How many times after you’ve been eliminated from a tournament have you complained you were card dead? I find card-dead stories more repellent than bad-beat stories. At least with a bad-beat story, the narrator presumably made the right move and suffered some bad luck.
When I hear a card-dead story, though, my immediate reaction is the narrator doesn’t understand the game and was not proactive enough to compete.
The whole point of tournament poker is to force the action by increasing the blinds and antes. You don’t have the luxury of waiting for optimal cards. Neither do opponents. In any tournament, some players will get a rush of cards at the beginning and others will be card dead. Deal with it.
However, every player will have an opportunity to make a move and accumulate chips. If you’re staying focused and studying opponents, I guarantee you’ll find some spots to pick up chips even when you don’t have anything. You may not be a chipleader, but you can pick up enough to survive and avoid being short-stacked until bigger opportunities arrive. Of course, there will be times you get caught stealing. That’s part of poker. However, if you’re card dead would you rather get blinded out or get caught making a move? Give yourself a chance to win. Make some moves before you get so short-stacked that you’re guaranteed to get called down. Take advantage of your chips to give yourself some fold equity.
It’s not easy trying to win chips when you don’t have cards. Making such moves is a huge psychological hurdle to get over. If you have trouble getting over that hurdle, I’m going to give you a confidence builder You know how to make moves without cards. You just don’t know it.
Next time you play, count how many hands you win without a showdown. Count the number of hands won without a showdown and the percentage of your winning hands that come without a showdown. I think you’ll be surprised at how high the number is. What does this tell you? It tells you that your cards were irrelevant in those hands that you won without a showdown.
Actually, they weren’t irrelevant because they gave you the confidence to bet them. However, assuming opponents’ cards stayed the same, you could have bet any two cards the same way and won the pot. Think about that before you get sucked into telling your next card-dead story.
— David Apostolico is the author of several poker strategy books, including Tournament Poker and the Art of War. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.