You Can’t Lose

Sun Tzu said:

The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.

While blinds eventually get up to levels where a player can be forced out of the game, you have more than enough time to learn the style of your opponent before this happens. Even in fast paced games, blinds rarely go up to a level to threaten your involvement in a game before you have the chance to play a couple serious hands. That being said you’ve won the game unless you do something which causes your to lose.

While that may sound extremely obvious, how many players all-in pre-flop or just after the flop with a pair or less. While many players have carefully calculated their move relative to their opponents, too many are relying on odds to win the game. When you understand your opponent and your opponent does not understand you, you have already increased your odds of victory. If you choose the battlefield or let your opponent choose a battlefield based on information you have given them your odds will increase even more. Why risk the whole game on a poorly educated decision when you can wait for a hand in which every aspect of the hand is in your favor. This is not to say you should never bet on hands in which you do not have the best possible hand, that would be foolish. However, before making a win or lose decisions you should make sure that it is your best opportunity to do so.

To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.

Watch a game on TV and count how many coin-flip hands some of the players go all-in on. Sometimes a player will dominate the game and force a player in on the wrong hand. More often, the player who has won did so because of several (sometimes many) lucky breaks. How many 50/50 hands will you win?

Truly gifted players are skilled at minimizing the number of times they go blindly into a hand. If you’ve learned to read your opponent correctly, you have no reason to allow them to push the game to a coin-flip decision. If you can read your opponent they will provide you with the opportunity to defeat them.

He wins his battles by making no mistakes.

When a large bet that will trap you into betting your whole stack hits the table, is it one that you would go all the way on? Too many players would answer no to that question before they put their chips in, but when their card doesn’t come up they bet anyway. Bluffing all of a sudden seems like a good idea. However, your opponent is the one that got you in this far, which means that you are fighting on their battlefield. If the number of chips you are playing will cause you to feel trapped, wait for another opportunity. Remember: The opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.

Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy.

Most players have no trouble keeping a game fairly even. Games are usually decided quickly in one or two big hands which determine who wins and who loses. Every hand you go into, watch for your opponent to try to make a hand a decisive one. Small wins and loses don’t have a large bearing on who wins. Most good players lose in the short run and win in the long run. This is because it takes chips to trick your opponent into making a mistake. It also takes chips to shape how your opponent sees you as playing, as this cannot be done by folding. So in every game you play, make sure the big bet that ends the game is either made by you, or made by your opponent because you have told them to through betting signals that you give them.

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