Eliminate the idea of getting even at the poker table

April 08, 2017, Brent Philbin  

The gambler’s fallacy is a concept as old as the first bet: “The roulette wheel has hit red 10 times in a row; it’s guaranteed to hit black this time,” is the mentality buried deep inside everyone. You need to fight the urge to think this way and one of the big ways the gambler’s fallacy rears its ugly head as a professional poker player is the idea of getting even.

TRYING TO GET EVEN LEADS TO ERRATIC PLAY: If your goal is to get even in a session that you’ve been losing, it easily can lead to poor decisions, getting you involved in spots where you don’t need to be. You generally will have a time constraint on a session and as this approaches you’ll see yourself taking marginal spots or even bad ones, while the opposite is true sometimes when trying to lock up a big win.

YOU’RE EVEN WITH YOUR BANKROLL WITH EVERY HAND: This was something I read close to the beginning of my poker career, though I can’t remember who said it. It’s been one of the best pieces of advice I’ve followed to this day.

When each hand starts, your bankroll is your bankroll and you simply need to make the best decisions during that hand to end up winning money at the end of it. Next hand you’re doing that again.

DON’T COMPOUND LOSING STREAKS: Losing streaks are going to happen and they can get pretty nasty, especially in tougher games.

I noticed this in my play when I’ve had multiple losing sessions in a row and my mind starts to think about getting in the positive for those weeks rather than just booking a win in this session.

I also noticed I was going into sessions with a different mind-set and I was pushing the issues a lot more. Sometimes you can run perfect and this can be a good thing. Most of the time you slip into that same poor play mentioned above when you’re losing in a session, but you haven’t even started to lose.

So the next time you’re down two buy-ins and you’re flatting a raise with J-4 suited, take a step back.

Think about whether this is a correct play; think about why you might be making such an erratic play and just calm down.

The game of poker isn’t going anywhere for a long time and the novice players aren’t going to dry up in our low-stakes games. The gambler’s fallacy has been destroying bankrolls since the dawn of time; don’t be its next victim.

— Brent Philbin is a poker pro who lives in South Florida. You can reach him at Brent.Philbin@gmail.com.