When I started my Psychology of Poker series, the first post was titled, “Learn to Think Like a Fish.” It got an overwhelming response, and has been linked to many times from different places on the net. I’m really, really happy that I got such positive feedback.
In the beginning of that first post, I did a bullet list of things that I was interested in exploring. I then made a second Psychology of Poker post, entitled, “Learn to Think Like a Loser,” which was based on the first of the bulleted list (outline): 1) I always downplay my ability.
As if it couldn’t get any more confusing, I then veered off into an even more elementary post, “Be Yourself,” which was not one of my bulleted items, and was based on John Vorhaus’ book, “Killer Poker.”
Hmmm, at least I never claimed to be a real writer.
So here I have come full circle, and am still extremely interested in continuing the series. I guess that since it’s all free and widely available, I don’t need to apologize for my lack of coordination and not sticking to the subject matter very well. Free is free, so you can either take it or leave it, for what it’s worth.
The second subject in that original, bulleted list, was named, “I am hyper-aware, which makes up for my lack of skill (and is actually a skill set in and of itself).”
This is something that is tough to develop if the player doesn’t already have it within himself.
After years of playing live, in all different venues, at limits ranging from 1/2 all the way up to 20/40 limit, and 1/2 blinds up to 10/20 blinds NLHE, playing both cash games and tourneys, satellites and super sats, Glenn still has almost zero awareness.
He had an opportunity for a free $50 in an “aces cracked” promotion, yet never even showed his hand. He has been involved in situations where he would have won a bad beat jackpot, but didn’t even know that the cardroom had one (like someone could miss the extra drop for the BBJ while sitting at the table for hours???). He regularly plunks down a decent amount of money for a satellite and never once asks the floorperson what the juice is, if there is a percentage taken for dealers and/or staff, how many players get a seat, if the winner(s) get lammers or cash, if certificates are resalable, if he is participating in a multi-table sat or STT, and many other questions that I would ask before seating myself at a satellite table.
He just doesn’t know, and doesn’t really care. At times I have exploded when finding him sitting at a satellite where about 50% was being taken from the prize pool. He looks around in wonder and horror, after confirming from the floor person that I am correct. He, along with the other nine idiots sitting at the table are shocked that they just gave away 50% of their money to the house, without bothering to find out what they are getting themselves into.
I usually call these people “action junkies,” along with several other less flattering names. They simply cannot help themselves. They MUST get into the action the moment they enter a cardroom or tournament arena.
They are the same people who amble up to a Craps table and simply plunk down money, never bothering to find out what odds they can take. They don’t know, and probably don’t care. They just want to give their money to the house, and as fast as humanly possible. Some are addicts, some are simply there for recreational purposes, and couldn’t care less if they are playing the worst house game.
Now, out of these players emerge two groups. The total recreational player, and the good player.
The good player is someone I rarely make money off of. Glenn is one of these. He makes money, more money than me, playing smaller stakes, so he has no incentive to be more diligent about paying attention to a game or promotion. Some people are just good. The elite don’t even have to read a poker book in order to win. They just “know” the right play in almost every circumstance. David Sklansky called these players “freaks of nature,” and it is exasperating to those of us who struggle and have to use every resource available just to make a little scratch. We gape in wonder as they play in bad situations, under horrible circumstances, completely clueless, yet still win more than the average bear.
Those guys aren’t the ones I’m addressing today. I hate them, they should all be killed in a very violent and painful way, and the world would be better. <—-this is just a joke
The people I’m addressing today are people like myself. People who NEED to use every resource available in order to win. People who need to be ultra diligent and ultra aware, or they will be break-even at best, probably losers.
I once pulled a trick on Glenn. After playing for several hours, I put my hands over his eyes and asked him how many chips each of his opponents had in front of them. I asked him how they were dressed, whether they were male or female and other details. I asked him how much the rake was, if it was being taken correctly, if there was a BBJ drop, and if so, how much was it?
He could remember a few details. The fish in seat three who had rebought four times. He could usually remember IF there was a woman at the table, but not what seat she was in, or any other details. As far as chips go, he could remember nothing. Ditto on the rake and BBJ drop. Oddly enough, however, Glenn has an uncanny memory when it comes to particular hands. He can remember how a hand played out years later, and sometimes even remember the opponent’s name or face. Usually they are situations where he took a “bad beat” (cough), but he does have an amazing ability to remember particulars about a big hand.
Now take me. I am anal about details to a fault. One time I was playing at a casino which still used quarters. I happened to glance down at my stack when not in a hand and noticed I WAS A QUARTER OFF. Yes, I really noticed ONE quarter missing. I later found it under the padded rail.
I know details about each of my opponents. I can close my eyes and tell you those details immediately. I know how much rake each cardroom takes before I take a seat. I know if they are taking it correctly, or if they are over raking the pot. I know if they have a bad beat jackpot, and if so, what the qualifier is. I know other promotions, too, and try to utilize them if it gives me an edge.
Probably the biggest compliment I’ve ever been given in poker is when someone told me I looked “just like Phil Ivey.” Yes, it got a laugh from the table, but later he went on to explain the hyper awareness similarity, although I’d known all along what he was talking about.
Too bad I don’t play like Phil, eh?
So, at the top, I stated that someone is probably either born with this type of awareness, or not. I’m not sure that it can be taught properly, and I wonder if some “natural” players will even be handicapped by trying to learn.
At the very least, however, you should be informed of some things that are costing you a lot of money. After all, if you are a winner at poker, why not win more (or save more, as the case may be)? By bringing a check list to the cardroom, you can ask a few simple questions before sitting down, and perhaps double your earnings. It won’t intrude on your game at all, nor do you have to be hyper aware while actually playing. It is a win/win situation.
For those of us who ARE capable of being hyper aware, work on honing this edge you have at the tables. Make it a weapon, a blunt object with which to bludgeon your opponents, and get extra winnings into your bankroll.
As far as letting others know just how aware you are at the table, don’t do it. Just sit and act like a fish. Don’t go there. Don’t tell others you know exactly how much money they have in front of them. Don’t tell the dealer he or she is raking too much (go to the podium instead), don’t give others any indication that you are there for any other reason than they are, to have a good time at the poker tables.
Your hyper awareness can be a valuable tool in poker. Use it to your advantage, and you might find a couple of extra pennies to rub together in an otherwise break even situation.