By Sean Hansen
Here’s a problem that affects us all: preflop impatience. We’ve all been there, card dead for two hours and then we look down at Q-10 offsuit under the gun and think, “Christmas!” It’s not Christmas. It’s not even Arbor Day. Q-10 is the first Monday back to work after a vacation. It sucks.
But you play it because, “I’ve been here for two hours; I need to make some money!” The next thing you know, you flop a 10, lose your stack to someone who flatted with J-J and you wonder where it all went wrong.
Here’s the thing about poker that makes it superior to every game in a casino: You don’t have to put any money in the pot until after you see your cards. You get to choose to play only when you have an advantage, whether it’s a card advantage, a positional advantage or a skill advantage. You think Q-10 is the best hand at the table? Surely not. So you don’t have a card advantage. You are UTG, so nope, no positional advantage. And as far as a skill advantage is concerned, if you’re playing Q-10 UTG in your typical full ring, you probably are not playing skillfully.
So, if you have a disadvantage in all three of those areas, you are voluntarily putting your hard-earned money in the middle when someone else has an advantage in those three areas. Why would you do that? It’s like going to a sword fight with a spork. It just doesn’t make any sense.
The adjustment you need to make is simple. If you aren’t sure whether a hand is playable in the current circumstances, don’t play it. If you find yourself playing the hand regardless, well, your discipline is shot and you’re on tilt.
Maybe not card-throwing-poo-flinging-mon key-tilt, but your mental game is not in A-plus shape, and impatience has replaced critical thinking.
Choose to play hands in situations where you have an advantage. It’s that easy. If you do that consistently over time, you’ll be putting opponents at a disadvantage. And folks, that’s how we win at poker.
Yeah, you need to play the hand correctly postflop, that matters, too. Yeah, it means that sometimes you’ll be dealt rags for four hours and barely get to play. Well, not playing is way better than voluntarily throwing money away, thinking your postflop skills are so good that you don’t need preflop discipline.
No one is good enough to win when consistently digging holes preflop. The skill advantage in this game comes from learning what correct play is and then playing that way. Make a commitment in your next session to only play hands when you have a preflop advantage, and let me know how it went by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Sean Hansen is founder of Big Slick Poker Academy.