When I tell people I’m a poker player, reactions often align with ‘Ah! My brother likes to gamble too. He’s always betting on horse racing’ etc. Unlike games of chance or betting on a horse due to its appealing name, poker revolves around skill. Surprisingly, many poker players are risk-averse, finding ‘gambling’ nearly a taboo word. Though avoiding unnecessary risks and steering clear of reckless play is logical, it doesn’t mean players should become overly cautious.
The Dangers of Overcaution
Overcaution can emerge after losing a series of big pots, as negative impacts might cause players to see phantoms. A touch of aggression from opponents often gets interpreted as a threat, leading to excessive folding. However, it’s crucial to recognize that not every bet or raise should prompt a fold. A prevailing fear might be concluding that a significant bet implies an opponent has a massive hand. Such overcautiousness may convince players that their solid hand isn’t strong enough, accompanied by thoughts like “There’s no way he’d bet that big without the nuts, so I’ll have to fold my top pair here”. The irony lies in players potentially folding winning hands, while opponents bluffing think “They seem to be folding good hands, so I’ll just keep bluffing them off the pot.”
Finding Balance and Embracing Risk
Excessive risk aversion could result in missing out on winning chips that, by merit of hands being folded, should be added to our stack. An interesting counterpoint is when folding is the right decision because an opponent truly has a strong hand. In such instances, by folding, players exploit opponents’ flawed strategies without paying them off. The crux arises when we mistake this scenario for a common occurrence, which is far from reality. Poker players identifying as extremely cautious or “nitty” might need to reassess their strategy and underlying motivations. Striving for balance often comes at a cost; being habitually risk-averse might minimize losses but also means missing out on winning sizable pots. Remember, a proverbial omelette can’t be made without breaking eggs, and those with strong hands shouldn’t avoid staying engaged out of fear or unwillingness to risk losing. After all, being overly cautious allows potential opportunities to slip away.