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What to do when your confidence drops

January 26, 2011 1 comment

Playing poker can be stressful, and for more than one reason:

1) you get hit by a wall of bad beats during a session,
2) you believe some of the players at the table are playing better than you and start feeling uncomfortable,
3) you’ve been on a downswing for a few weeks now. You are down 20 buy-ins and just don’t know what to do anymore,
4) your friend, who started playing poker the same day you did, is already crushing the NL $0.25/$.50 tables, while you are stuck playing $0.05/$0.10.

The list goes on.

Whatever the reason for your confidence drop,  here are a few notes and tips to help you regain your feeling of control.

UNDERSTAND HOW ODDS WORK IN POKER

Understand that confidence is actually a direct result of understanding. When we don’t understand something and are unaware of how it works, we tend to stop believing in ourselves, thinking that we cannot handle the situation. This is exactly what happens when you start doubting yourself as a result of having bad beats or a downswing. If this ever happens to you, stop playing and go read up on variance, and read up well. Start with some basics regarding poker odds and then move to more advanced stuff. Research the topic of variance on the twoplustwo forums. You may be thinking that you know what variance is, but trust me — 90% of the people who think that don’t really understand it. Read what other people have to say about it, read what others have experienced, and you’ll soon find yourself immunized to it.  At least to a large extent.

BANKROLL MANAGEMENT

Yes, I’m repeating myself. I’ve probably mentioned bankroll management in every article so far. It just goes to show you the importance of the subject, and frankly, that is exactly what I’m trying to do. If you are constantly worried about losing a buy-in as a result of poor bankroll management, you will start to doubt your decisions quickly, talking yourself out of calls to avoid losing money, and soon your confidence will start diminishing. There is nothing wrong about playing massively overstacked if it helps; I know people who never move up in stakes before having at least 100 (one hundred) buy-ins for the new stakes. The amount of confidence this gives a player is enormous.

ONLY PLAY IF YOU LOVE THE GAME

This is something you don’t hear people talk about often. We live in a society where the most important thing is to excel, to constantly do better and better. No one cares if you like what you are doing, as long as you are good at it. The fact is if you don’t like poker, sooner or later the game will take its toll on you. And unless you make tons of money (most players never do), it will certainly turn out not to be worth it in the end.

Make sure you are not playing just for the money. This might not be something you wanted to hear, but there you have it: you will almost certainly fail at poker if you don’t like the game. You will not be willing to put into it the time necessary to learn the game properly if you don’ like the game.

And this directly influences confidence. If you play just for the money, you are putting yourself under great pressure. You want to be “done with it” as quickly as possible, you want the money to start flowing in quickly. This will lead to tons of irrational decisions, and the losses will hinder your confidence, prompting you to lose even more.

HAVE SOME BACKUP MONEY

This is in a way linked to bankroll management, but I decided to separate the two. If your livelihood depends on poker, you must be absolutely certain that you are capable of supporting yourself for at least 12 months even if you were to stop playing poker completely. Ideally you should have a backup fund outside of poker; money that you never use to play and just sits there, waiting for that dark hour to come. If you haven’t saved up that much money yet, do not quit your day job to become a professional poker player. Otherwise you will start freaking out every time your bankroll is in the smallest danger, and your confidence will once again dwindle as a result.

MOVE DOWN THE STAKES

Don’t be afraid to do that if things get nasty. Whenever moving up the stakes you should plan ahead on when to move back down. Having a predetermined plan like this will help you play with more ease and will go a far way towards increasing your confidence.

OVERCONFIDENCE IS JUST AS BAD

You have to be very careful about getting overconfident, which can be just as bad (sometimes worse) as losing your confidence. Stick to proper bankroll management (here it is again), always think before making a decision at the tables, never assume that you are better than anyone; poker is more about becoming better than yourself. So focus on your decisions and analysis of the hands, and let the results speak for themselves. Play at least half a million hands before declaring yourself a guru in your own head.

Hope this helps, and feel free to ask questions if you have any.

Good luck.

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Categories: Becoming better

Which poker books are worth your attention

January 23, 2011 6 comments

As most people reading this blog are beginners, I decided to make a list of all the poker books that I have read and which I think you should know of.

Some people say that reading poker books is unnecessary, and that all you really need to play poker well  is a combination of experience and hand analysis with the help of other poker players. I agree that you don’t need to read any books on poker — providing you do justice to hand analysis. But I do think that it can give you some extra edge, even if just a few percent. Reading these books will most certainly open up your mind to new possibilities and teach your mind to think unconventionally, which is always useful when for a poker player.

I have divided the books into categories, based on the different types of poker you may choose to play.


For Starters:

  • Getting Started in Hold Em by Ed Miller. A fantastic little book, well-written and engaging. A great ready for anyone completely new to poker, who would like a quick introduction to the game, the basic strategies and concepts, such as pre-flop hand valuation, domination, betting for value, protecting your hand, semi-bluffing, pot equity, and much more. Any micros player should definitely give it a shot.
  • The Little Green Book by Phil Gordon and H. Lederer. As the name suggest, the book is small and green. Just as the one above, it is a great introduction with many basic concepts explained. If you have to pick, go with the first book. If you can, get both. A very good read.


Poker Math:

  • Poker Math Made Easy by Roy Rounder. A simple and short book explaining the basic mathematical concepts found in poker. As far as I know this book is free, so click the link and read it.


No-Limit Hold ‘Em:

  • Harrington on Online Cash Games; 6-Max No-Limit Hold’em by Dan Harrington. An excellent resource for anyone starting out in online No-Limit Hold ‘Em. Deals with aggression, stack size consideration, using poker software to help you gain a huge edge on your opponents, and much more.
  • Veneer’s beating the micros e-book. An excellent, free book, written by one of the instructors at the reputable poker school, Card Runners. Intended for micro stakes players. Extremely valuable information from a very skilled player.


Limit Hold ‘Em:

  • Small Stakes Hold ‘Em – Winning Big With Expert Play by Miller, Sklansky and Malmuth. The bible of beginner/intermediate Limit Hold ‘Em players. If you have $16 to spare, go for it.
  • Holdem For Advanced Players by Sklansky and Malmuth. This book is intended for the slightly more advanced Limit players. I strongly recommend you read the “Small Stakes Hold ‘Em” title described above before reading this one. Get both books if possible.


Tournaments:

  • Harrington on Hold ‘Em Vol. 1, 2, 3 by Dan Harrington. The best series of books for any tournament player. Volume 1 talks about general tournament strategy, vol. 2 talks about the later stages of a tournament, and vol. 3 is a workbook with a set of exercises to test your understanding of the data presented in vol. 1 & 2. I don’t know a single serious tournament player who hasn’t read these books, even if just for fun. Note that these books will benefit cash games players greatly, as it gives a deep insight into the proper way of doing hand analysis.
  • Poker Tournament Strategies by Sylvester Suzuki. Aimed at tournament beginners, it talks about the strategies you can employ in small-buyin tournaments, both those allowing re-buys and those that don’t. It also contains a lot of useful advice about transitioning to higher buy-in tournaments.


Omaha:

  • Pot Limit Omaha: The Big Play Strategy by Jeff Hwang. A great resource for Pot Limit Omaha beginners. should be your first choice if you are starting out in the game. Received tons of positive reviews from fellow poker players.
  • High Low Split Poker, Seven-Card stud & Omaha by Ray Zee. Talks about strategy in Omaha Eight-or-Better. The book was intended for people who already have a solid grasp of the basics of Omaha 8ob.


For Everyone:

  • Theory of Poker by Sklansky. The poker bible. No matter what your game of choice is, this book will help you greatly. Explores subjects such as pot odds, fundamental theorems, ante structures, effective odds, mathematical expectations and hourly rate, the value of deception, the semi-bluff, the free card, the psychology of poker, analysis at the table, and many more (these are all chapter names from within the book by the way, and there are 25 chapters total). An unconditional read.
  • The Poker Mindset: Essential Attitudes for Poker Success by Hilger. The best book out there dealing exclusively with the psychological aspects of playing poker. Tilt control, distancing yourself from the game, keeping your ego at bay, handling bad beats and downswings, and more. An excellent resource and well written, too.


Live Poker:

  • Caro’s Book of Poker Tells by Mike Caro.  The best resource on learning how to read your opponents at a poker table. Virtually every conceivable poker tell is described in this book. Even if you don’t care about reading body language and signals, you should still read it — since many people have read it and will be trying to get reads on you based on that information from the book, knowing the rules will allow you to deceive your opponents with false tells.

Always remember though: no book will ever be a substitute for reading and participating in quality poker forums, such as 2+2 or Liquidpoker.

If you know some other books, please let me know in the poker and tell me what you learned from them.

Good Luck.

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