Conservative poker playing can be frustrating to many beginning players, but it is necessary. While there are players who play â€œlooserâ€ and are successful, all good poker playing over the long term starts with basic conservative play and moves on from there. Aggressive playing is different from loose playing, and even if you see the pros doing it on TV, what you donâ€™t see is the two hundred hands they played to get a read on every player at the table, to figure out what everyone is playing, and what tells they picked up on that one hand.
Many players choose to see the flop with almost any two cards, reasoning that if they miss they can throw away, and they might sneak in some monster winning hands in the mean time. The problem is that this is one of the most common mistakes by beginning players. If a player pays to see ten flops at $10 a flop, that is $100 lost if no hands hit. That means if the next hand happens to get lucky, the person needs $100 in other playersâ€™ chips in the pot just to break even.
While a couple of chips just for one glance at the flop here or there doesnâ€™t seem like a big deal, there are a few tips you need to keep in mind. When you play a lot of hands, you will lose much more often then you donâ€™t. When you catch that monster hand, you have to make it pay for all those hands you lost. Compare Player A and Player B when both players start with $1,000 worth of chips. Player A pays $10 to see the flop four times without success. This leaves him with $960. Player B went straight and flush chasing, and looked at twelve hands. This leaves player B with $880 dollars.
This is a big difference, because when a good hand comes, Player A only needs $40 to break even. Player B needs $120. This tends to have a quick sand effect. Since Player B needs to make up more money, Player B is also more likely to pay more hands to try and make it all up. As Player B does this, the amount he has to earn back will be more, and as a result, even if that great hand comes, Player B might do no better than breaking even. What if Player B gets pocket Aâ€™s and can only take one bet and the blinds? While that would also be a disappointment for Player A, Player A is at least back to even, Player B is still behind.
This is part of the strategy behind conservative poker in general. The money you do not lose is just as good as the money you actually win. Even aggressive poker players, like professional player Doyle Brunson admits to this. The loose poker player is hurt just as much, if not more, by the nickel and diming of calling too many hands as by the big loss, and the big loss is much more likely to come with a marginal hand. If you have A-4, and the flop is A-4-K, what happens when you raise and the guy holding A-K re-raises? Youâ€™re in serious trouble and too committed to get out. These types of starting hands do occasionally hit big, but there is a reason the percentages for A-K vs. A-4 are what they are: every situation where both hit two pair, or two pair and a kicker, are figured into those odds.
Next time you play, keep track of how many times you bet just to try to get lucky on the flop, and record how much you spend on this. This technique works especially well with online games. Keep track of how often you spend chips, and how often it actually pays off. After enough time a pattern will emerge. Once you master playing conservative poker, you will be able to figure out when to bend and even break the rules. Until then, learn the basics inside and out, and good luck at the tables.