Poker Strategy

Why Speed Will Kill Your Poker Game

Why Speed Will Kill Your Poker Game

Judging by the actions of new poker players, one would think speed was a virtue to be admired. However the Ancient Stoics believed in temperance — defined as moderation or, more broadly, self-control as well as patience that were the characteristics to strive for. In poker, as in life, rushing can lead to missed opportunities and errors in judgment. Let’s delve into three ways speed can destroy your poker success before it has even truly begun.

3 Ways Speed Is Killing Your Poker Game

1. Speed at the Table

Let’s begin with the simplest and, yet somehow, most destructive form of poker speed: making in-game decisions quickly, without considering the multiple layers at play. Imagine a scenario where you snapcall an all-in in a major online poker tournament with AJs because it is “too good” of a hand to fold with only 15 big blinds left.

Although that assumption may be true in a vacuum, had you taken your time to consider the specifics of the situation – you would have noticed that the shove came:

A. On the bubble of the tournament.
B. From an early-position raiser.
C. From a player who hadn’t played a pot in an hour.
D. From a player who was NOT immediately at risk of bubbling.

Had you given yourself enough of an opportunity to reflect on exactly what you were facing, you may have recognized that while AJs is indeed a “good” hand, the risk/reward ratio was likely weighed heavily against you and found a found a fold that kept your tournament life intact. Or as the Ancient Stoic Seneca once wrote:

“We should always allow some time to elapse, for time discloses the truth.”

2. Speed of Expectation

Read or watch any poker bankroll-management content online and you’ll hear the same cookie cutter advice: have 100 buy-ins for the limits that you’re playing. However, what most of these pieces won’t tell you is that the size of the bankroll you’ll require will actually depend on a whole host of individualized factors including:

-Your playing style
-The skill level of your opponents
-The number of tables you play
-The strength of your emotional control
-Where you fall on the variance continuum (aka how “lucky” or “unlucky” you get compared to the population)

Instead, new players have been fooled to think that just because they have 100 buy-ins in their bankroll (and most don’t even have nearly that many), they are destined to make consistent profit before it has been depleted. In fact, they expect it — as if it is owed to them. Instead, the strategy ought to be to have as many buy-ins as possible – so many that winning or losing a hand, or session, hardly makes a difference at all. It is only by releasing the attachment to, and expectation of, immediate profit that we can properly focus our attention on the process of self-improvement and put ourselves in the best situation to succeed. As Seneca wrote:

“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”

3. Speed of Self-Belief

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to believe in yourself – to believe that you can and will improve given the right circumstances. But it’s equally as important, if not more so, to balance that self-belief with humility and self-awareness. There are very few things in life where someone can come in and develop mastery in a short amount of time — and poker is, most definitely, not one of them.

Unfortunately, the danger with poker is that if you’re not careful you can quickly be lulled into a false sense of security and accomplishment by booking some early wins. Scoop some big positive-variance pots in your first few cash games, win a couple of big tournaments in your first few months, and you’ll instantly be at risk of developing an inflated sense of personal belief that will prevent you from being diligent with your poker studies. Making matters worse, once that bout of “run-good” has been exhausted, players will struggle mightily with a sense of injustice and often take to blaming their opponents, the cards, and the gods for their “unlucky” run.

And so, regardless of what happens at the table, it’s important to slow down, to remain humble and realistic about one’s abilities, and to view poker mastery as the work of a lifetime. As another great Stoic, Epictetus, taught: “It is impossible for a person to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows.”

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