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Losing the Minimum

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Mar 20, 2013


Gavin Griffin“Yes, I always lose the minimum.” He shouted as he got up from his chair. He had A-K on a K-7-3-5-J rainbow board. He had raised preflop, bet the flop, checked back the turn and called a river bet. He lost to my 7-5. I’d heard this guy say this several times and it never really struck me as odd until this hand. I thought about that statement a little bit.

“I always lose the minimum” implies that this man is a careful player. This is often a good thing. Someone who is careful with their hand selection, their bets, and their bankroll will be a successful poker player most of the time. They won’t put themselves at too much risk and will have the best hand when money goes into the pot quite often.

Careful players win money and do it consistently. They really only have downswings when they are running quite poorly. They make what others would consider to be big laydowns and are confident that they are right. The bad part of being a careful player is that they are predictable. Good opponents will recognize that they need to have a really big hand to take any significant action from careful players. The same good opponents will also recognize that they can get careful players to lay down hands that they wouldn’t be able to convince others to lay down. Careful players leave value on the table with their biggest hands because of their perceived image and because of their unwillingness to make thin value bets.

The other side of the coin is the careless player. This is often a bad trait. These players play a high percentage of hands and play them ultra-aggressively. They put their stack at risk on a regular basis and don’t need to have the best hand to do so. They make creative bluffs that don’t always make sense but are designed to put maximum pressure on people who don’t think deeply about hands and just react to the bets that are in front of them. These players often have huge winning sessions and huge losing sessions. Unless they’re some sort of genius when it comes to hand reading, they are losing players. They are very difficult to play with on a hand by hand basis, but are good for your game overall. Their tactics are hard to adjust to but their overall strategy is not. Good players take advantage of them by leaving a little bait for them and waiting for them to take it.

Somewhere in the middle lies what is probably the ideal poker player. As is often the case, the moderate approach is the best one. This person isn’t afraid to take chances, to take non-standard lines, or to make a big bluff when it’s called for. They will also be careful with their bankroll, consider many options before deciding on the best one, and protect themselves from huge losses. This player will win the maximum when they have the chance but also find ways to lose less with some of their bigger hands. This type of opponent is very difficult to deal with since you know that they are thinking deeply and considering all courses of action when in a hand. When they turn over their hand, it will be difficult to say “Of course you had that.” A balanced and aggressive opponent will always keep you on your toes.

Which type of player are you? Do you rush into your decisions quickly and rashly, caring naught for the myriad possible outcomes or do you think things through to every end you can foresee? Do you operate boldly, quickly, and from your gut or do you act rationally and deliberately? Are you careful with your money or reckless? When you turn over your hand are people surprised or do they always know what you have? When you’re evaluating your sessions, do you often think you left some value on the table or that you bluffed a little too often and played a few too many hands? All of these questions are important to figuring out which path you take. Most players fall to the extremes and miss some value or bluff too often. Strive to converge towards the middle and find yourself along the path less traveled. Hopefully, that path will lead to better results. ♠

Gavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG