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The Poker Counselor's Corner (43)

The Poker Counselor's Corner (43) 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

I'm doing well cruising through single table sit-and-gos and low-limit No Limit games online. During live games I usually do pretty well, often cashing at tournaments and bringing home profits in cash games. What do you think the key is to taking the next step for me? - Posted at an online forum by I.River

There are so many intricacies involved in poker games that it can become complicated to specifically identify a progression for our games. Each of our poker journeys are individualized based on our experiences, natural strengths, poker psychology, and more. As a rule, I find that many aspiring players are so focused on aggression that they neglect to hone their defensive skills. I feel that folding appropriately is what separates good players from great ones. This notion was echoed in a recent conversation that I had with poker pro Phil Gordon. In his latest book (Phil Gordon's Little Green Book), he describes a situation where he folded pocket Kings pre-flop when he thought Phil Hellmuth was holding pocket Aces. Gordon's read was exactly correct, allowing him to dodge a major bullet that would've effectively ruined his chances in the tournament. There are very few amateur players that I interact with that have similar stories. Most players could never dream of folding Kings pre-flop. Online and in live games, I consistently see guys playing their premium hands all the way to the River, even though it is pretty obvious that someone has completed a flush or straight. Through the thousands of hands that you've played, your poker instincts have steadily grown. Now that they are there and trustworthy, it is time to allow them to guide you. When you feel that you are beaten, it is time to toss your pretty cards into the muck. It may seem silly to think that folding may be a key in your poker progression, but saving chips that should've been lost is the exact same as winning chips. Ask any poker veteran about their poker experiences, and they will be able to proudly recall as many tough lay-downs that they've made as the number of crazy bluffs. Just like in other sports, offense is important but defense wins championships. Remember this simplistic but vital advice: if you think you hand has been bested, it is time to fold.

My wife and I took a trip to Aruba last month. I thought we'd spend most of our time lounging at the beach and hanging out in the bars at night. Instead, I spent an enormous amount of time playing limit poker in the casinos while my wife played blackjack (or went shopping). I almost feel guilty about it now. I am wondering if we should have spent more time exploring the beaches and water. I can play poker online anytime, but I can't see Aruba's sand and warm sun all of the time! - Emailed by Floyd J.

I have also enjoyed the beaches, and the poker rooms, that accompany the beautiful isle of Aruba. I suppose that the guilt that you have bubbling to the surface comes from the disparity between the social expectations of a vacation vs. your actual experience. Many of us think that a beach vacation must be filled with sand castles and sun bathing during the day, drinking and dancing at night. In reality, the best vacations are much more personalized to what we enjoy. Vacations are designed to allow us all to unwind and escape the rigors of work, bills, and daily life demands. That is why I often gravitate towards using the European term of "holiday" rather than vacation. Doesn't that term just sound so much better? To me, vacation conjures up images of long trips of big families stuffed into the station wagon while a holiday seems like an exotic, relaxing experience. If that comes in the form of shopping sprees from your wife and check-raises from you, then so be it! If you and your wife are content and had a fun time, then the trip was a true success. Just remember that it is your money, your time, and your holiday.


Ed Note: Do you own a Mac? You can play online anytime you want at

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