Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


Mind Over Poker - Questioning Your Play

by David Apostolico |  Published: Oct 15, 2010


I receive quite a lot of e-mail that is indicative of a common underlying problem. Here is a recent example:

I am at the final table of a 29-player tourney that had 6,000 in starting chips. I have 10,300 in chips, and the blinds are 1,200-2,400 with a 300 ante. There are seven players left, and I am on the button. The player in seat 5 goes all in for 13,300 after seats 3 and 4 had folded; seat 6 folds, and I go all in with pocket jacks. The player in the big blind also calls. Would you have called the all-in bet with pocket jacks in my position? I figured that I had only about four big blinds left. It turns out that the player in seat 5 had pocket threes and the big blind had A-Q offsuit. An ace flopped, the turn was a 3, and the river was a brick.

Hopefully, you’ve identified the underlying problem immediately. It’s not that the reader played this hand incorrectly. His play was fairly automatic, considering the circumstances. However, what drives me nuts is that the only reason he is questioning
his play is because he lost the hand. The overwhelming majority of specific hand questions that I get involve the questioners losing a fairly substantial pot or getting knocked out of a tournament. That causes them to question their play. When there is no reason to doubt their play, my standard response is, “Would you be asking me this question if you had won the hand?” That usually prompts the light-bulb moment I’m looking for.

However, it does not help the player to improve. I rarely receive questions in which the questioner second-guesses a hand that he won. Or, more significantly, I rarely receive questions about how to build your stack so that when you’re all in with pocket jacks (as in the above example), you easily have your opponent covered and are not facing elimination. So, I have some advice for those who like to question the hands that eliminate them from competition. Next time, take a moment to decide if you would be second-guessing yourself if you had won the hand. Then, take the time to reflect on your entire body of work during the tournament.

Yes, a few key coin flips here and there are often critical to making a deep run.

Yet, those non-sexy hands played in the trenches are just as important to your success. This includes hands in which you use position or knowledge of your opponent to pick off some pots and stay afloat, or become more aggressive as the blinds increase so that you can build a formidable stack to withstand a couple of lost coin flips. Don’t reflect on just the obvious hands in which your play probably can’t be questioned. Question the little things that you possibly could have done differently to put yourself in a better position to win. ♠