How to Crush $1/$2 No-Limit Redux: Money Mistakes

Cash Flow

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.

Joseph Shukys
Mistakes make for sour expressions.

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.

Rasmus Nielsen
Don't seperate your profit from investment.

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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Arty Smokes 2011-08-17 06:38:02

I'm constantly trying to remind myself that it's not money, but chips or "points" that I'm trying to win and I guess I've got pretty good at doing that, but I definitely still have the problem of treating each time I sit down as one session, and start thinking of my goal for that session. Often this goal is "Don't fall below the original buy-in now you've won some chips as otherwise that will be two losing sessions in a row". I think I keep falling into this trap because I keep a spreadsheet with details of each session and I've become obsessed with the "profit/loss per session" column in the spreadsheet. I know I should put more store into the long-term trends and bb/100 figures, but my spreadsheet software automatically puts losses in red ink and it just looks horrible when I get two in a row!
In a game today, I lost my first buy-in pretty quickly (KK against AA on the third hand) but rebought after cursing my bad luck. A few hands later, I doubled up, which meant I'd regained the losses. After a few more hands I'd turned the session into a profitable one, and it seemed I was the best player among a bunch of fish at the table. Somehow, though, I wasn't focussed on the game. Instead of thinking "I could crush these players if I play solidly", I was thinking if "I'm still ahead after an hour, I can say I made a great comeback after a terrible start". I was so focussed on staying just above the break-even point, that I took my eye off the game. Inevitably, I made a couple of bad folds when I had good cards, and then over-compensated by making a couple of loose calls with weak cards. By trying too hard to manufacture a winning session, I ended up with a losing one!

I can smile about it now, but I was so annoyed when it happened. This article has reminded me to spend less time staring at the $/session column in my spreadsheet and more time concentrating on playing my best game.

rando 2009-04-09 13:53:00

haven't tought about it in this way, but thanks to this article, i guess i found one of my leaks :D ... thank you

Sean Lind 2009-04-02 17:18:00

Glad you like them, there will be a couple more $1/$2 articles coming out soon. Stay tuned.

tomas 2009-04-02 07:13:00

Hey Sean,

Great article, everything you said is totally true, I see this all too often at every table I sit at.

I love these 1/2 casino full table articles, because that is my game of choice as well. And it also is more relevant to me since I believe you play at the same casinos as I do. MY friend said he sat next to you at RR a couple weeks ago. Small world.

Anyways, good work on the articles keep it up looking forward to the next ones!

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