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The Poker Counselor's Corner (35)

The Poker Counselor's Corner (35) 0001

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

My buddy played all weekend at the Taj Mahal in A.C. He played a couple of big tournaments and tons of cash games up and down the boardwalk. He did not cash in any of the tourneys and he came out behind (overall) in the cash games. To me, I'd consider that a bust of a trip. He keeps saying that he played good poker and considers the time a "good loss." I hear that term good loss all of the time in basketball and football. I don't buy it. I argue with my buddy that a loss is a loss. I say that there is no such thing as a good loss. Am I right? -Emailed by Colts_Man

Thanks for writing, but I am not sure I am the man that can pass judgment on whose thinking is right or wrong. Instead, I encourage you to think of both viewpoints to understand their strengths. You must be driven by a fierce sense of competitiveness. You are not alone, as I find that many poker players are primarily fueled by the competitive edge of the game. To you, winning at any cost is the key. You'd be content at winning even though you played poorly and got incredibly lucky. You are so focused of the big "W" that you measure your success via the money you cash in at the end of the night. With this mindset, it is impossible for you to ever imagine any positivism arising from a session which was not profitable. The benefit in this mindset falls in its insatiable nature. You'll never find yourself being satisfied by the status quo. You'll never become complacent as you think that you've become "good enough." In addition, you are likely to have the killer instinct which allows you to push for tournament wins. While others may attempt to coast into the money spots, you'll fight for the top spot with continued aggression and hunger.

You poker buddy seems to take a more measured, analytical approach to the game. He evaluates his play on personal marks such as continued patience, timely aggression, success rates at bluffs, and ability to play the cards dealt. With those (and more) factors involved in measuring his play, he can easily be content with good play even during a losing experience. He probably feels that a good loss means that he got a good return in knowledge and play experience on his financial losses. The benefit of this line of thinking is that a run of poor cards and consecutive losing sessions will not be psychologically crippling. Overall, tilt is less likely to occur. In addition, this type of thinker is likely to be patient, and never panic or push to buy pots in poor spots.

My suggestion is not to argue with your poker pal over who is right and wrong. Instead, work together to instill each other's mindset into each other. Having both of these sets of skills and thoughts will allow each of you to be capable of psychologically changing gears as you play.

You are pretty knowledgeable on poker. Is online poker rigged or what? I have been playing at Poker Stars for 3 months and have seen some crazy hands lose. I had pocket Aces lose twice last night to junk hands. It does not happen that much in home games and stuff. It just gets me wondering. -Emailed by William T.

Conspiracy theorists have been shouting that the online game is rigged since the dawn of online gambling. Since Chris Moneymaker helped to boom the popularity of online play, the battle cry from them has gotten louder and increased in number. I know many internet poker executives and professional players with financial stakes in online sites, and I am 100% certain that the most reputable (and most famous) online sites are perfectly safe. You see, poker sites generate their cash flow via the rake. They take a small percentage of each pot played (some rakes are not so small, but that is another story). While they might generate a slightly larger rake from a hand which causes lots of betting and action, the benefits would not outweigh the drawbacks of cheating the customers. Online executives want volume. They want tables to be busy, continually seeing action. The more time spent, the more hands played, the more rake taken. If anyone ever uncovered the site to be corrupt or rigged, the volume of play would instantly drop to a trickle due to the growing distrust. Thus, online poker websites spend huge amounts of money and time assuring that their sites are safe. We see many bad beats online due to the nature of the game. With the anonymity of the internet allowing people to play comfortably in their homes, you'll find many players making rather risky and unadvised calls on long shot hands. Another factor is the speed of the game. It is more than possible to play hundreds of hands online in a single session. It is also possible to play on more than one table at a time. Since you see so many more hands than you do in live play, the chances of seeing ugly bad beats increases.

What you should be aware of online are players who are in collusion. While poker sites attempt to safeguard against players playing together, it is actually rather difficult to curb if the colluders are savvy. If you see a couple of players who seem to "help each other" by raising and re-raising to increase pot sizes (called whip-sawing), leave the table and alert customer service. Also, colluders will share with each other what they are holding. They may open a chat room or talk via telephone as they play at the same online table. This extra information can be invaluable on key hands. Make no mistake, this type of cheating does exist on all online poker sites.

While collusion is indeed there, there is no intentional "rig." Your pocket Aces did not get cracked by 7-2 off suit because of some conspiracy to take your money. The 7-2 won due to a bad play by your opponent coupled with incredibly good luck.


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