I’ve recently added a graphic image to my live stream layout that simply says “Excuses Don’t Get Results”. I believe this is true in all avenues of life, but certainly holds true in poker. Players love to make excuses for their hard times, to explain away why they can’t or don’t win. But the cold hard truth is 90%+ of poker players are not winning players. So why is this phenomenon of making excuses for losing so predominant in poker? It’s human nature. And it’s easy with a game like poker, where there is a short term luck factor in the turn of a card, a hand, or a session.
When we get all in preflop with AA vs. KK and lose, it’s bad luck and we have no control over that. Of course the result of that individual hand is meaningless, we are not “unlucky”… our results tree of this confrontation will include us holding up vs the KK, and also us being the holder of the KK that will sometimes spike the king to draw out. Sometimes the AA rivers the ace for a bigger set. In the proverbial long run we’ll win and lose our fair share of these confrontations. But in a game where we all know these things happen, it’s easy to blame fate, bad luck, surely we’d be a winning player if the poker gods would just smile on us instead of curse us!
How do we break out of this rut fueled by nonsense and excuses? It’s easier said than done, but you must take personal responsibility for your losing. It’s hard for us as humans to admit fault, to admit we are the creators of our own failing at poker. It’s easy to blame external forces. Especially so when those external forces pepper us with clear instances of bad luck, as in the AA vs KK example above.
I’d like to give you an example from my personal experience that I believe will help illustrate the point. There was a time many years back where I went through an extended rut in tournaments. I kept running bad and getting bad beat out of events consistently. Of course, I chalked this up to bad luck. When I get KK all in pre vs. A3 or 77 and get drawn out on, I have no control over that, right? Of course not. So onward I marched with that “if it weren’t for luck” attitude. After 3 straight months of this however, I decided to review things a bit closer. I know I was going out of these tournaments in rough fashion, unavoidable spots, etc. But the longer this “bad luck” persists the more likely it isn’t bad luck at all but bad play. Experience has taught me it’s the right thing to do however, so despite the fact I was sure I would find nothing wrong beyond bad luck, I humored the experience bug whispering in my ear and did a review. I randomly selected 3 tournaments I’d played in the prior month, and reviewed them hand for hand from start to finish keeping my mind open. What I found surprised me. I had, in fact, exited these tournaments via bad beat fashion, in unavoidable spots. But I’d unknowingly developed a pretty significant leak, that was affecting my tournament game. As the preflop raiser, I was continuation betting near to 100%. Obviously this is really bad. I was c-betting in 5 way pots with AK on ten high boards. I was cbetting KK when an ace flops. The whole gambit of bad cbets. It’s a significant problem because I was leaking chips off left and right with these bad bets. A little bit here and a little bet there adds up. In 2 of the 3 tournaments I reviewed, my unavoidable bad beat bust hands I was barely covered by my opponent… had I not leaked off chips with silly cbets earlier, I’d have not been eliminated on those bust hands. They still would have been devastating blows to my stacks, but I’d still have been in those tournaments fighting.
I made a conscious effort to think critically about every c-bet spot going forward, and break out of this unconscious button clicking rut I’d fallen into. My c-betting frequency and my confidence immediately improved. Then a few days later it happened. I was in a large online tournament, and got AA all in pre about 2/3rds of the way through the field. They got cracked by KK flopping their king. I covered my opponent however and moved on with less than 10 big blinds. There is no question had I not plugged my c-betting leak, I would have been eliminated on this hand. I ended up recovering from this unfortunate turn of events, and taking 3rd in the tournament for a significant score.
It would have been easy to simply carry on. The bad beats will end, I can’t do anything about them, nothing to see here mentality. But there is always something to see. While we can’t control the turn of a card, the coolers we give and receive, or our opponent’s choices, we can control our own choices and decisions. Take personal responsibility. Accept you do not play perfectly (this really should be easy to accept, because literally no one does). Hold yourself accountable for your actions and decisions on the felt. Everything you do plays a part in your ultimate success or demise. Including turning a blind eye to your actions and blaming luck for your poor results. Take action, work hard, and take responsibility for the things you can control while being careful not to lay blame on external forces and use that as an excuse to immobilize.
In the next Part, I will list some of the more common excuses players make, and the folly behind them.
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