Keeping cool

It’s vital to remain calm when it’s far easier to snap

Pick your spots and don’t let a misplaced sense of pride force you into a bad decision

Imagine you’re on your way home from a particularly annoying day at work. Your boss has been putting you through the grinder for no apparent reason and every time you’ve tried to get something done it’s blown up in your face.

Thankfully, the warm sanctuary of home (and online poker) is just a couple of minutes away. But then suddenly a couple of particularly odious ASBO-holders are in your path snarling, ‘What you looking at?’ The safe response, of course, is to say nothing and briskly walk past, retaining both your dignity and your limbs. But suddenly your bile is rising and, without thinking, you’ve already come up with one or two choice phrases to hurl back at the pair of miscreants.

This is the moment where you have to think most logically. What outcome do you expect – on a sliding scale – to any given response? Your best expectation is that they’ll suddenly pipe down, shuffle off and you’ll feel smug that you put a couple of mouthy teenagers in their places. At the other end of the spectrum the scallies just might decide to use your ribs as a knife rack.

As consciousness slips away, not only will your life flash before your eyes but you’ll be struck by the overwhelming embarrassment that your nearest and dearest will have to explain that you met your sorry end at the hands of someone who can no longer buy cigarettes legally.

The same decisions, albeit with somewhat less chronic outcomes, await you in poker. It’s the sessions where you’re missing flops, getting outdrawn and being bullied by all and sundry in which the temptation to take out your frustration on the most annoying player is at its strongest. Yes, they might be bluffing, but what are the chances that they have you beaten?

Frustration can make you feel like you’re being unfairly targeted and, before you know it, you’re rashly sticking all your chips in with K-10 or whatever rubbish you hold. In other words, you’ve well and truly buggered yourself instead of walking away damage-free.

Cool heads prevail

It’s actually far more likely for this kind of blow-up to happen online than in the flesh, because in the privacy of your own home you can shout, swear and throw things at the monitor without looking like a complete idiot. The other thing is that playing online can sometimes make you feel like you’re being bullied more, with lots of pre-flop aggression, constant blind stealing and patterns of play that can get your blood boiling.

Imagine a time when you’ve been sat at your PC feeling aggrieved that every other time you’ve raised you’ve been re-raised. It’s very irritating, but sometimes you do just keep running into hands. You might actually have been making one great laydown after another, but it feels like you’re being run over.

It’s essential that you take each situation as it comes and don’t make a rash move. Of course, you need to keep an eye on who’s willing to re-raise you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a genuine hand this time. Pick your spots to play back at them and don’t let a misplaced sense of pride force you into a bad decision.

A pre-flop re-raise can often be taken as a sign of intent that says they’ll call if you push back, so if you insta-click the all-in button with a marginal hand you could be in all sorts of trouble. If you’re going to snap with a hand that isn’t premium, at least do it post-flop when you’ve picked up a playable draw. A nut- flush draw, open-ended straight draw, overcards or even a gutshot gives you a chance.

Just don’t go with a naked bluff where even Ace- high would beat you just because you’re going through a Michael Douglas-style Falling Down moment – you still won’t get served the breakfast menu and it could cost you a hell of a lot more than a hash brown and tepid orange juice.

Remember that poker and life are long-term propositions. If you’re getting lip from urban hyenas you can just walk away – the same way you can get up from the table when you’re running cold. Annoying as these people are, remembering that they’re the big losers in the long-term will mean you have the last laugh.

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