Last issue I wrote about ways you can run bad at poker. Whether you lose to a one-outter on the river or you don’t hit a flop for five hours, running bad happens to the best of us.
But most small stakes players do something terrible that makes their bad runs even worse. They play bad too.
Here are four bad plays that small stakes players make that cause them to experience more “bad luck” than they have to.
Calling raises out of position with dominated hands
If you read my articles regularly, you might expect this one to be first on my list. It is. And it will continue to be until I see people stop doing it. (I should live so long.) This one’s really simple. Being out of position is a big disadvantage in this game. Holding top pair with a bad kicker while you’re out of position against a preflop raiser is even worse. This just loses money, people.
Here’s how it works. You limp in with A 5 . I raise from the button. You call. The flop comes K J 6 . You check, I bet, you fold. Or the flop comes A 9 8 . You check, I bet, you call. Turn is a Q . You check, I bet big, and you hate your hand. Nothing good can come of it.
Don’t limp in with A5o. Don’t limp in with K8s. Don’t limp in with QTo. If you do limp in with these hands and someone raises behind you, cut your losses and fold. If you keep playing these hands you are going to be outkicked and outdrawn over and over again, and you will have no one to blame but yourself.
Overcommitting to vulnerable hands
No-limit hold’em is a simple game. You have your monster hands, your decent but vulnerable hands, and your dud hands. You want to put a lot of money in the pot with your monsters, a medium amount with your decent and vulnerable hands, and little to nothing with your duds.
As simple as this is, however, small stakes players get it wrong all the time. They slowplay their monsters to get just a medium amount of money for them. And they put a lot of money in the pot with their decent and vulnerable hands. At least they get the duds right. Usually.
It’s a $2-$5 game with $800 stacks. A loose player in early position makes it $20 to go. A player calls. Our hero calls from two off the button with K J . The cutoff and button also call, and the blinds fold. It’s five to the flop in a $107 pot.
The flop comes J T 8 . The raiser checks. The next player checks. Our hero then bets $150.
He normally doesn’t make bets that big. But he sees that board, and it’s scary. There’s three straight cards out there and a flush draw. He’s got top pair and he wants everyone out now before things get worse.
What’s he done? He’s just put a ton of money in the pot with what is essentially a decent, but vulnerable hand. With four opponents and such a dangerous flop, he could be behind already. More to the point, big bets only get bad hands and draws to fold. Good draws, the hands that our hero is most scared of, are coming along no matter how much he bets. You can’t protect a vulnerable hand by betting a ton of money. All you do when you bet big with a vulnerable hand is ensure that the only people who will play with you are ones who have a good chance to beat you.
Next time you get outdrawn in a big pot, don’t just tell the bad beat story. Think about how the pot got to be so big, and think about if your hand was really strong enough to justify playing such a large pot.
Paying Off When You’re Outdrawn
For the third time in the last hour you flopped top pair. And for the third time the flush card came in. The last two times it came on the turn and you folded to significant action. This time it came on the river. The nit who called you on the flop and turn has now put out a $200 bet. How bad can you run, right?
Please do not call.
Yes, people bluff scare cards on the river, and you shouldn’t just auto-muck the river if a bad card comes. But in many cases when your opponent bets or raises the river, you’re beat the overwhelming majority of the time. Don’t pay these bets off.
I see people pay off hopelessly in this situation every time I play. These payoffs are bankroll killers. It’s certainly frustrating when bad cards keep popping up. But you have to keep your composure. Go back through the hand in your head. What hands can your opponent have? Can he even reasonably have a bluff? Many bad river cards leave little doubt that you’re beaten. In these cases, you have to let it go.
Camping Out In A Bad Seat
At any poker table, there are good seats and bad seats. The seat directly to the left of the worst player at the table is always a good seat. A seat with a bunch of nits on your right and some short-stacked tourists on your left is a bad seat. If you make a habit of sitting in the best available seat at your table, moving promptly when necessary, you will make more money playing poker.
It’s an easy thing to do. A terrible player is sitting with 300 big blinds in front of him. The guy on his left gets up. There should be a fight over who gets that seat. The good seat might be worth an extra $30/hour or more, but there’s no fight. A fight over the white chip that rolled off the table? Sure. A fight over the most valuable seat in the game? Never.
Some seats are particularly bad. If you like to limp into pots and see cheap flops, then I’m a very annoying guy to have on your left. It will seem like I’m raising you nearly every time I have the button. I know I’m annoying, because my opponents are often eager to tell me so. But despite the fact that I’m thwarting his plans, that guy who likes to limp in to every pot simply will not move to the empty seat across the table. He’ll grumble loudly every time I raise, but he can’t be bothered to move three feet to a different seat.
This one couldn’t be easier. If a seat opens up, and it’s better than the one you’re in, move. If you don’t, and you proceed to lose two buyins in the bum seat, you have no one to blame but yourself.
[This article appeared in the October 5, 2011 issue (Vol. 24, No. 20) of Card Player.]
Tags: bad play, no-limit-holdem, playing out of position, poker, running-bad, seat selection