Thinking Long Term

Erik Seidel
If there's anyone who understands that one win - or, say, one perpetually relived defeat - does not a career make, it's Erik Seidel.

Think of poker as a continual, lifelong game.

Your goal in this game is to make money in the long term. You may have losing days, weeks or even months, but as long as you win in the long run, you are "beating poker."

Most beginners tend to look at one hand or one session and draw ridiculous conclusions from it. It's a mistake to react this way.

An Example

Let's say for example that you raise pre-flop on the button with K K and the new player calls from the big blind. The board comes K J 2; your opponent pushes all-in and you call.

He turns over the A T. The turn comes 4 and the river Q. He starts gloating about how well he played the hand. He feels that since he won the hand, his move was correct. Sometimes a novice player with KK will even question their call afterward just because they lost.

What you should do is look at your play and ask yourself whether it's profitable in the long run. That is, put whatever the actual outcome was out of your mind and look at it objectively.

In this case it's easy. You flopped top set, which is the stone-cold nuts on that board. Should you call his all-in? Absolutely - your call shows a positive expectation over the long term. We always want to be making bets that show a positive expectation.

The Moral

What we should always try to do as poker players is look for the best move (the move with the highest expectation) at any given time. If you always make the best possible move, you'll always make money in the long term.

There will of course be times when you make the best move and still lose; that is inevitable, since poker is a game that is influenced by luck. Bad plays are going to get rewarded, but that doesn't all of a sudden make their moves good.

Put the short term completely out of your mind and focus only on making the best decision at any given time. Good results are destined to follow.

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