When should you leave a poker game?

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When to leave a game and when to stay is one of more important questions in poker.

Many folks don’t look at this as seriously as they should. Some folks rush into the room at lunch to grab a bit and play for an hour or so. They are at a distinct disadvantage. Their minds are often somewhere else and they have a time limit.

This plays out over and over for the player who comes in with a few hours to play but has to meet their spouse for dinner or pick up their child at Little League.

This may be a fine way to spend some time and if you can afford the losses, go for it. But remember you are now creating your disadvantage. So how long is a good session? It’s important to consider.

Another scenario is the player who gets fatigued and loses concentration after about six hours of play but enters a multiday tournament. This is a humbling experience. As we age, we lose concentration and mental stamina, much the same way we lose physical stamina. However, our egos get in our own way. Look at the final tables of many major tournaments and you’ll see young people. Sure, they played lots of hours online and they keep up with the more aggressive plays. But they also have the physical and mental stamina to make it through a multiday tournament or a long cash session without the kind of fatigue, loss of attention, concentration and increased distractibility an older player may experience.

Finally, do I leave when I am down X buy-ins or up X buy-ins in a cash game? Is there a rule to follow, a feel to follow or a safe way out?

For some of us, the agony of defeat is much worse than anything else. For some folks, not losing is paramount, for others, winning the maximum is the goal.

Here is the scene: a $2-$5 game, $100-500 buy-in. You buy in for $350, get felted, buy back in for $500 and all of a sudden the deck hits you in the head and you feel like you’re in the zone. You keep stacking chips and have about $2K on the table. You’ve been playing for two hours and have unlimited time to stay. Do you leave with a decent return on investment? Do you stay because you’re in the zone and on a good run?

This is probably a decision you want to think about before you sit at a table. Like much of psychology, in depends. But these issues are all worth thinking about, discussing with other players or use a coach to determine.

Like everything else in poker, keep your head in the game.

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. Email him at editor@anteupmagazine.com.