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Open Minds

Keeping an Open Mind

Keeping an Open Mind"A narrow mind has a broad tongue." -- Arabian Proverb

Weíve all see the guy (itís almost always a guy). You know him -- the pontificating blowhard analyzing and criticizing and ďeducatingĒ everyone at the table virtually every hand. These guys are pain in the butt, but also funny because much of the time their pompous hot air is totally wrong. But they're sure they're right. They know they're right. Come hell or high water, they will never (openly) doubt their own propaganda.

There is no reason to really care about these loudmouths, except to learn from the weakness they display. For the most part, in poker there is a very basic, correct way to do things: get your money in with the best of it. But the ins-and-outs of how to actually do that can sometimes be quite complicated, and can be accomplished in different ways. In other words, even though there are basic concepts to normally follow, there is more than one way to play a hand.

Iíve written previously about strategic adjustments, adaptability, and not following rigid rules, charts or systems. Another way to look at all these things is that a successful poker player should have an open mind. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat, or win in a poker game. Just because you found one way to skin that cat, donít assume it is the best way or the only way. Instead, you should always be questioning what you are doing. Examining if, in fact, what you are doing is as good an idea as some different way.

While experimenting can be useful, thatís not what Iím talking about. If you want to be a successful player -- whether you are trying to be one and even if you already are one -- you need to believe in yourself. When you face a situation, think for yourself and decide what you think is the best thing to do. But donít think that is the end of the line. Regardless of the results, be confident in your actions, but also constantly try to figure out if there is/was a better way.

In some ways Holdem is a simple game because there are a precise number of starting hands. Of course, anybody who has played a lot of winning Holdem knows that the game ainít really that simple. Holdem is deceptively complicated (even if many players do play it simplistically). Keeping an open mind about the game makes it even more complicated.

Which starting hands should you play? Suppose a genie always whispered in your ear before the flop to tell you if the hand you were dealt had a positive expectation or not in the specific situation you face. Wouldnít that be great? You could just play every hand that had a positive expectation and fold all the ones with a negative expectation, and you would win as much as you could possibly win. Nope. Not necessarily.

If you were to only play hands with positive expectation, this would impact on how your opponents would play against you. If you were to add the single hand of 72o to your repertoire of positive expectation hands, and made a point of showing it every time you played it, itís very possible your total expectation for all hands would actually increase due to the extra action you get because opponents see you playing 72o all the time. Adding one negative expectation hand could cause you to make more money overall.

Iím not recommending people play 72o, and not even talking about the value of mixing up your play, Iím just pointing out that even if you had this genie talking in your ear, there still could be ways to tweak your play to make it better, and your mind should stay open to considering them.

A closed mind is like a closed door. If you close your mind, you are keeping out valuable information and ideas that could help you in tweaking your play -- whether it is a big strategic change that alters your basic game or something that you use for one single hand someday.

The blowhards and know-it-alls think of alternate approaches as ďwrongĒ or ďmistaken.Ē They donít take the time to consider the positives and negatives. They donít have a need to understand the ďwhyĒ of why a certain play should not be used! To a large degree in poker, we do actions not because we are thrilled to do them, but because we donít want to do the other available actions. Understanding what we donít want to do is part of choosing what we do want to do. Keeping an open mind allows us to make better choices, not just because we like the choice we make, but we know why we donít like the choices we donít make.

Also see Poker Experts and Playing with Enthusiasm