I play the right cards, so why do I keep losing?

After a long frustrating night of losing with AKs to players who will call your pre-flop raise because they “just had a feeling” about there 58 off-suit, you may be sitting in bed just trying to figure out where it all went wrong. I know I have done it many times myself. If you are anything like me, you may even lose some sleep because you keep running two or three hands through in your mind. You’re so angry that he drew to his 2 outer and caught it on the river! After all, you played the right hand, made the correct bets, but still lost.

Well, I’m here to tell you that this is how I used to think. I used to think that I deserved to win because I didn’t play bad hands, but my opponents did. I believed that in the long run all I had to do was play good hands and I would be a winner. However, there is so much more to poker than this. Anyone who has a regular game knows at-least one or two people who get angry every night they lose because they just KNOW that they are better than there opponents. And if you don’t, chances are you’re the one. You will run into this player very often, and in most cases, they are very easy to read, and very easy to aggravate.

If you fear your mindset may be this way, as I once did, my advice would be to start focusing on all of your own mistakes, rather than the mistakes of your opponents. No matter how good you are, everyone is prone to an obvious bad play. Most of the more experienced but still average players will probably even know that it is a bad play, but will do it anyways. Some of the more common excuses include things like “I was already pot committed” or “I thought he had me beat, but it was just too good to lie down.” I have never met a player who wasn’t prone to these misconceptions now and then. I will give you an example.

I was sitting at my normal no-limit table and, after about two hours of poor cards, I look down to see two pretty black kings. Correction, these kings were gorgeous! And what’s this, a pre-flop raise ahead of me?! I can barely hold my excitement. I weigh my options and decide to mix my play up and just call. I figure kings are too good to re-raise with here. After I call, there is a re-raise directly behind me. This is about the time that fireworks start flashing over the table with big explosions that keep chanting “He has aces!” I can’t believe it, the first hand I see and this clown thinks he has me beat. Well, I decide I have to find out for sure, so after the first raiser folds, I re-re raise a substantial amount (about a fourth of my stack, which was average sized at the time). And what happens? He comes BACK over the top. I couldn’t be more furious. The one hand I get kings, this guy gets aces. So you know the end of the story right? I lay it down and am furious all night wondering if he actually had me beat? NO!

Actually, that is what I should have done. I call his raise and now have already three fourths of my chips committed pre-flop. Out comes the flop: x , King, Ace.Haha, Right about now I am ready to flip the table! Now, not only were my kings not good pre-flop, but now I have a worthless set of them. He bets the rest of my chips, and I call in frustration..He didn’t even have to turn over his cards.

So what is the moral of the story? I wish I knew myself. The stubborn part of my brain says the moral is hope someone doesn’t have aces when you have kings. But, this is a losing player’s mentality. Another part thinks something like, if I just happen to get kings and someone else gets aces, congratulations, you will win a nice pot off of me. When I come to the conclusion that I should have cut my losses early, a third part keeps screaming at me saying, “So, you don’t even play kings anymore huh? Well what the heck cards do you play, folding aces too these days?”

I guess the real moral of the story would be that I knew what cards to play, I played them, and I played them very very badly. Knowing what cards to play seems very small in comparison to knowing HOW to play the cards in this instance, and many others. I definitely shouldn’t have played the hand that far. I should have cut my losses.

But, to quote a movie I once saw,….. “You should have played those kings Mike.”