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
Every time I am doing well in a tournament I get distracted by all of the deals getting struck to split the prize money. I know some guys just say they'll never strike a deal. Other guys I play with have payout percentages and numbers ready to go before the final table even forms. Part of me thinks they are a great idea to guarantee some good profits, while another part of me thinks it is a sign of giving up. -Emailed by DigDoug
This is a basic internal psychological conflict. Your competitive nature is pushing you to deny any compromises. You are fueled to win, and you expect to win. In most other games and sports, there is usually no pay-off for 2nd place and down. After all, basketball players can't cut a deal with 3 minutes left in the game. You have trained yourself to stay within this one-tracked mindset. To that end, taking a deal partially equates to a personal weakness in your eyes. Ego, pride, and your competitive nature push you to ignore the possible deals on the table.
On the other side, you see the vital importance of building your poker bankroll. Tournament cashes are not easily achieved, and grinding out profits in cash games can be consuming of your time, energy, and focus. Your intellect is in a battle with your emotional drive & ego. Instead, the intellect desires the sure payday as it revels in witnessing the poker bankroll steadily climbing.
One major issue that you have is that you are trying to settle this emotional and mental quandary at the tables, during play. While you should be fully focused on identifying the weaknesses of your opposition and analyzing your own play, you are instead wasting valuable attention inward on a possible deal. In your question you even admit that you get distracted by the deals getting struck. This is simply inexcusable. When the final table is upon you, there should be nothing except poker on your mind. Thus, I advise that you be prepared for your response to possible deals before they arise. Like the guys you mention who have the figures and percentages figured up before play begins, you should also have some set numbers in mind. Take some time now to weigh your emotional needs versus your financial needs. Think what roles your ego and your intellect are playing. When the time comes to offer or accept deals at the end of a tournament, you can then think more clearly and decisively because you've thought through your personal sticking points. When the deal is offered, a quick evaluation of your chip position, the pay-outs, and the strength of your opposition will allow you to easily identify if it is a good idea. When your ego and intellect are battling, those important factors are overlooked. Don't let that happen again.
What is the best way to build my bankroll? I'm a college student with only a couple of hundred bucks to play with. I tried low limit Hold 'Em but barely broke even. It seemed like I kept getting chased down by poor hands on the river. What do you think? Any help is appreciated. -Posted online by AceHole
I advise those who need to build a small bankroll to play online patiently and wisely while your tablemates play foolish poker. I find one of the best places to do this is on Pot Limit Omaha tables. Most of the major online poker rooms host manageable Pot Limit games, even for the slim bankrolls that struggling college kids can handle. Look for a $25 or $50 buy-in Pot Limit Omaha cash game. For a $25 game, the blinds could be as low as .10/.25. Twenty-five cents for a big blind is an easy trade-off for the opportunity to roll that $25 into four times that amount in a single session via wise play. Most low-limit Omaha players online are actually Hold 'Em players who are just testing out the game. With that in mind, they tend to grossly overplay pocket pairs, chase down non-nut draws, and make other obviously unprofitable Omaha plays. In these lower limit PLO games, it is quite common for 7-8 players to see the flop each hand. After the flop, you are sure to have callers on any raise to chase their feeble or inferior draws. Exhibiting patience and wise play will almost certainly assure you a measurable profit over the long run. Barring a series of consecutive suck-outs by your opponents, profits are nearly assured in the short-run as well. If you have especially promising hole cards, raise it up pre-flop to sweeten the pot. You'll invariably get several callers. If your hand hits, pull the optimal amount of money from your opponents by playing straight-forward poker. There is little need to make "cute" plays like check-raising. Bet out your nut draws and made hands and you will almost always get a caller or two (or more). The pot will be sizable by the time the River card is dealt. Always bet the pot if you have the nuts. Never bother to slow play, as you are wagering that there will be psychologically weak opponents at the table. Use their misplaced hope and poor skill against them.
In addition, it is always wise to use new player bonuses as you attempt to build a smaller bankroll. Use the bonus codes on pokernews.com to assure yourself of free money. When you reach the payoff for the bonus, feel free to jump to another site to take advantage of that offer. Once you've mounted a more sizable bankroll you can then choose the site that you liked the most to patronize. Overall, the biggest key is to play smart and play patient.
Keep those questions coming!! Carlisle14@hotmail.com