Thinking more about your poker is vital to success but how do you actually do it?

In the quest for bigger profits you must look to steal pots at every turn. But that doesn’t mean you should stop thinking in the process…

I am a thief. There are no redeeming qualities about my larceny. I do not rob the rich to give to the poor. I rob anyone and everyone and keep it all for myself. Luckily this desire does not manifest itself in a longing for other people’s TVs but instead in an all-consuming covetous desire for whatever is in the middle.

Every poker player I’ve ever sat with who was even remotely decent has this same desire. You’ve got to be hell-bent on getting that money in the middle to do well at this game. In fact a lot of losing players could transform their results just by changing their mindset from one of fear of loss to one of a desperate desire to do what it takes to win the pot. It’s sad to say but to win the monies in cash poker you need to be a money-grabbing, take-what-isn’t-nailed-down, avaricious little bugger. Even in these days of tight-aggressive, all-round competent poker, there are still a ton of pots where no one has anything. Instead of auto-checking you should be looking to bet and take it. You should be a betting machine.

There is a danger that this regular descent into thievery can make you a nasty person, so I try to balance this by being nice to strangers, working my weekends in an abandoned kitten sanctuary, and saving up to open the Wealthall Finishing School For Young Ladies in the Austrian alps – always be thinking of ways to give back…

Have Your Cake

For the moment, though, let’s keep grabbing that free money. The pot should look like a big chocolate cake that’s just waiting for you to reach out and eat it. Remember, the maths back you up. If you bet a bit less than pot you only need to take it down about 45% of the time to be profitable – and that’s if you’re betting with no equity. If you’ve got some cards to hit, trying to take down pots makes even more sense.

This mindset is an important part of being a winning poker player, but it can also lead to holes in your game. In a hand I played recently I was in the big blind holding 4h-5h. It was folded to the small blind who raised. I was happy being on this player’s left. He was a player I’d played with before – decent, but pretty predictable and a little over-aggressive, especially when he can steal. He raised, as he would do with a ton of his hands, and after thinking about three-betting, I decided to call with a plan to float and bluff-raise a lot of flops.

Brain Surgery

The flop came down a very helpful Tc-5s-4c. My opponent bet and I decided to call and slow-play my big hand. Of course there’s a big argument for just raising here and that can’t be a bad play. But I decided to call because we were in the blinds and this opponent double and triple-barrels a lot. The turn was the Kd. This is a great card for me as he’ll almost always bet again – if he happens to show up with K-T then life sucks, but I can’t help it. He bet, as I think he’ll do with his whole range, and I smooth-called.

At this point my mentality was that I was miles ahead and would be calling any river given how I’d under-represented my hand. The river was the Th and my opponent checked. It was then that I stopped thinking. Now, thinking is really important in poker but it’s surprising how often players, myself included, stop doing that. I automatically bet two-thirds of the pot. Of course, I realised my two pair had been counterfeited, but I saw my opponent’s check as weak and thought I could steal the pot. My opponent called and showed down 6-6 for the winning hand.

This bet on the river of mine is pretty grim. It’s so polarising and so unlikely to get a fold from my opponent. I have showdown value with my two pair (tens and fives), which beats all his air and missed draws he’s decided not to bluff. And what do I fold out that’s better? Basically not one hand – maybe, just maybe, he folds fives with a better kicker – but probably not against an aggressive opponent like me with so many missed draws. I’m happy with my play on the flop and turn. Obviously I can raise on either street but I had a game plan and stuck to it. The problem was a card that changed things on the river, my opponent didn’t take the action I expected, and I allowed greed to take over.

So be a greedy, thieving, betting machine by all means, but always engage your brain before going after the money.

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