“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”
I'm sure you've heard this sniper motto before. It's one of my favorites because it's applicable to more than just being a sniper.
I love taking ideas from real life and figuring out how to apply them to poker. Let's relate this classic sniper motto to poker:
“Slow is smart and smart is winning!”
I am going to help you slow down your decisions to give you more time to consider all the information available before pulling the trigger and making your plays.
Listen to this podcast episode:
For snipers, you're more likely to miss your shot when in a rush. You want to get your shot now before your target disappears or before the tank blows you away like in Saving Private Ryan.
But when you slowly and deliberately reload your gun, position yourself, take aim, squeeze the trigger when the time is right, and then methodically repeat that process without rushing and fumbling, you’ll be a more successful sniper.
I think this motto is related to the Latin saying of “festina lente” or “hurry slowly”. It means that if you rush through things, try to get them done too fast, you end up making mistakes. Now you have to go back and correct your mistakes.
Seeing as how it’s life or death for snipers, they can’t really go back and correct any mistakes. A mistake for them means potential mission failure, giving away their position to the enemy, and possibly resulting in capture or death.
Now, it’s not life or death for us poker players. But just like snipers, we can’t go back and correct mistakes. Lost chips are lost chips. No mulligans in poker!
That’s why it’s critical for us to take our time to assess all the information available before we pull the trigger on a post-flop call or a preflop 3bet bluff or a river call.
That's why I love this new motto for poker, “Slow is smart and smart is winning.”
For snipers, their desire to NOT miss an opportunity, to squeeze the trigger and get the job done can be their downfall.
A Common Downfall for Poker Players
Acting too quickly without considering as much information as possible is a common downfall for poker players.
I’m sure you’re guilty of this just like I am:
You’re dealt AA and $$$ flash in your eyes. ????????????
Your fishy opponent calls preflop and on the flop, then check-raises 3x your turn cbet.
All you see is your AA is an overpair on the rainbow board ????
Instead of thinking about their player type, their range and board interaction, their HUD stats and what their 3x check-raise means, you raise all-in because, “Hey, I got Aces, I gotta be good ????. He can’t have a set!”
Of course, he calls your all-in and turns over the flopped set of 4’s. Your Aces are cracked and it’s not until the hand is over that you realize, “Holy cow, he was a mega calling station Fish who never raises without a very strong hand!”
If you would've taken all the information available into account, you could've found a fold and saved loads of chips.
This one mistake can be a session killer. Not just for profitability, but it can also cause you to tilt off more chips or to simply end what could've been a long and profitable session.
We’re better off, just like snipers, taking our time to assess all the info available before we squeeze the trigger on our plays.
So, what can we do to slow things down to give us more time to consider the information available?
7 Tips to Slow Down and Play Smart Poker
1st Tip: Turn on the Auto Time Bank Option
Make sure the auto time bank option is turned on within your site’s software. You always have like an initial 10 or 15 seconds to act, but there’s a backup 30-60 seconds you get for tough decisions. Turn this on to relieve a bit of pressure.
2nd Tip: Always Know Your Opponent
What type of player are you up against? Is Bob123 a LAG who folds a lot on the turn? Is Susan789 a calling station who continues with any draw?
Knowing your opponent’s player type and tendencies are critical factors in making reads on them. When somebody makes a play contrary to their type and tendencies, that’s a red flag and you must sit up and take notice.
Bob123 is very honest and quick to fold on the turn, so you double-barrel bluff him. He called and the river is a blank. Should you triple-barrel bluff Bob123? Probably not because he only calls on the turn with a pair or better.
Susan789 loves calling post-flop with any draw, so when she wakes up with a river shove on the 3rd club, should you call with TPTK? Heck no.
3rd Tip: Put ‘em On a Range
When you see the flop against a player, it’s your job to always visualize their preflop range.
Whether they defended the BB, 3bet you, limped then called or called your 3bet, their action coupled with their player type and tendencies will help you put them on a range.
In ThePokerForge.com, I give members range cheat sheets that they can use to visualize ranges. When a player calls your open-raise, you look at the 2bet Calling Ranges and choose the one that most resembles what you think this player is calling with.
When range your opponents, you can gauge how well their range interacts with the board, and this will help you make better plays against them.
4th Tip: Ask & Answer a Question
This is one of my favorite in-game focus strategies: asking and answering a question before each button click.
My favorite question is Poker's Ultimate Question:
“What are they doing this with?”
In order to answer this question properly, I need to think about all the things already mentioned: player type and tendencies and their range and board interaction. Also, board sizing and their exact action.
Check out this 49-minute, 2-table focus session for asking/answering questions:
Here are 3 more questions I really like to use:
- Is this a profitable table?
- Who is my target at the table?
- Will they fold to a cbet?
5th Tip: Remove Your Hand from Your Mouse
Tommy Angelo in his book Elements of Poker talked “finger tilt”. Finger tilt happens in times of heightened stress.
When you've got big pocket pair, and that board is scary and that pot is growing, your stress levels are going to start rising. You start dreading that next card and your heartbeat’s increasing.
When stress rises, finger tilt can take over and you unthinkingly make your bets, raises and calls (like that prior example with AA).
If you notice you’re feeling anxious or stressed, and you’re worried about losing a big pot or making a mistake, remove your hand from your mouse.
This gives your brain a little bit more space to think about all the information available and to ask and answer whatever important question is going to help you.
6th Tip: Don't Overload with Too Many Tables
The more tables you have going, the less brain space you have for decision making.
This is totally subjective and it’s up to you to figure out how many is too many tables for good decisions.
For me, I play at most 5 tables. But this is only when I’m feeling in A-game mindset and I’m firing on all cylinders. Most of the time, I’m 2 to 4-tabling.
For a lot of players, they hear the idea of “get to the long run” to overcome variance. To them, that means play as many hands as possible and your skills will win out even sooner.
But that assumes you’re making good decisions so your skills can shine through.
If you’re overloaded with tables and making poor decisions, more hands are just going to lead to more loss.
7th Tip: Fold Marginal Spots
You want to do this to save brain space for other more important hands.
For example, let's imagine you’re 4-tabling. You’re involved in 3 hands right now where you:
- Flopped TP on a wet board as the preflop raiser.
- Just called a player’s 3bet from OOP with AJs and flopped a gut shot draw.
- Double-barreled with a set but got min-check-raised.
Now on the 4th table, you are dealt QJs UTG. This hand is in your open-raising range, so normally you would open with it.
Is this a good time to open-raise with QJs UTG?
You’re involved in 3 other important hands with growing pots. Do not suffocate your brain with this incredibly marginal spot.
Keep as much brain space open as possible to deal with the more important decisions… and just fold this hand.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:
Put these 7 tips into action with your very next session. Write ‘em down on a sticky note and implement each one. If you only do one, remove your hand from your mouse for big decisions. But of course, I recommend all 7. Get to it!
Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.
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