“I raise, and, of course, three people call.”
“I was in a multiway pot and sure enough some donkey sucked out and beat my aces.”
“If I bet this river and he raises I’ll just be so pissed.”
This is entitlement.
Every statement you just read? Those are entitled statements.
Don’t feel bad if you have ever uttered them. I’ve said them all too. Lucky for me, at some point one of my mentors overseas screamed at me until I shut up. Now, it’s my turn to pay the lesson forward. I will teach you what took me so long to learn.
Poker is Gambling
Listen. This game? It’s gambling.
“Yeah yeah…” you said to yourself as you read that. “I’ve heard this all before.”
Really? Because you’re not playing like it. You’re not acting like it.
If you have complained about a bad beat in the last three months, you are demonstrating you don’t understand how this game works.
If you have ever uttered one of the statements above inwardly then you are betraying your lack of understanding of the game.
Why do you want this game to be so hygienic?
Adults gamble. Adults have gambled for all of history. Teenagers love risky behavior. Adults drink and watch sports. We all know how this works. You can go to Cambodia or Egypt or Brazil. You will see the same things. Humans are creatures with instincts. They follow them.
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Your job is to tame the animals we all become on the felt. We become emotional when our own money is at play. We are all capable of amateur play and tilted behavior. To become a master at No Limit Hold’em we must learn to harness the storm.
Poker is a Fist Fight
You are in a fist fight when you play big bet poker. Stop acting like this is a civilized game of Parcheesi between friends.
What are you trying to take from the other players in a poker game? Their chips. What do the chips represent? Money. How do most people get money? They trade hours of their life for it.
When you play poker, you are trying to take someone’s life away. They traded hours, days, weeks, or months to get their buy-in. You’re trying to take that from them. Boxers hit their opponents so hard that they shorten their lifespan. You are not far from this when you play poker.
Of course, most of us live in civilized countries and play with adults. These adults accepted this risk when they sat down at the felt. Most are playing with money they can afford to lose. But the fact remains. You are trying to take what another woman has earned. You are trying to take her money through deceit and misdirection. You are fighting the other people at your table. Stop acting like they owe you anything.
If you have ever had the misfortune of being in a street fight, then you know people behave desperately when threatened. They don’t fight fair. They bite. They go for your eyes. They kick you in the shin. They call for backup.
When you are trying to take another person’s money, they also won’t fight fair. They will mess with you verbally. They’ll try to outdraw your overpairs if they think you’re too scared and may fold them. They will raise if they think they can rattle you.
The other players are allowed to do all of these things. Anything the floor and dealers allow is fair game. They are defending themselves from you. You are trying to take their money.
You can be cordial, much in the way boxers will touch gloves before the fight. But business is business. Everything is on the table. Learn to accept that and you will be much more professional in your next outing.
Alexander Fitzgerald is a professional poker player and bestselling author who currently lives in Denver, Colorado. He is a WPT and EPT final tablist. He has WCOOP and SCOOP wins online. He also won the $250,000 Guaranteed on America’s Cardroom last year. He currently enjoys blasting bums away in Ignition tournaments while he listens to death metal. He can be reached for private coaching at firstname.lastname@example.org