Card Player Magazine, available in print and online, covers poker strategy, poker news, online and casino poker, and poker legislation. Sign up today for a digital subscription to access more than 800 magazine issues and get 26 new issues per year!
Please let me encourage you to reach out to me with article ideas and questions for future columns. You can tweet to me at
@FossilMan, or send me a message at email@example.com.
Many of my private students have issues with patience. They even say that after being dealt a long series of junk hands, they will play a hand they know they should fold.
They are either bored, or more often, feel like it must be a mistake to keep folding so often. They start to feel like the blinds are eating them away, and they just have to play something, even if it is a hand they would usually fold in the current situation.
So, how do you avoid this leak, and learn to be more patient?
First, let me come clean. I definitely do not have the answer. At least, I do not have the one answer that applies to everyone.
Imagine if you want to quit smoking. There are dozens of methods and tools out there to help, but the nicotine gum that worked for one person might be of no help to another. The same idea applies to learning patience in poker. I don’t know what will work for you, but here are some suggestions and ideas to consider.
For me, the biggest aid in staying patient is the simple fact that I hate to lose. Whether it’s a cash game or a tournament, I hate to lose chips. And if I know that playing this hand is likely to cost me chips, on average, I choose to fold.
The fact that I have made this decision to fold for each of the last 10, or 20, or 50 hands in a row doesn’t matter. Using my poker skill and knowledge, if I judge that my average result, if I play the current hand, will be to lose chips, then it is correct to fold. It simply does not matter how few hands I have played in the last few orbits, or even session.
Of course, if you have been folding a lot of hands, and are sure you have a super-tight image, you should take that into account. Maybe this is a situation where you can pull off a squeeze play with that tight image. Just make sure you are judging the likely success of this play honestly. Don’t fall into the trap of “talking yourself” into playing a hand, just because you have lost patience.
Any time we want to do something for emotional reasons, it is easy to fool ourselves and pretend there is some sensible rationale to do it. We convince ourselves that we can steal this pot with our tight image, and so we reraise with 10-7 offsuit. The problem is, we forgot to consider that the player who raised is new to the table, and can’t know this is the first hand we have played in an hour. Or, we forget that the player who raised is too loose and sticky, and won’t fold even if they are aware of how tight we have been.
Another important factor is that in many cases, your opponents don’t even notice how much you have been folding. On many occasions, I have folded 20-40 hands in a row, then make a raise in late position, and the person in the big blind still thinks I’m just stealing.
If I’m stealing with trash this time, why didn’t I try any of those earlier times when I had the chance? The truth is, they are simply not paying attention, and you should not assume they have been paying attention to you either. They might have been, but don’t count on it.
Other than taking into account your image, and that of your opponents, each hand of poker is completely independent of all other hands. If you were to “tag” me, and have me play the next hand for you, I don’t need to know how you have played prior hands. All I need to know is the size of the blinds, the chip counts of the players, and most of the time, not much else.
If I fold this hand preflop, it is because I thought that was the best decision. Now, you tag another pro to play the next hand, and so on. If they each would have folded every hand for an hour or more, then you should have done the same.
Try this thought experiment if you sense you are losing patience. Imagine it is me playing this hand for you. Ask yourself how you think I would play it, and then do exactly that.
I hope this helps you become more patient. Remember, chips not lost are just as valuable as chips you have won. There have been many times I have folded 95%, even 100%, of my hands for half an hour, an hour, even two hours or more. On one occasion, on day 2 of the $10K no-limit 2-7 single draw bracelet event, I folded every hand for three hours and 20 minutes straight!
Sometimes, there just isn’t anything better you can do. Win chips whenever it is smart to try, but fold and save your chips when playing the hand isn’t the correct move.
Have fun, and play smart! ♠
Greg Raymer is the 2004 World Series of Poker main event champion, winner of numerous major titles, and has more than $7 million in earnings. He recently authored FossilMan’s Winning Tournament Strategies, available from D&B Publishing, Amazon, and other retailers. He is sponsored by Blue Shark Optics, YouStake, and ShareMyPair. To contact Greg please tweet @FossilMan or visit his website.