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In poker, there are three mistakes that many players make time after time – playing every hand, raising every bet, and fighting to the very end no matter what to be the winner of the coveted pot! In other words, many players become so engrossed in the game that they stop choosing their battles wisely. To become a great poker player, the most valuable lesson you can learn is to be wise when playing.

Obviously, the goal in poker is to win more hands than you lose. To accomplish this, you have to bet on a winning hand and fold on a losing hand – it is that simple. Just remember that good strategy goes well beyond the obvious. Learning how to choose your battles wisely is not impossible but it does take some maturity. The key is to choose only the battles that match your playing ability and the amount of money you are willing to bet, and possibly lose.

Without doubt, players that have deep pockets generally have a playing edge. Remember that the game of poker has one primary concept – putting money in and taking money out. For high betting games, the larger stacks of chips generally win over the smaller stacks for two reasons – there is a greater ability to manipulate value and you as the player have many more options. While a shorter stack of chips can take, a game from even smaller stacks occasionally, to be crushed only takes a quick sweep of one large stack.

Just because you are not a big better does not mean you should allow yourself to feel defeated. Think of betting this way – every denomination of money is one more piece of artillery with which to do battle. To make money in poker, you need to remember the key word, “repetition”. This means to apply and reapplying your advantages over another player that is not as strong or disciplined as you are. What makes this approach so intriguing is that it is not even noticed by most players, even good players. Think of the casino, they do not become rich from the big betters. Instead, they make their millions and billions of dollars through small cuts from the pots and/or the collection charges.

For instance, let us look at two scenarios. For the first, you would bet $100,000 on an opportunity giving 60/40 odds. While not bad, this is very dangerous, especially if the $100,000 is all the money you have in the world. If you won, you would walk away with $200,000. However, since there is a risk that you could walk away with zero, this type of bet is not sensible.

The second scenario is that you place a $10 bet with the same 60/40 odds. Now, if you win, you would win $1,000 with the opportunity to continue betting until you won the maximum of $200,000. This means that while the wins would be in smaller increments, since you have an astronomical chance of losing all your money, you still have the potential to make $200,000 but can walk away a winner at any stage of the game. In other words, good players know to choose their battles wisely, winning as many small pots as possible rather than focusing on winning just one large pot.

If you are a good player but interested in improving your edge, try to keep the betting denomination small. Keep in mind that players looking only for a big score are not good players at all. Think about poker tournaments - bad players look for multi-way action pots with only average hands. The problem with this is that they do not have enough artillery in their hand values or in the chip stack.

When you try to play the big pots, you are literally setting yourself up for “poker suicide.” Typically, tournament players that go for the big pot are the exception and definitely not the rule. Again, using the military as an analogy, think of your money as soldiers. You want a strategic plan where small forces go out and retrieve value any way they can. Just imagine what would happen if you sent all your soldiers (money) out at once? You would experience sure failure, the same as in poker.

Now keep in mind that there is one time when playing for the big pot is acceptable – knowing you have a huge advantage. Let us say you placed another $10 bet, this time, the player with the 40% odds raises the stakes by betting $1,000 more. If you only want to play $10, you have the option to fold. However, if that player continues to raise the stakes and you keep folding, you are losing two things – a $10 bet each game and your edge.

If you find you have a chance to play a big pot and you know without doubt that you have an advantage, try to play it. However, the better option is to move your game toward playing for pots that you know your artillery can conquer. If you play in tournaments, this is even more important since the amount of money a player has is always relevant. Therefore, play smaller pots. Although you may not always win the pot, you will win pots more often.