Taking a shot

Taking a shot

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Hi Dr Tom,
I’m a small stakes cash game player who has painstakingly built up a bankroll over the last year by strictly adhering to the rules of bankroll management. However, I’m increasingly tempted to “take a shot” at levels way beyond my means.

The idea of doubling my bankroll in, like, three lucky hands is way too tempting! Is taking a shot ever a good idea? And just say I was determined to ignore all your wisdom about sticking to the correct limits and go ahead regardless, what advice would you give me?


Dear Marcus,

I’m not a psychiatric doctor but I can see you are sick in your mind. Brian, in last week's advice, satellited into the big time – he’s leaving his bankroll at home while he tangles with the big boys. But you’re risking everything. What do you think is going to happen when you “take a shot”? Probably you’ll lose. Even it’s only a 55% probability, if you take that losing bet deliberately, you’re finished as a poker player until you can sort yourself out. And what if you win? You think you’ll be able to sit down with your low roller buddies and grind away with a sit down that’s now only half a percent of your swollen bankroll? Once you move up you’ll stay up, and if your success depends on “lucky hands” you’re shark bait.

I understand your urges. While making money is satisfying, only risk is thrilling. Good bankroll management relies on never risking much of your bankroll at a time, and you’re now getting bored with always having money on the table that you can afford to lose. Moreover, an appetite for risk makes for a good poker player since you can exploit players who are risk-averse.

But seasoned pros have managed, through a feat of mental and emotional gymnastics, to separate out their risk-taking tendencies, making them appear devil-may-care with their chips but highly conservative in their choice of games – and when it’s their turn to buy a round. It’s difficult and it’s a strain. That’s why they’re mostly so bad-tempered.

And if you are going to do it anyway? Don’t sit down short stacked – the opposition will know in advance exactly what sort of game you want to play. Instead, spend fifteen minutes watching games at your chosen level, identify some targets and try to get in a game with one of them. Oh, and pray.

Dr Tom

Tags: Tom Sambrook, Strategy,