Use other players’ knowledge to your benefit in poker

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Teamwork isn’t exactly the first thing you think of when it comes to playing poker because most of the time you play without consultation. But away from the table teamwork occurs frequently and feverishly. As I have spent more and more time on the tournament trail, I’ve met a lot of people who travel or play together. These players are often found talking on breaks, at dinner or over drinks late into the night. What’s their topic of conversation? You guessed it … poker! Not just poker in general, but key hands that merit discussion, insight, validation or simply just another perspective. Sometimes it’s just an intriguing hand that was observed or one they played five months ago online. The key is they’re discussing them – actively and intently – to make sure the next time they’re in the same situation they make the correct decision.

I’m very fortunate to have met some of the top players in the game. If I’m struggling with a hand I played, you can be sure I’m going to do everything I can to engage them to get their perspective. Whether I pass them in the tournament room, interrupt them while they scarf down a snack on break, or just need to pick up the phone and call them, I’m not going to just wonder about a hand or situation and remain confused the next time it comes up. I’ll get the additional insights and hash the hand through until I’m convinced I played the hand correctly or need to take a different approach next time.

I recently joined Poker Players International as a member of Team PPI Elite. This is an honor for me, and now I’m getting to know many players on the team. During the Borgata Winter Open in January, I was really struggling with a huge hand I played in the early stages of the $3,200 main event. I discussed the hand with a very solid player who was at the table when it went down and had the opportunity to discuss it with fellow Team PPI Elite players Bill Blanda, Eric “Rizen” Lynch and Kathy Leibert. Talking to these pros allowed me to see the hand from different sides and subsequently devise what I think is a better strategy for playing this situation in the future.

You don’t need access to world-class pros to benefit from different opinions on your hands and situations. You need players at and above your skill level that you trust to give you honest, objective opinions about how you played the hand. They must be willing to share thoughts on how they would have played the hand and you have to be receptive to their judgment. You’re not always going to agree, but you’ll reap the invaluable learning experience of looking at a hand from multiple viewpoints. If you can keep an open, non-argumentative mind and keep your ego at bay, you can use off-the-table teamwork to significantly increase your knowledge of the game and add more tools to your poker arsenal.

In next month’s column, I’ll talk about the “big hand” I played at the Borgata and how I leveraged some brilliant poker minds to challenge and validate my decisions, resulting in making me a more complete, confident player. Decide to Win!

— Lee Childs is founder and lead instructor of Acumen Poker. He also is an instructor with the WPT Boot Camp. Check out his site at www.acumenpoker.net.