Whether you think you’re going to crush souls and check-raise or get owned and check-fold, you’re probably right.
To play poker well, you must make correct decisions based on the information available at that time. Physical tells, numbers of players in the pot, stack sizes, etc. I’ve created the term “situational hand relevancy” to describe relative hand strength in correlation to specific situations.
Let’s take 8-8 for example. In a $1-$2 no-limit hold’em cash game you open to $8 from middle position and a super-tight player with his chips lined up perfectly three-bets you to $24 from the button. If he has enough chips in front of him then you can profitably “set mine.” If he only has $75 behind you probably should fold. But if a loose player who’s been drinking three-bets you with effective stacks large enough, you might set mine as you see fit. You see, if you’re paying attention to the table the same hand might be a call or a fold.
Here’s the kicker (and it’s top kicker, boys and girls): If you weren’t focusing on the game you wouldn’t know the best possible line of action at any given time with any given hand. Yeah, hands such as aces play themselves, but what about A-Q, 9-9 or even Q-Q? Your girlfriend texting you on your iPhone isn’t going to tell you, “Hey, Babe, you should jam in this spot because of X,Y,Z.”
Here’s a situation that applies: So you’re on your phone and you look down at Q-Q. You make it $12 from early position. Standard. Some guy three-bets you to $36. You call because you have Q-Q. The flop comes J-4-2 rainbow. You check and he pots it. Since you weren’t paying attention you have no idea if he has A-K or A-A. You end up going all-in and he snaps you off with A-A. You miss your two-outer. Sucks to be you. Well, to start, let’s see what your girlfriend didn’t tell you. His hand was shaking when he reraised preflop and he hasn’t three-bet in an hour. The last time he did it was with K-K. You could have easily saved a buy-in if you weren’t posting on Facebook how good you are at poker. (Guilty!)
Don’t take it personally, young guns, it’s just a generational thing. We like to multitask. But here’s the thing: We play poker to be “cool and make money.” The way to make money is to make correct decisions. The way to make correct decisions is to pay attention. Therefore, paying attention is as cool as a stack of blacks. Like how I did that?
To wrap this up, staying focused equals money.
• Don’t text and play.
• Don’t play when you’re tired, sick or on life tilt.
• Diet and work out to help your brain process info.
• Think positive; it’s better than the alternative.
— Mike Wolf is a professional poker player who travels the United States and soon the world. He can be reached at MichaelJWolf33@gmail.com, on Facebook or twitter (@mikewolf7).