Use down time at the poker table to your advantage

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By Sean Hansen

You’re sitting at the poker table, waiting for the Under the Gun player to look at his cards. “Come on, man, act!” you think to yourself for the 30th time. He folds, someone raises from middle position and you look at your cards to find {k-Diamonds}{j-Diamonds}. You look up and start thinking about what to do. Call? Fold? Raise? Who is this guy that raised? Who are in the blinds? Hmmm, what to do.

You’re doing it all wrong!

You should have known, by the time the action reached you, what you would be doing with every possible hand you could have been dealt. How in the world do you do that? By not letting yourself get brain-dead at the poker table.

When I’m waiting on my turn to act, my brain is operating at full capacity. I have made a plan for what to do with each of my pre-constructed ranges against each player type and once I look at my cards, I’m already thinking about not only the flop, but in some cases, the turn and river.

While the previous hand is being cleaned up and the cards are being shuffled, I’m taking inventory of my position, who’s in the blinds, who’s on the button, what their stack sizes are and reminding myself of their player type.

I’m watching each player as the cards are dealt, particularly those who look at their cards before it’s their turn to act. I’m counting stack sizes to help me determine how to set up the right stack-to-pot ration for my hand type, whatever it might be.

When a player enters the pot, I’m double-checking his stack and again reminding myself of his tendencies, preflop and postflop. I’m making a plan for how I will play against him.

• What range of hands can I consider playing?
• What do I do with top 6 percent hands?
• What do I do with pairs?
• What do I do with suited connectors?

By the time the action comes to me, I know exactly what I’m going to do.

Once I look at my cards, if I’m folding, I fold instantly; I never “Hollywood.” Then I watch the rest of that hand with interest, looking for tells, leaks, watching the chip stacks, etc., and by the time the hand is over, I start the cycle again.

When you go brain dead at the table, you wake up when you look at your cards and gaze around like you just warped in from a strange world and must decide how to survive. Which of us is most likely to play this hand better, me or you?

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