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How to Crush $1/$2 No-Limit Redux: Money Mistakes
Mistakes at the poker table come in many shapes and forms.
Even though some mistakes are more expensive than others, every mistake you make affects your bottom line in the long run.
To truly crush a $1/$2 game, you need to minimize the total number of mistakes you make in any session. And seeing the difference between "chips" and "money" is one of the more common areas for mistakes in live poker.
It's easy to think of the money you have in an online poker account as being "poker money" - part of a bigger bankroll.
Cash in your pocket, or even chips on a table, however, can begin to feel like expendable income.
You Play Poker with Chips, Not Money
To be successful at poker, you need to come to terms with the idea that you're playing for chips. Chips are worthless pieces of clay (or plastic), their only purpose that of keeping score.
Deviating from this simple idea is the catalyst for the majority of money-based mistakes.
As soon as you start to worry about how the current pot will affect the weight of your wallet, you're almost certain to make serious mistakes in your play at the table.
You must separate yourself from the money you use to buy in to the table before you even sit down. Whether you win or lose in this single session should be absolutely irrelevant to your immediate financial situation.
Your buy-in is an investment in your own skill and competency - nothing more.
The Little Goals
If you make a full $200 buy in to a $1/$2 No Limit Hold 'em game, you'll be sitting with two stacks of $5 chips.
You post for your first hand, and this becomes one stack and change. Say you hit a few hands, make a few bucks, and are now sitting with $450.
You're now sitting with four 20-chip stacks making a symmetrical square, with some change on top. This looks good to you, and when your own stack looks good, you feel good. Everything is going well.
Now the next pot you play, you lose $60. You're still sitting with $390, up almost a full buy-in. You're technically doing really well, but now your square of chips has turned into three stacks and change.
Even though you're still up, and you haven't taken much of a loss, your chips don't look as good any more.
Typically humans like to set goals, and continually advance toward them. For this reason, most No-Limit poker players are hoping to double up and make a buy-in.
Once you build your stack to over $400, you've reached your first little goal. You now want to make another buy-in to get to $600.
You're feeling great because you've completed a little goal, and are working toward the next.
Once you lose enough chips to put your stack below your first goal, you start to feel bad. You now have to work just to get back to where you already were before you can even think about completing your $600 goal again.
These sorts of mental traps can force a player to try and "force the action."
Once you start trying to make things happen, instead of letting the game progress naturally, you are almost certain to make mistakes, letting your lust for chips blind you.
Separating the Profit
Typically after being stuck a buy-in or more, players will be almost overwhelmed with a sense of pride/relief once they become unstuck and grind a standing profit.
The feeling of being stuck is not one that any player enjoys; it's something we all go to great lengths to avoid.
When a player finally gets out of the hole, and sheds the feeling of being stuck, the very last thing they will want to do is to let the feeling return.
To avoid it players will separate, either mentally or physically, their chips into two piles: buy-ins and profit.
A player with this mentality will make their choices based on the relation of the current bet to their profit-only pile. If they think raising is the correct play, but raising would cost them more than the profit pile can allow, these players may opt to just call instead.
If you're not willing to put all of your chips across the line at any time, you should stand up from the table - simple as that.
It's All One Session
Mike Caro preaches this point constantly: all the sessions of poker you play are just segments of one long lifetime session.
Your results from any single session are completely irrelevant. This means your play should not change regardless of whether you're stuck or up.
The cards, odds and, you can hope, the other players don't have any idea if you've won or lost your last 20 sessions. And they don't care.
You need to play mistake-free poker, regardless of any outside factors.
One of the byproducts of thinking about poker on a per-session basis is "manufacturing wins." This is when a player wants to finish "up" on a session, so they will play only to that end.
Players like this may leave a good game prematurely for fear of suffering a loss. Or worse yet, they may rebuy multiple times into a game they cannot beat.
To be successful in poker you have to think of the chips as nothing more than a scorecard. You need to make the best decisions you can in every situation without ever letting the thought of money impede your thought process.
Save your thoughts of money for the drive home. Until then you play to win, one pot at a time.
For the broad strokes on how to crush a live $1/$2 No-Limit Hold'em game, head to the aptly named article: How to Crush Live $1/$2 No-Limit Hold'em by Daniel Skolovy.
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