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Don't Let Your Mistakes Compound
Poker is a game of decisions.
It doesn't matter if you're multi-tabling online or playing a single table live, you'll be put to the test often and every decision is important.
You are playing poker - by definition, you win money by making better decisions than your opponents. The fewer bad decisions you make, the more success you will have.
Mistakes are inevitable however. Nobody plays perfect poker, and even the best in the world make mistakes.
If nobody made mistakes, nobody would ever win in the long run. Everyone would just trade money back and forth playing perfect poker while slowly losing money to the rake. That's not my idea of fun. Mistakes are what fuel the poker economy.
So if even the best players in the world make mistakes, what makes them different from you or me?
Great players never let their mistakes compound. They take each decision independently and make the very best choice of action they possibly can, whereas when a new player makes a mistake, they often fall off the rails and allow their blunders to multiply.
Here's an example:
$1/$2 No-Limit Hold'em; effective stacks are $200. Villain raises to $12 from the button. You mis-click and accidentally call with 4♥ 7♥ from the big blind. The board comes 5♥ 6♥ A♠. Villain bets $20.
Allowing the mistake to compound? You just call or fold because you mis-clicked pre-flop.
The flop now changes the hand completely and you have an open-ended straight flush draw. Though you made a mistake pre-flop, the bigger mistake would be to fold the flop and/or play the flop passively. Your best move now would be to raise with your OESFD.
$1/$2 No-Limit Hold'em; effective stacks $200. It's folded to you on the button. You raise to $7 with T♠ 9♠. The big blind, who is one of the tighter players at the table, reraises to $20.
You believe he would only do this with big pocket pairs and A-K, and decide you can stack him if you hit a straight and call (perhaps flawed thinking in itself).
The board comes T♣ 3♥ 4♠ and he bets $30. You now have top pair, and since you elected to call pre-flop you talk yourself into calling the flop.
The turn drops the 7♠ and he bets $65. Now you feel you have too much invested to fold, so you call the turn. The river comes off 2♦ and he bets his last $85. You feel you are pot-committed and make the call.
This is an awful hand, and a classic example of mistakes building on one another.
You did one thing right - you raised pre-flop. After that, the hand is a full-on debacle. You let your problems compound and you didn't once think things through in order to make the best possible decision.
The three-bet from a tight player clearly shows strength. Don't bother trying to outflop him; chances are if you make a big hand this tightwad isn't going to pay you off anyway.
Then the flop comes and you make top pair. After he bets, there is nothing that you can beat, but you choose to call again. You then make yourself feel pot-committed and end up stacking off with one pair.
This is not good decision making. This is getting yourself emotionally tied up in a hand and opting for the wrong course of action - more than once.
Instead of one misplayed street, you have a completely misplayed hand. On top of that, you may go on tilt and ruin an entire session, or worse.
Good poker players don't let things like this happen. So what's their secret?
As Phil "OMGClayAiken" Galfond said in his 2+2 well post, "Every time the action is on you it is your opportunity to make the best possible decision."
It doesn't matter if you are in the middle of a downswing, or you just got sucked out on, or you mis-click raised to see the flop. When the action is on you, the only thing that matters is that you decide on the optimum play.
Doing so is going to require thought. Meaning if you're still obsessing about that hand where you just donked off a stack, you're not going to have a clear enough head to make the right decision. You're better off picking up than you are to keep playing in this state.
You need to be able to get past the last hand, and you need to be able to focus on the situation you're now faced with.
So make that your goal. As soon as you stop letting your mistakes pile up and start taking each decision as it comes, you'll be on the way to becoming a better player.
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