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The Poker Counselor’s Corner (55)

The Poker Counselor’s Corner (55) 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 always try to step up early in a tournament to defend my blinds (especially big blind). If I am in the BB and I get raised from a player on or near the button, I like to re-raise big in order to let it be known not to mess with my blinds. A winning poker buddy of mine taught me this about a year ago, and it often works. Well, that mentality screwed me at least four times in one night last night online. I dug myself a hole each time when I got re-raised all-in and was forced to fold. Should I be rethinking this strategy? - Posted by Jacks_Full

Even though you are asking if you should be rethinking your poker strategy, I am certain that you know what my response will be. Of course you should be reevaluating your play. I am an advocate for continual intensive inspection of your emotions and your play. I attempt to convince players to think through their play after losses and after wins. In your case, a string of losses in one evening using the same basic maneuver seems like a pretty definitive red flag. First, I find fault in your consistent knee jerk reaction to the same variable. Because your poker buddy advised you to do so, you invariably re-raise from the blind positions. This reactionary move overshadows the situation, the style of your opponent, the blinds, the tournament structure, and so much more. Perhaps your move may have grown to become obvious and predictable to your tablemates. Perhaps you are discounting that the player you are re-raising may be a tight player who must have a premium hand. In reality, you may be making a myriad of serious errors in each of the times that you have re-raised. Put simply, I suspect that you may be compelled to make the move for the completely wrong reason: ego. Your poker buddy taught you to defend your blind at all cost. I often find that those who are such staunch defenders of their blinds are ego-driven, emotional players. There is some sort of emotional attachment to the chips that they place into the pot for the blind. When those chips are “attacked” with a raise from late position, the player himself somehow feels threatened or attacked. It is as if their psyche has them thinking that it is their newborn baby on the table that is in need of protection! In live games, for instance, I often identify players who have attachments to the blinds by keenly watching their faces for reactions when a raise comes in. Their eyes and mouth will often display a twinge of disgust when the raise is announced. Sometimes I can see a nasty look of anger beam through their eyes toward the raiser, as well. Whenever I detect a player who has an attachment for the blind, I am certain to attempt to use this to my advantage as I press my hands against them. Your consistent play is certainly a liability. You should always have a clear reason in mind of why you are acting the way that you choose to. That “why” could be linked to pot odds, a read or tell, your instincts, and your cards – but the “why” should never be emotions or habit.

I’m playing a lot of satellites and step tournaments where coming in 1st is really not the goal. Everyone is just playing to get a seat in the next tournament, and the seats could start at 25th place or more. I find it hard to set my sights on this, as I am used to fighting for the final table and the win. I’ll see that I am 23rd in chips with 40 players left and I still feel that drive to play hard to accumulate chips for the final table push. If there are 25 seats, though, I should be playing more on the conservative side while the low stacks disappear. – Posted by Green_Odd

Flat payout structures do indeed lead us to alter our normal mindset. For so long we have trained ourselves to tirelessly battle for the very top spot in all tournament style poker, yet we have to be mentally prepared to battle for any of the flat payout spots. It is hard to not feel as if we are “settling” for 25th place when 25th pays the same as 1st place. It is actually a nice example of the psychology of the game driving our efforts more than the money. While our intellect knows that any pay spot will suffice, our emotional needs can overtake that intellect quickly. It boils down to the fact that we play for the positive feelings of satisfaction, power, and confidence with the money and prizes often being positive side-effects. By posting this question, it seems that you have already begun the personal quest to reset that mindset. Your mind is already acting to resolve the internal conflict, and with some more work and time you will find a satisfaction for leveled payouts that has thus far eluded you.

Keep those questions coming!!!

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