Be honest, objective, but not scared at the poker table

July 24, 2013  

If you read my column regularly, you likely know my motto is Decide to Win! I’m a believer that having the proper mind-set and expecting to win is what separates the decent players from the bad ones and the elite from the pretty good ones. I’ve just wrapped up my annual trip to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker and while I didn’t have stellar results, I couldn’t be more pleased with my effort to win. I had four small cashes, three in WSOP bracelet events and one in the Rio’s daily deepstack. I busted one bracelet event with about 10 minutes to go in the first night and twice I busted bracelet events on the last hand of the night.

In my coaching and in my approach to playing these tournaments, I stress the importance of bagging chips and getting to the next day, especially when you have a decent stack and may be close to the money. There’s no need to take unnecessary risks, as you will be able to get some rest and get a fresh start in the morning. Two hands I busted on, I probably would’ve backed down in the past.

Sometimes there is merit to at least getting in the money for your confidence or if you need to recoup your money. This summer was not about that, and as a pro, or one that wants to truly compete to win, you have to be able to not back down from profitable situations. The thing you have to be most honest and objective about with yourself is whether the plays you make are correct and in your best interest of winning. I’ve given a lot of thought to the tournaments I played this summer and know without a doubt I was playing to win. This is the only way to play the game.

If you’re playing to get into the money or just make Day 2, then you’re likely playing outside of your bankroll and comfort zone or playing tournaments just for some kind of self-gratification or ego boost. I want to encourage all of you to not do this. The real money in any given tournament is in the top few spots and to get there, you have to play to win! If that means busting on the bubble, at the end of the day or even in the first level of the tournament, then that’s a risk you have to be willing to take. We’re likely going to bust every tournament we play. The best players in the world will cash only about 15 percent of the time. But, when they get there, they are going to cash big.

Be honest with yourself. Be objective about your play. Don’t play scared poker. Decide to Win!

— Lee Childs is the founder and lead instructor at Inside the Minds. For information about his group training sessions and personal coaching, visit