of confidence. But even though you need to play the hand exactly the same way no matter what, sometimes it just isn’t your day, and you know it…
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JAYMIND.COMJacob "Jaymind" Westlin is a semi-professional limit hold'em player with a strong, sarcastic wit. Jaymind also frequently contributes to Minnesota Poker Magazine's monthly publication. Email Jaymind at firstname.lastname@example.org