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Mind Over Poker

Despise Weakness

by David Apostolico |  Published: Aug 20, 2010

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I was having a conversation with a friend recently about certain business matters. It wasn’t so much a conversation as much as it was me lending a willing ear to his venting. We were talking about various personality types and what it takes to succeed when he went off. He described in great detail that he absolutely despises weakness in people. It drives him nuts. He said that he’s always been that way. He even gave an example about playing catcher in Little League baseball. If he sensed that a batter was afraid of being hit, he would call a timeout to tell the pitcher to throw at the batter’s head, so that the batter would be even more afraid.

While that particular anecdote is almost certainly apocryphal — and not one that I would ever condone — I think there is a real lesson here that can translate into success at the poker table. I’ll use my own play as an example. When I sit down at a table, I always look for weakness in others. I want to exploit that for my gain. That’s a big part of poker. I don’t have sympathy for anyone or any situation I can manipulate. All players know, or should know, the rules when they sit down at a table. When you enter a poker room, you have to adopt a whole new persona — one that is vastly different from the one you would have in most aspects of your personal life.

Machiavellian Poker Strategy by David ApostolicoI get that. In fact, I wrote an entire book dedicated to that principle, titled Machiavellian Poker Strategy. Yet, I am also a big believer in keeping my emotions in check at the table. Feelings like “despair” and “hate” at the poker table can lead to tilt and disaster. However, I like to constantly challenge any and all conventional wisdom and accepted practices. Am I missing out by not elevating my feelings toward weakness?

I don’t have a definitive answer to that question yet, but I hope to provide one in a future column. My initial reaction is that there may be a real opportunity here. I like to minimize both variance and losses when I play, and I think there is real value in doing that. However, that may be preventing me from maximizing my gains. There are times when I may be too happy to check it down rather than extract one last value-bet or chase out a better hand. Truly despising weakness would mean constantly attacking regardless of my own position. I would throw at the batter’s head regardless of the possibility that I may face a beanball during my next trip to the plate. I am not sure that’s good poker, but perhaps an elevated — but levelheaded — disgust with weakness at the poker table would be good for me. I’m looking forward to finding out and reporting back to you. Spade Suit

David Apostolico is the author of several poker-strategy books, including Tournament Poker and The Art of War, and Compete, Play, Win: Finding Your Best Competitive Self. You can contact him at thepokerwriter@aol.com.