5 Big Leaks to Cut From Your C Game

Daniel Negreanu
Even the best players have C game leaks

Before you can work on lopping off your C game, you need to pinpoint all of the individual elements that actually make it up.

If you don't know what your C game is, or how you're supposed to lop it, read this article first:

What exactly are the root causes when you play your worst game? What loses you the most money?

These are the most common causes of playing your C game:

  • Tilt
  • Exhaustion
  • Distraction
  • Being out-skilled
  • Playing scared

By far the most common cause of the C game is tilt, so that's a good place to start.

1. Tilt

When most players think of being on tilt, they think "super-tilt" - Phil Hellmuth kicking over chairs and calling people idiots, or a red-faced Mike Matusow yelling at other players on ESPN.

Realistically though, tilt comes in tons of different forms and degrees and can be caused by almost anything.

Daniel Negreanu
Even Negreanu gets tilted: just watch HSP.

The simplest definition is any time your emotions are making you play anything less than your A game, you're on tilt. You don't need to be steaming or frothing at the mouth. If you're at all emotionally distracted, you're losing money.

And because of the elusive nature of it, it can also be difficult to stop yourself from playing on some degree of tilt.

The best advice is to listen to the little thoughts in your head. As soon as you hear yourself think, "Wow this is frustrating," or "Jesus, will I ever get a single card higher than a 9?"- even something like "That guy's really damn annoying " - you're on tilt.

Although all levels of tilt detract from your game, some obviously do so more than others. The "light" tilt, such as finding a player annoying, may only be enough to bring you down to your high-B game.

Playing your B game isn't ideal, but it's not going to cost you lots of money. You have no need to leave the table when it happens.

But any time tilt reaches a point where you're clearly playing your C game, you need to get up or log off and leave the game. When you're on full-steam tilt, it's not possible to calm down enough to return to your A game in a matter of minutes.

By leaving the game, you're 100% eliminating this aspect of the C game. If you always leave when you're steaming, you'll completely remove the outer ring from your circle of play.

You've lopped it off, and your whole game benefits as a result.

2. Exhaustion

It's just not possible to play your A game when you're exhausted.

When you've reached that level of tiredness, you're thinking neither quickly nor clearly - two of the most critical requirements for playing good poker. And it's when you start getting tired - well before you become exhausted - that it's time to leave the game.

Late night last night?
Exhaustion: It costs you money.

Exhaustion is a sneaky devil. You don't notice how tired you're getting until it's too late. If you're seated at the table, it's easy to fall into a rut where you don't move or do anything other than play cards.

You need to get up, take short breaks and walk around. Assess how you're doing mentally off the table so you can go back and make better choices on the table.

When you start to feel tired at all, cash in your chips and go find your pillow. The goal is not to limit the amount of time you spend playing your C game - the goal is to completely remove each ring of the C game from your play.

3. Distraction

Pretty self-explanatory. If you're distracted, you're not playing your best poker.

Try to sit facing away from TVs, stop flirting with the cocktail waitress, turn off your MSN. Limit your distractions and focus on poker.

If you're trying to limit distractions, the last thing you want to do is bring some ones of your own with you to the table. If you came to play poker, do exactly that.

4. Being Out-Skilled

If your A game is only as good as your opponent's B game, you're hooped. The quality of your game is best evaluated by comparing your game to that of your opponents.

When you're beat, you're beat. Get up and get out.

5. Running Scared

Daniel Negreanu
Try not to bring distractions with you to the table.

The final item that causes C-game play is fear.

A No-Limit poker player has to be willing to put all of his or her chips across the line at any given moment. If you're scared of losing what you have in front of you, it's not possible to play a proper game.

You need to have the money to lose (have a proper bankroll), and you need to be willing to lose it.

You can't be scared of the money or the other players. People do very strange things when they're under stress or scared. And strange things at the poker table equate to lost money.

Have a bankroll, be confident and strip this ring from your C game entirely.

It's not enough to try to limit or avoid the elements that bring on your C game either. C-game catalysts are like tumors. You have to completely remove them or they'll grow back into your game, eventually bringing you down.

In a nutshell:

Stay calm, stay positive, be healthy and get sleep. Stay focused, play within your skill level and be fearless. The rest will take care of itself.

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