Editor's Note: In addition to being a poker enthusiast, gambling columnist, and lecturer, John is a National Certified Counselor (NCC). He has a Master of Arts degree in Counseling from West Virginia University, and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Lock Haven University. You can arrange for interviews, speaking engagements, or ask your question to "the Poker Counselor" at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I just can't get excited about limit ring games. I've tried different levels of limit Hold 'Em and Omaha, and I've played both online and in the casino. It just isn't the same as No Limit Tournaments (or even Limit tournaments). What do I need to do to get psyched-up for Limit games? -emailed by SaltyBones from Texas
Television coverage of the highest buy-in tournaments has most new players expecting poker to be a continual roller coaster ride of true tension and excitement. Most home games that have crept into existence since the WSOP and WPT hit our TV screens have mimicked this mentality, as amateur players can hardly wait to push their chips to the middle and feel the excitement of the "All In." Tournament play involves a poker psychology that is predicated on aggression and risk taking. The defined end goal makes for critical competition, as each player at the table has their eye on the same prize. Cash games do not have the same qualities. While some players at the table may be playing tight for hours each day, another may be a tourist who plays fast and loose since his flight home leaves in 3 hours. In other words, the motivation and goal of each participant may be completely disjointed. This minimizes the inherent level of torrid competition. Likewise, limit games often reward those who are patient and carefully heed the pot odds.
You write that you can't get excited to play limit games. I might ask you if you actually should be excited to play poker. Isn't excitement an emotion which may sway your decision making? Isn't eagerness a means toward tilt, especially if you don't get the cards you need? Feeling excitement should not be the goal in poker. Fulfill your need to feel exhilaration by taking up extreme mountain biking or something, not by pushing all-in or making ridiculous bluffs. So, I wonder if the excitement that you seek in tournament play is hindering your progress and improvement as a player. Perhaps you might be served well to experience the discipline needed to be a successful limit player. The exercise of exhibiting patience, using pot odds, utilizing position, and identifying the styles of your opposition should help you at the tables with any spread of games.
Excitement and exhilaration should be positive byproducts of winning at the game of poker, but they should never be the goal. The goal is to win by making consistently good decisions to fold, call, or raise. If you are serious about the game of poker, start working to understand this point immediately. You'll feel plenty of excitement when you cash out with much more than your starting bankroll.
Can you help me out with a huge decision? I'm seriously thinking about quitting my job and playing poker as a professional. I play online only, and I made $4,250 in the past two months and one week playing only a short amount of time after work every night. I play solid in Omaha, Hold Em, and Stud. My favorite right now is Stud or short handed Hold Em. Your thoughts? - Christian Jacobs from Rome, Georgia
Indeed it is a big decision. When I wrote an article for a major magazine a few months ago, I talked with many professional players about this very subject. To a man, every single pro player advised poker hopefuls to proceed with extreme caution. In fact, almost all of the professionals that I know actively discourage people from quitting their jobs to pursue poker. The reason?: because professional poker is amazingly difficult, unglamorous, intensely stressful, (most of the time) monotonous and boring, wildly unpredictable, and surrounded by numerous temptations (such as sports betting). You'll find that a huge majority of those who attempt to make the leap fall onto hard times in short order.
The simple fact that you've emailed me for a reassurance, and a confidence boost, shows me that there is serious self-doubt in your mind. I suspect that you want my advice to act as a push. Well, in this case I will choose not to be that external influence. While it is fine for you to ask opinions of friends and fellow players in order to gather information, it is not a great idea to have other people make the decision for you. I don't want my input to be weighed too heavily. This is your decision and your decision alone. Know that it will not be easy in any way. You'll be challenged in terms of poker skill, psychology, money management, and more. Your task is to self-evaluate whether you are passionate about the game, whether you have the undying drive and determination, whether you have the bankroll to survive the swings, whether you have the internal strength to overcome a bad run of cards, and much more. Best of luck.
KEEP THOSE QUESTIONS COMING!!!! Carlisle14@hotmail.com
Ed Note: Don't quit your job! Play for fun at Paradise Poker