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Learn When to Quit

2nd May, 2006
So much of the poker information that I talk about here in the Poker Column every week touches on the psychological aspects of the game, that you would think that I would recognize when I am not mentally prepared to sit down at a poker table.

Sadly, this is not the case. I must maintain a constant measure of my mental abilities both before sitting down and probably more importantly, as I am playing. Just when you start thinking you are above things like that in poker, it blindsides you in a rush. Here is my most recent wake up call.

I was playing in a lower limit no limit Texas holdem ring game and was holding my own at the table, even though I hadn't seen many playable hands the first couple hours. I then found myself in a pot with one player in front and one behind me and we had seen the flop. I had a flush draw and an inside straight draw, giving me at least 12 cards that could come on the turn or river to win the hand.

It was checked to me, I bet, the player behind me moved all in and the next player called. The pot was offering me close to three-to-one odds at this point and I had at worst close to a 50% chance to win. Of course I called, which was the correct play by a large margin. The turn and river did not help me, which will happen half the time in this situation, so it wasn't a big deal. This is where the trouble started.

I have been in this situation hundreds of times and realize that this is the way I make money at the poker tables. 95% or more of the time I can simply let this go and move on. This time though, I couldn't stop thinking about that hand. Once I realized this, I should have quit playing immediately, because I know better. Of course, if I had quit when I was supposed to, you probably would be reading about playing JTs from late position or something else right now.

I bought back into the game and played another hour or so, but my play was not up to its normal standards and I ended the session down quite a bit. I finally realized that I was creating the problem, and walked away from the game.

The key points of the column this week are, no matter how good you get at the poker tables, always keep your guard up to defend against yourself, and everyone has sessions where they don't play to the best of their abilities. By watching these things, you will be able to reduce your losses during these sessions by correcting your mistakes or quitting, which will lead to bigger profits over the long run.

Until next week, good luck at the tables!

The Poker Column is published weekly. Send questions for the author or subscription requests to [email protected]