Patience

The single biggest thing that new players need to learn about playing Texas hold’em is that the game requires a great deal of patience. I find this to be the case with the new generation of players who have grown up watching poker on television. Let me be the one to reveal that those shows are edited down and the boring parts of the game have been left out. In an earlier story in my blog I mentioned patience as the key to being a winning player and one of the readers asked that I write a more detailed story about patience at the table.

The reason a player must be extremely patient is that the large majority of starting hands should be folded. The player should simply throw them back to the dealer in turn. Playing more than 20% of the hands is playing too loose and the player needs to tighten up. There are two main reasons people play too many hands. First, it is boring to just sit there folding hand after hand. Second, players see everyone else playing almost every hand. Neither of these reasons is acceptable and the player will need to spend more time on accurately defining which hands can be played from which position under the particular circumstance.

Once a player has defined the very narrow starting hand criteria which is used by winning players it is time to implement the strategy at the table. The player may need to throw away every single hand for more than an hour. This takes patience. I have thrown away every hand for over four hours before and it was correct strategy. I have also been dealt premium hands on 20 consecutive hands and raised every time. The randomness of the cards leads to wide fluctuations in action. These fluctuations cause adrenaline and endorphin releases that make it even tougher to adhere to the planned strategy.

Many players have resorted to wearing head phones and listening to music while at the table. I find this to be a distraction and it takes away from my concentration. I subscribe to a very cerebral game and believe the player should be studying the entire time they are at the table. I will share a couple exercises that I perform every time I am at the table. I think they help with patience. The down side is that the exercises are mentally taxing.

When first learning to play never look at your hole cards before it is your turn. The player can give away the strength of the hand and by looking at it too soon that information is shared with the other players before it is required. In stead watch everyone else looking at their hole cards. Make a mental note of any player that looks before they are required to. Make mental notes about how they cap the cards. Try to pick up a simple tell of when the player intends to fold. This is valuable especially if the player is to your left. Try to notice if anyone else at the table is performing this exercise. Know who the alert players are at the table.

The second exercise is fairly simple and yet often neglected. On every flop know what the nut hand is. Recite in your mind what the best hand is and what the best drawing hand is. The next thing I do is keep track of the size of the pot. The third thing I think about is the absolute worst hand I could call the bet with; this is the bottom of my range. If I am in the hand I will also define the best and worst possible turn cards for my hand.

Anytime a hand is played I put each player on a hand. I make a mental note of what possible hands each player could have. As the hand progresses to the river I am trying to define the players hand to a smaller range. When the hands are turned over be honest about how well you are reading the opponents. You should be comfortable playing against opponents you read well. Strong players are often easier to play against because the range of hands is so easily defined.

I hope these exercises will help players avoid boredom at the table.

Stay patient.

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