Pigheaded Poker

Stubborn Poker Players

Stubborn Poker Players"I'm just a stubborn kinda fellow..." -- Marvin Gaye

Poker is a clash of wits, math skills, cleverness and the ability to adapt. Adaptability, or flexibility, is a hallmark skill of most great players. On the other hand, obstinate, inflexible arrogance is what keeps many otherwise sensible, talented players from reaching their true potential. Persistence and dedication are great attributes in poker as they are in all competitive fields; however, the "dark side" of these skills can be the road to ruin -- or at least serious frustration.

An Internet discussion helped clarify this for me. One person was adamant (not a surprise he was adamant) that he tries to win every pot he plays, and that anyone who says he or she does not is a liar. He stubbornly stuck to this position, even as numerous others told him this was not true of them personally. At first I was shocked that anyone could consciously hold his view, and also that he would think everyone else held such a view. But, his extremist position aside, many players do often, in the heat of the game, tend to try too hard to win the pots they are in, seemingly forgetting that winning a hand is not the point -- winning money is.

I see examples of this desperate, stubborn mindset all the time: players making hopeless bluffs, trying to represent a hand in the later betting rounds that they could not logically have (given their actions in the earlier betting rounds), players in HiLo split trying to isolate the pot against one player even though the other players will see through this ploy and call anyway, and so on.

Don't try this hard to win every pot you play! Suppose you completely miss a draw, and your hand has no showdown value. Suppose you then discern the most likely way for you to win the pot is to checkraise on the river. Most of the time you should not do it! It's an unprofitable play. Just because it's the most likely way for you to win the pot doesn't mean it's the most profitable action.

The curse of some players is they figure the most likely line of play to lead them to win a pot, and then play it, when that line of play is actually unprofitable. Check and fold. Give up. Don't be pigheaded. You win some and you lose some of the small battles, but you should be aiming to win the long war.

The action most profitable in most poker situations is folding. Surrendering becomes a positive, profitable action. But this "giving up" is extraordinarily painful to some, especially those with a losing mentality. Actually, it's pretty ironic that a hatred of losing a pot ends up turning stubborn players into losers!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not belittling tenacity (pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again), nor am I scorning aggressive and creative risk-taking. If you want to win, you should try to make each of your poker actions the choice that ends up being the most profitable overall, in the long-run. Sure, none of us accomplishes this exactly in all we do, but that is the direction to aim. Short-term actions have long-term ramifications. Sometimes it's even appropriate to lay down a winning hand, in Pot Limit or No Limit play, to set up far more profitable situations later.

We all have seen the related act of stubbornness -- an otherwise talented player who refuses to quit a "good" game that he knows he can beat, despite him staying up all night, despite him not playing near his best, despite him missing something like a doctor's appointment, despite him stinking like a toilet bowl, and so on. Go home, rest your body and your mind, and come back to play another day. Or, behave like a stubborn, bullheaded loser.

The arrogance, ego and stubbornness of our opponents all have their place when it comes to us winning at poker, but moderation and control need to be used when dealing with such flammables. Trying to win every pot, and trying to win every time you play, will send your bankroll up into flames.

Also see: Poker Experts, Poker Ego, Poker Envy and Poker Greed