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Just A Typical Atypical Girl

So who am I?

Just a girl who plays poker. It is my passion and favorite hobby. I have a BA in Psychology, and a Masters in Business. Both with honours, I might add ;). This is a misunderstood game, so I decided to start a blog to try and inspire other women and men to get into it. It is not for the faint at heart and requires a lot of skill to make money and win. Best of luck!

So how did I get started?

When I was 20, I had a boyfriend who played a lot. I went around with him to all the casinos and watched him play. I remember he used to play with Daniel Negreanu across from the Pickle Barrel Plaza.  After a while, I got tired of watching and started playing. Boy did I have a lot of sleepless nights, and bad losing streaks. I started off playing limit 1-2, then went to 2-5, then to 5-10 and then to 10-20. I never thought I would be able to compete in those stakes, but I survived. I think the most I ever lost back then was $2000 in $10-$20, so not that bad. By that time I realized limit sucks, and the real test of poker is in no-limit where you might have to put everything on the line.

I love when people judge you when you tell them you play poker. They act like you are some addict and they give you this shocked look. But I don’t see it as gambling. Yes, the sheer fact that you are using money to play makes it gambling; but whether I win or lose is up to me and my assessment of the situation. Just like playing the stock market I guess. Let’s call it….calculated risk taking. We all do this every day. Your decision is weighted on so many different factors. There is rarely just a yes or no answer (obviously, when it’s blatant that you have the nuts or shit).

You have to think of your position with respect to the cards you have, and how people play. You have to remember moves they made so you know how to catch them. You have to pay attention to their mannerisms and style of play, their gestures, and body language. For example, you can be pretty sure someone is not chasing a flush if they are checking their cards when the third flush card comes out. Anyway….that was an easy one.   I love that I get to use my mind, and think and analyze situations. Sure there are some douche bags who go to throw their money away and play for fun. I love those “guys,” but I play to win.

As a women, it’s challenging. You are the 5% to 10% of the population.  When I walk into a private game they think I am the dealer, or the waitress. But I don’t get intimidated…..anymore that is.

I have come out of poker with a lot of learning’s that can apply to everyday life. I have uncovered a lot of unwritten rules that have helped me in both cash and tournament games. I think we can learn a lot from each other. So I hope you stay tuned for my next post. Until then, enjoy the ride.

It’s Not The Cards, But How You Play Them

 

It sounds so cliche, but there is nothing truer than this statement.  I have seen it over and over again. As someone who used to play by the book, calculating odds and determining if it was worth it to call or not based on my probability of winning, I hardly won. It was only when I started to incorporate bluffing and semi bluffing into my play that I actually started to see returns.

Flat out bluffing is when you have absolutely nothing and place a bet/raise. Semi-bluffing is when you pull a move without the best hand, but an opportunity to catch up. For example, you have a straight draw or flush draw and place a bet or raise to try and increase the pot in case your card does come, steal the pot and get others to fold, or just to gauge where your competition is at. This is where that phrase comes into play.

Hold’em is a game where you have to try and figure out the cards your competition has in relation to yours, but as that saying goes…..it’s not the cards, but how you play them. This ability came with a lot of practice. Understanding how you are perceived at the table is paramount. As a simple example, if everyone around me checks and I am last, my best bet (so to speak) is to take a shot at the pot, regardless of what I have. Being the women, people tend to peg me as conservative and tight. A bet to see where everyone is at will either get everyone to fold, or allow me to know where others stand. Usually it gets me a quick win, regardless of the cards in my hand.

This type of play is not as easy as it sounds. Everything is situational dependent.  Your position matters, who is in the hand matters, and people’s perception of you matters.  In essence, you need to pick a hand that you want people to think you have, and play like you have it. Hopefully you know your players well enough so you can outsmart them. I have seen many people fold the best hand to me because of all-in moves I have made, because they think I am tight.

It’s all about figuring things out along the way, using the information we have accumulated. Making the best decisions we need to make when the situation arises.  You know that expression, “fake it till you make it,” poker is no exceptions. In the end, it all comes down to believing in yourself, maintaining a positive outlook and trusting your intuition, understanding your playing field and making calculated, educated decisions.

On Instinct

instinct

 

As Albert Einstein put it, “The only real valuable thing is intuition.”  There are many definitions of intuition, all with a common theme. They refer to an inner knowing, without facts or rational thought.  A perception of truth, without any logical reasoning. It’s that reason you turned left and not right at the last minute. That reason you decided not to get onto a plane and then heard of it crashing. It’s that person you met and fell in love with right away. You don’t know, yet you just know. In many studies, it has been proven we know the answer to something long before we can explain why. It’s a matter of whether we trust ourselves enough to believe in that intuition. It has been proven, that people who take their time over certain decisions have much more remorse than people who made a quick, intuitive decision. But intuition is not magic. It’s an inner knowing based on previous experiences, thoughts, and feelings. The culmination of everything in the past that leads us to these gut instincts. And this is a skill that can be used, and should be used, in poker as well.  In poker, we don’t know what people are holding in their hands. All we have is the knowledge of behaviours from their past, people’s behaviors in general, and knowledge of the current situation at hand. It’s the best poker players that utilize this information when making a decision. You have the gamblers at one end of the spectrum who hardly put any thought into a situation. Their mandate is to play as many hands as possible, and try to win as many hands as possible. I have played with these guys, and have watched their stacks go up and down like a yo-yo on speed. In the long run, they will come out losers. There is no doubt in my mind. Then you have the other end, where decisions are based on facts and patterns of behavior. Intuition could come into play at either end, but I can only guess it’s the experienced who hone in on that skill, and/or even know it exists. But, the one big BUT in poker, and in life, is that you have to trust it. We all have it, so if you use it wisely, you are already ahead of the game. If you don’t trust it….well that is a wasted gift. How many times have you said after you realized you had the winning hand, “I was going to call?” That was your gut, and you not listening. Even Annie Duke said it when asked if she relied on intuition by Carlin Flora, “Yes. It’s all about decision-making. You have to look at what you have, guess what other people have, sense what mood they are in. There are layers upon layers of information. I can’t think of all of that consciously, but I’m making instant decisions based on my experience.” In life, how many times have you ignored your gut?  You might have had a feeling that someone was lying or cheating, and ignored it. You don’t have money to lose in those situations, just some dignity. In poker, we can’t mistakes like that, or they cost us. Trust it. It is there for a reason. Listen very carefully and quietly because it whispers very faintly. You will always know. You just need to know you know.

Unwritten Rules of Success

Playing poker for 20 years, I have observed  many things about myself and the game that help me keep my play in tact. Whether written or unwritten, these are rules and strategies I use for myself to help me play better, and inevitably make more money.  So here are some of them:

  1. If I have a choice of tables, I will always walk around to gauge the type of players at each one. If I am seated at one I don’t like, I will request to move. I like to play with drunk, loose cannons, people on tilt and tourists late at night. Call me a bottom feeder, but it works. So I suggest to find which type of style you play best against, and find players who match that and request to sit at their table.
  2. When at the table, while I don’t really care where I sit, as my style of play is situational dependent, I like to sit to the left of the big stack and maniacs. This way, I save a lot more money, and can make a lot more money if I ever want to limp in with shit or a monster.  In either situation, my intention is to exploit their style of play.
  3. Poker is a head game and you need energy to play. I never play hungry and make sure I drink lots of water to keep me alert. When you are hungry, your blood sugar drops and your mind can’t function as well. Even the pros, like Daniel Negreanu, know how important it is to maintain your energy level
  4. When you have reached the point of exhaustion, leave, regardless if you are up or down. Exhaustion has the same effect as hunger. Your brain can’t make as effective decisions, you can go delirious, and you might even fall asleep at the table. I have seen it many times and it provides me with much entertainment watching people take naps at the table.
  5. Sometimes, it is just not your day, and you need to know when to get up and either leave the table, or take a break. You will hear a voice inside of you telling you to leave, but you probably won’t listen. I am telling you to listen to it.  This is the subject of my next post, but for now we will leave it at that, and just trust me…listen. Taking a break can get your mind fresh and back in the game. If you had a bad beat or just getting bored, it’s best to get up and walk around. You will come back feeling renewed and with a different mindset, and hopefully ready to get back in the game.
  6. Be careful of the people who you think are trying to befriend you. Very often they could be insidiously trying to get information and make you vulnerable. Letting down your guard can be a costly mistake, so be mindful. People can be Trickii ;). Maybe you think you are now “friendly,” so instead of playing the proper way against them, you check more. There are no freebies in poker. You are not there to make friends. You are there to make money.

If you have any other tips comment below. I would love to hear from you. XO

“So What?,” You Say.

I am not just some chick who decided to write about poker because of my passion for it. I am good at it because I have played for 2o years, and there isn’t a hand that I haven’t seen. I have observed behaviors that have helped me make better decisions, and have played with every kind of player there is. From the passive to the maniacs, nothing surprises me anymore.

I don’t consider myself the best in the world, but when I put my time and patience in, there is no stopping me. I have a lot to learn, but enough to pass on. Usually, if I play in a tournament, I finish in the top 10%. My biggest win was when I came in second in a $400 buy-in private tournament with over 100 players. That was one of my prouder moments. I have played in both cash games and tournaments across Ontario, Las Vegas, Atlantic City, New Orleans, New York and Florida. In every city, there has been one common theme to winning……PATIENCE. It is a virtue.

If you know me, that is the one thing I lack, and the one skill I have had to work hard on. If I am sitting in traffic for more than one minute, the road rage will set in; but for some reason I could sit at a poker table for hours and never got bored. Maybe it’s because my brain is being fully utilized and is shooting neurons for as long as I am sitting. It requires constant attention to everything around you. The more you see, the more you can read, and the more you will win. It is a mental game unlike any other I have played, and at the end you are left physically and mentally exhausted.

My lack of patience has cost me a lot of money in the past, and I have had to develop many unwritten rules for myself to keep me in check. In the end, there are a myriad of factors that have contributed to my progress and not one of them did I get from reading a book.

So I will share…..