Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Good, Boring Poker

Three of the most common leaks found in a beginner's game are: 1) they play too many hands; 2) they call down too lightly; and 3) they bluff too much. If new poker players simply played fewer hands, called turn and river bets less often, and rarely if ever bluffed, their win rates would skyrocket.

So why doesn't the average beginner do these three things? Answer: it's boring.

It's boring to fold.

It's frustrating to fold halfway through a hand.

It's dull to never bluff.

In other words, good poker--especially at the lower limits--feels to a beginner like boring poker. Now, this of course is incorrect; once you master the Zen of folding, you'll realize that good poker is anything but boring. It's stimulating and challenging and full of surprises... ah, but to a beginner, who hasn't gotten very far on the path to poker enlightenment, "good" poker seems incredibly boring.

This is a fundamental reason why teaching a beginner to play good, solid poker is so damn difficult. It's easy to tell a new player to fold ATo UTG, but it's another to get them to actually do it on their own. It's unexciting for them to sit out 80%+ of their hands. They came to play, dammit, and that ATo looks so shiny and bright.

It's similarly easy to tell a new player to fold to a river check-raise, but good luck getting them actually lay down their made hand. And you can preach the gospel of Value all day long to a new player, but they see big bluffs on TV all the time, and they want to partake in the fun.

It's like the concept of death; we all know we're going to die, but few of us actually believe it. Similarly, a beginner can intellectually understand they shouldn't play A-T offsuit from EP, but more often than not they don't really believe it. For these players, the only way to truly learn this lesson is, sadly, by negative feedback; they actually need to get punished enough times for making the wrong play that they begin to see the light. That's when the "a-ha!" moments begin to arrive in force. Good, winning poker may look boring to a new player, but then so does walking to the cashier's cage with a rack full of chips. It's all relative.

All-in for now...

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