Sunday, October 7, 2007

Avoiding Costly Mistakes

It's a truism amongst serious-minded poker players -- in other words, those players who share a constant desire to learn and improve -- that avoiding just one costly mistake per session will dramatically increase one's win rate and profits at the end of the day. After all, as many poker authors have written, a bet saved is the same as a bet won.

Well, I re-learned this bitter lesson this morning as I lost focus towards the end of my cash game session before heading over to the parents for an enjoyable Thanksgiving dinner. (I'd like to think I didn't let it spoil my good mood at the family gathering, which was especially fun because it was the first major holiday with my sister in attendance since her move back from Scotland. Much food and drink was consumed, jokes were made, a lot of great music was listened to and enjoyed.)

In no particular order, I made the following serious mistakes:

I paid off a short stack to the tune of 30 BBs by calling his shove with only an inside straight draw and bottom pair;

I paid off an opponent who had telegraphed his overpair (pocket aces) for an additional 30 BBs when I shoved over the top on 4th street with top pair and a double belly buster draw and didn't improve;

I paid off an opponent's value bet on the river for an additional 20 BBs with a top pair hand with a second-best kicker.

That's 80 BB's worth of mistakes that should still be in my bankroll.

Combine that with a setup hand where my pocket pair of kings lost to a flopped straight to the tune of a full buy-in, and all my hard work came to naught, leaving me right where I started at the beginning of my session. Going up two buy-ins is great. Giving back nearly all of it is not so great.

Poker is a hard game to win at -- even if you have an advantage over many of your opponents when you sit down at the table. Eliminating some of these careless mistakes would ensure that I would consistently bank profits in the games I'm playing -- games where I do enjoy a significant edge -- instead of suffering through high-variance swings that destroy hard-earned progress towards growing my bankroll in the blink of an eye.

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