Money not lost is just as good as money won. In Texas Hold’em, this axiom is probably the single biggest difference between a mediocre player and a good player. Ironically, having the courage to lay down a losing hand, to essentially admit defeat, is what wins the big money poker tournaments.
Remember, the rules of Hold’em are simple. Each player is dealt two cards that only they can see, the flop, turn and river cards are all dealt face up, with a round of betting between each deal. The winner is the player who either makes the best hand or outlasts the other players at the table. Simple Right? Wrong!
Let’s take a look at a typical hand of No Limit Texas Hold’em. First you’re dealt two cards face down. Unless you posted a blind, you’re essentially looking at these cards for free. If you quit now, (and at a full table, you should be folding most of your hands right here) you won’t lose any money. This is important because too many players play every hand they are dealt, they’ll often limp in with a poor hand and raise with a decent hand, other players at the table will quickly pick up on this pattern of play and use it to their advantage.
Okay, so let’s say you’ve been dealt a deuce and a seven off-suit. You know this is a bad hand, but you’re feeling optimistic that you’ll get lucky on the flop so you call the blind (limp in). Unfortunately the player to your left either has a decent hand or simply senses your weakness and immediately raises – so now you have to either push more money into the pot or fold and forfeit the call you just made. Either way, this bad hand that could and should have been folded without cost is now eating away at your stack of chips. Costing you money that could have been bet later on when you actually have good cards.
Now keep in mind that anything can happen, that 2,7 off suit becomes a full house if you flop 7,7,2. However, lucky breaks like this, whether you’re playing online poker or a friendly game with a few friends, are few and far between. More times than not the player who sticks with these bad hands winds up walking home because he lost his cab fare on the “river”.
The point is, good players fold more often then not. An occasional bluff (if you have the fortitude to do it right) is fine, but to be successful in the long run you need to learn how to cut your losses so you can live to play another day.