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
Why do I always seem to get creamed when playing online? I play home games at least two times per week and almost always cash. Every time I play on the internet, though, I get beaten badly. I never cash in the sit and go's. I lose money in the ring games. I am very, very frustrated. -Emailed by PicMyToes
Your defeatist attitude toward internet play will certainly continue to cause you heartache as you play online. You simply must find a way to become more confident in your overall ability and play. Doing this is sometimes one of the most difficult psychological steps that we must each face. It seems that your confidence exudes in your live play. Perhaps this is partially because you've grown comfortable with your regular home-game opponents, the type of play, the pace of play, and the level of cash at risk. When playing online, all of these variables are now significantly altered. In essence, you feel like an inexperienced rookie at the online tables. This self-doubt causes you to play scared, in a state where you continually second-guess yourself. You are sure to come out on the short end over and over again if this is your mental thought process. The skills needed to win in live games and online are similar — patience, selective aggression, using position, exploiting weaknesses of the opposition, trusting your instincts, etc. Once you find a way to convert your poker skills AND poker psychology skills to all aspects and variations of the game, you'll soon be meeting success in live games and online. Believe in yourself and your bankroll will begin to swell.
I think I saw an old lady palm a chip or two from her neighbor at a table in Las Vegas last weekend. She slipped her right arm under her left armpit and reached. I am pretty sure I saw it, but I also thought that my eyes might be deceiving me after 5 hours at the same table. I don't get to Vegas too often, so I was not sure if this kinda thing happens a lot. I didn't say anything, but I certainly made sure to keep a closer eye on my own stack after that. What should've I done? - Emailed by LittleMack from Buffalo, NY
You froze when you saw a sweet-looking older lady grabbing to steal chips. It is understandable. Nobody likes to ruffle feathers by being a tattle-tale. We certainly do not want to appear to be a complete jerk by falsely accusing somebody, especially an elder that we are raised to respect. Still, the integrity of the game (and your personal integrity) compelled you to do something. Thus, you are stuck in an emotional flux that caused you to email me even after your vacation to Vegas is long since completed.
You wrote that you were uncertain if this sort of thing often happens at the tables in Las Vegas. Well, it is sad to say that it does indeed happen often. Not just in Vegas, but in all locations where games are played with cash on the table. This winter I spent a weekend in Atlantic City, with my favorite story of the whole experience being a moment where a young man swiped a measly $5 chip from a low-limit game and dashed for the exits. The security guard jumped into action to head him off before he got too far. The man admitted that he had gambled away his last money and did not have the funds needed to drive back through the AC Expressway tolls. From dingy dorm rooms to the ritziest casinos in Monte Carlo, there are certainly many poor sports out there looking to help themselves to your money,
Your conscious obviously was pushing you to do something. A quick, unobtrusive word with the floor manager might have been all that it would've taken to feel assured. The floor manger would be able to have tapes reviewed to be certain of what happened. If your eyes had fooled you, then no harm would be done and you would feel better that you had done all that you could. If you were absolutely certain that you had seen a player steal a chip, there is no harm in announcing your observations immediately to the dealer, fellow players, and the floor manager. I try to encourage players to follow their instincts and heart. This advice holds true whether you are facing a big re-raise, or if you witness cheating.
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