Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Commandment #4 - Never Play When Off-Balance

Continuing with the '10 Poker Commandments' as set out by Reubens and Ciaffone today - plan on linking all 10 of these posts too and from the original... however things appear to be getting to a peak of business right now so this can wait until I have a minute!

Commandment #4 is so simple, yet so significant - to me personally and I am almost sure to a great number of players worldwide.

"Never Play When You Are Off Balance"

Off Balance? What exactly does that mean??

It means not able to concentrate 100% on making the best possible decisions due to illness, tiredness, stress, emotional problems (relationships for example) or any other mental distraction.

The games in which the majority of us play, No-Limit Holdem and PLO for example, are played in such a way that a seemingly insignificant 'bad' decision on an early betting round can sometimes prove to be very expensive by the river - even when all subsequent decisions were very good. Focus on opponents, the flow of the table and the ability to plan ahead in a hand are all critical skills. Play when off-balance, in any number of ways, and you are basically giving up your edge.

An admission.

Yep, one of my biggest 'leaks' relates to exactly this commandment... it concerns playing too long after a hard days working in the poker-business!

Here is what happens, using a cash game night as an example (equally likely to be SNGs / MTTs though!). It is already 10pm by the time working / running / eating etc etc is all sorted. I play for a couple of hours making decent reads, good decisions and timely laydowns. It gets later and I get tired... and bam! Instead of playing a game with a positive expectation I am now more or less card-dependant... what is more I am less likely to 'care' about the money, more likely to believe that my opponents are bluffing (so will not fold when I should) and so on... what happens is that my judgement declines dramatically - my expectation becomes negative.

Of course, being aware of this is already half the battle.

Let me ask you this, ever started a set of SNGs and immediately regretted it? Ever sat in a cash game wondering how the fish you were milking just 30 minutes ago are managing to get your chips? Ever sat in an MTT working out how long it will be until the final table with a sense of dread at getting up in the morning?

Well. There are many forms of playing when off balance - tiredness being only one.

In my opinion a worthy commandment that will stand the test of time - what do you think??

GL at the tables, Mark

1 comment:

Littleacornman said...

Good post as usual Mark.Playing when tired or long after my concentration levels have dipped is certainly a leak I recognise.