I was playing poker the other day and I had an interesting conversation with the player sitting next to me. We were playing in a 5-5-10 PLO game with a buy-in range from $500-$2000. My neighbor had bought the full $2000 and had just made a “tough” fold on the turn because it would have likely led to him getting all-in and he didn’t want to risk his whole stack without more edge than that.
When he asked me what I thought about his fold, I told him it was probably a call. Really, it was a very easy call. It turned out that he had brought $2000 to the casino and put it all on the table. If he lost that pot, his evening would have been over.
I have seen similar versions of this story many times recently. A player goes to the poker room for the evening and buys in for all the cash they have and then proceeds to play the cash game like it is a tournament. They want to survive so they can enjoy/prolong the evening. I think this is a pretty big mistake in how people approach poker. If you take a tournament mindset to a cash game, or a cash game mind set to a tournament, you are giving up a lot of expectancy.
In cash games, especially when the stacks aren’t super deep, you need to be willing to bet your whole stack when you have positive expectancy. You can’t continually fold hands that have edge because you didn’t want to risk your whole stack. If you aren’t comfortable betting that much money on a poker hand, you shouldn’t put it on the table in the first place.
I have heard people say, I can decide to only put my chips in when I have a great hand and bet less with the other hands that I think are winning. Well, there is a problem with this strategy. Your opponents can bet and raise amounts that you aren’t excited about and then you have to decide whether to call or give up. This happens because you put more money on the table than you were truly comfortable gambling with.
I think that is pretty much how my neighbor in the PLO game felt. But he had other options. There was a 2-5 blind PLO game going as well. It carried a 300-500 buy-in range. He could have had four $500 bullets or five $400 bullets in that game. Then, this call that should be easy actually is easy. If he wins great, if he loses, he has the ability to buy back in and prolong his evening.
It is pretty important that when you choose a limit for your poker game that you choose one where you are truly comfortable playing. That means being able to bet or call your entire stack anytime the situation warrants it. For a lot of people, this will mean swallowing their pride and playing in a little smaller game than they were used to. But if it means that you are actually able to play the game at a higher level, you may end up enjoying it more, and most likely will achieve Better Results through Better Decisions®.