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Lopping Off Your C Game
Stop what you're doing, pause the movie, put down your drink: this is the most important poker advice you will ever read.
Before going any further, it's only proper to give credit where credit's due. The idea for this article, along with the title, is taken directly from the truly wonderful book Elements of Poker by Tommy Angelo.
Highly recommended you pick it up, you can find it on his website.
The Three Levels of Play
Although every poker player has these three levels of play, the details, shape, scope and duration of each level is unique.
Your A Game
This is your best game, when you're on top of the world. You feel great, you're playing perfectly and you're making money hand-over-fist.
In this level of play, you're making no mistakes and are completely aware of everything going on at your table.
Your C Game
This is your worst game. You're making mistakes, bad calls, dumb bluffs, and losing money hand-over-fist. Nothing is working out, you feel horrible and just can't get anything started.
There are multiple reasons why you might play your C game: exhaustion, tilt, being overmatched, bored, distracted, etc.
Whatever the reasons may be, if you're playing your C game, you're losing a lot of money.
Your B Game
This is simply everything in between your A and C games. Some areas of your B game may be profitable, some may be expensive.
Except for maybe a few of the world's best players, the B game is where you spend the vast majority of your time at the table.
The picture below is an example of the distribution of your levels of play:
You have your best game in the middle, and it slowly deteriorates into your worst game at the edge. The closer you are to the edge, the larger and more common your mistakes become.
Increasing Your Bottom Line
The majority of poker players, poker books, videos and articles focus on the A game: how to maximize your profit, value bet, bluff and play the best poker possible.
Even though you want to continually work on and improve your A game, chances are this is not the best place to spend your time. Consider this:
Let's assume your A game always makes you $5 an hour, your B game always breaks even and your C game always loses you $5 an hour.
To make money in poker in this scenario, you have play your A game more than your C game.
Working on your A game is good, and if you bump up your A-game profit to $6 or $7 an hour, you'll make money playing poker - even if you play your C game just as often as your A game. Playing better poker will make you more money.
This is how most people approach poker. Unfortunately, there's a big problem with this approach.
How much can one really improve his or her A game? If you're already not making mistakes, and playing great poker, how much better can you get? When you're playing your absolute best game, how much more money could Phil Ivey have made if he was in your seat?
If you're only putting in money ahead and stacking the other players on your table, you can't really do any better than that. No matter how much you work on your A game, your opponents only have so much money to donate at any given time.
The best way to make more money at poker then is to work on your C game.
Who's a better player? Someone who makes $10 an hour on his A game but loses $10 an hour on his C game or someone who makes $4 an hour on his A game but only loses $1 an hour on his C game?
This is where lopping off your C game comes into play.
Take the absolute worst part of your C game. For most of us, this is the level of super tilt where we give away full buy-ins like candy.
If you just lop that off, eliminate it, it completely adjusts your whole profit diagram. Look at the picture below:
Every time you lop off the very worst of your C game, what becomes your new C game was previously part of your B game.
Once you do this, your A game remains the same but your B and C games become more profitable (or less costly).
There's far more room to grow, expand and improve on your C game than there is in your A game.
You have relatively little control over how much you can win at a poker table, but you have full control over how much you can lose.
Every time you lop off a section of your C game, you increase your bottom line. Even though the circle for your A game hasn't grown (you haven't improved your A game), the B and C circles have shrunk.
This increases the % of your A game compared to the rest of your game.
In the next article, we'll go over some of the ways you can work on lopping off parts of your C game.