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Slow is Smart and Smart is… WINNING


Sky Matsuhashi

on June 3, 2021

“Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” – Special Forces mantra

I love this, and I especially love taking great ideas from real life and applying them to poker. Let's relate this to poker:

“Slow is smart, and smart is winning!”

Let me help you slow down and give yourself more time to think and make reads before making plays.


Listen to this podcast episode:

*Note, the show notes below don't match 100% with this podcast episode. I'm updating and improving this episode audio soon!*

Special Forces

The Special Forces are put in life and death situations, where mistakes cost lives. 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 smoothly reload your rifle, position yourself, take aim then squeeze the trigger, you're more likely to succeed (and live!).

Now, it’s not life or death for poker players. But just like in battle, we can’t go back and correct mistakes. Lost chips are lost!

So, it’s critical for us to take our time, assess all the information available, then make logical plays.


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 we're all guilty of this:

We’re dealt AA and $$$ flash in our eyes, and we can't wait to get the $$$ in.

A fish calls preflop and calls our flop cbet… then check-raises 3x on the turn!

Instead of pausing to think through the spot, we just jam all-in because, “Hey, I got Aces!”

Of course, he calls and turns over a set of 4’s. We're shocked and appalled! It's not until we calm down later that we realize, “Of course this calling station had us beat with that raise!”

This one mistake can kill an entire session.

We’re better off, just like soldiers, taking our time to assess all the information and make a read on our enemies actions before make our play.

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: Play Fewer Tables

The more tables you're on, the less brain space you have for decision-making.

YOU must figure out for yourself how many is too many for good decisions.

For me, I play at most 4 tables. But this is only when I’m playing A-game poker and I’m firing on all cylinders. Most of the time, 2-tabling is my sweet spot.

So, figure out the magic number of tables where you're engaged (not bored), and have enough time to use the information available to make great reads and plays.


2nd Tip: Remove Your Hand from Your Mouse

“Finger tilt” happens in times of stress, like when you hold a big pocket pair on a scary board and the pot is growing. You're dreading that next card and your heart’s pumping.

The stress leads to unthinking bets, raises, and of course, calls (like that example AA hand).

When you notice stress rising, remove your hand from your mouse.

This gives your brain space to think about all the information available to make reads before you make your plays.


3rd Tip: Fold Marginal Spots to Focus on Big Hands

This saves brain space for big decisions.

Maybe you're playing 3 tables with 3 concurrent hands:

  1. Flopped TP on a wet board as the preflop raiser.
  2. Double-barreled with a set but got min-check-raised.

In the 3rd hand, you're dealt QJs UTG. This hand is a normal EP opening hand for you.

Is this a good time to open-raise with QJs UTG?

Heck no!

You’ve got bigger fish to fry with hands 1 & 2. Do not suffocate your brain with this marginal spot! Fold instead.


4th Tip: Always Know Your Opponent

What type of player are you up against? Is Bob123 a LAG who folds a lot on the turn?

Knowing your opponent’s style and tendencies are critical in making solid reads. When they make a play contrary to their tendencies, that’s a red flag and you must sit up and take notice.

Bob123 is very turn honest, so you double-barrel bluff him. He called and the river is a blank. Should you triple-barrel bluff Bob123? Probably not because he called on a street that he's normally honest on.


5th Tip: Range ‘em!

When you get involved in a hand, you MUST visualize their preflop range.

Whether they defended the BB, 3bet or limp-called, their action paired with their tendencies helps you range 'em.

When you range 'em, you can gauge how well their range interacts with the board, and this will help you make better plays against them.

Hand Reading is the key skill you need for ranging every player, so learn hand reading with the Online Poker Hand Reading Workbook:

6th Tip: Ask & Answer a Question

Asking and answering a question before each button click is one of my favorite in-game focus strategies.

My favorite question is Poker's Ultimate Question:

“What are they doing this with?”

Use all available information to answer this question: player type, their tendencies, their range, bet and stack sizes and actions made.

3 more questions I really like to use:

  1. Is this a profitable table?
  2. Who is my target at the table?
  3. Will they fold to a cbet?


7th Tip: Turn on the Auto Time Bank Option

You can find the time bank option in the site’s settings. You always have an initial 10 or 15 seconds to act, but there’s a backup 30-60 seconds for tough decisions. Turn this on to relieve a bit of pressure.



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.


Support the Show

The Poker Study Boot Camp Course (click for a 20% discount!) was purchased by two seriously study-minded listeners named Victor Reyes and Cesar Da Silva. This course is going to turn them into poker commandos with the 29 study strategies and 39 videos that put them (and you) to work.


Sky Matsuhashi

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