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My "Learning to Win at Poker -- Chip by Chip" Diary

To fold or not to fold...that is the question...
Okay first a couple of definitions. I was recently at a PSO skill tourney table where one player called another player a "fish."  So I asked him to tell me the difference between a fish and a donk.

He replied that a donk is someone who will play just about any hand including little unsuited, unconnected cards (e.g., 2d-6c). Whereas a fish is someone who will "chase" the flop all the way to the river pretty much no matter what, in hopes of hitting what he needs.

Given these definitions, I rarely act like a fish but have a lot of sympathy for donks (and sometimes act like a donk) and let me tell you why.

My husband and I sell books online (at Amazon and places like that). Back in November 2009 some books we bought for resale included several on how to play poker. These particular books weren't very valuable, in terms of resale, so I decided to keep and read them instead because I'd always wanted to learn how to play poker well, although I had almost never played it in my life.

The books, mostly about NLHE, made me interested in trying to actually play. Then somehow I heard about the Pokerstars website and started playing in their play money games and freeroll tourneys.

Taking all the book advice seriously, I tried to only play proper opening hands in proper positions. You know, things like, in the blinds or under the gun only play AA, KK, QQ, JJ, A-Ks A-Qs and maybe A-Js. In middle positions, add in...whatever. In late positions, do this and that...

Only 2 problems with their advice:
1. The books were written for "live" tourneys and cash games. In "live" tourneys each level can be 30 minutes or maybe even more (I don't know). They are certainly not 5 minutes or 3 (!) minutes or, if you're very lucky, 10 minutes.  Good grief, the Sunday Millions only gives you 15 minutes per level. So these writers had lots more time to pick and choose their opening hands with care before they got blinded out.

I quickly found that if I waited until I had the right hands in the right positions I was inevitably too short stacked to take advantage of my situation properly.

2. I kept folding hands that weren't "good enough" and then they'd turn out to be the winning hands. It happened again and again and again. And it was soooooo painful to watch. Sometimes it seemed that any crappy 2 cards of mine, once folded, would turn out to be the winners (full houses, 4 of a kind, straights).

And to add insult to injury, I'd see other people win with junk hands alot.

So after my initial "extremely tight" playing phase, I went through an "extremely loose" playing phase. At least, I loosened up considerably. And stopped being so shortstacked all the time.

Now how I play is pretty situational. There are times when it pays to take risks with just about any 2 cards. Many other times I go for "tight and agressive" (the ideal playing style of most "live poker" pros).

Other times I just do whatever it takes to survive to another hand.

But I have a lot of sympathy for so-called donks. In our world of online poker, where you can see hundreds of hands in a couple of hours and many of those hands are won by small off-suit hole cards, it's difficult to stick to the classic formulas of what to play when.

One more thing: the current poker culture seems to celebrate very young mostly male players who are super aggressive. If they win a lot then they are also likely quite talented. But lots of other, less talented young (mostly male) players see them, see their bullying and aggressiveness paying off and think "I can do that too!"

Many don't apparently realize that it takes aggression and excellent people skills and mastery of several card skils to thrive in the long run. Some will learn. Some never will.

Anyway, enough of "Sympathy for the Donk" right now.
Gotta go.  See you at the tables...








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