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Disregarding stakes


I have written in the past a little advice about progressing from a recreational poker player to the professional ranks, but I only touched on what is probably the most important aspect of the professional players play beyond their ability. The best players are able to completely disregard the stakes, or amount of money in play. This may seem like an easy thing to do, but it is not.

One of the most ingenious things that casinos have ever done is mandate the use of chips at the tables instead of actual cash. This entices players to play more and not view it as real money like cash. However, the great majority of players do have a limit where the amount becomes too big for this disregard.

The best professional poker players on the other hand, don’t view chips as anything beyond tools to place bets with until they actually convert them to cash at the cage. Reportedly, the largest stakes game ever played was a $100,000 / $200,000 limit Texas holdem game between Andy Beal, a Texas banker, and Todd Brunson, Doyle Brunson’s son.

Now I can’t accurately judge how much money you make, but it takes me a couple years to make enough for the small bet, and a lifetime to make enough to actually play at that level. Rumor has it that Brunson won a little over 1 million in that game, which means they were pretty evenly matched, as that is only a little over five big bets. Obviously the amount didn’t have any effect on either player.

If you want to become a professional player, you must learn what amounts are in your comfort level and try to expand them. Perhaps more importantly, you have to be honest with yourself. If you ignore the facts instead of working through them, you will only be hurting yourself.

This process takes time. I used to be uncomfortable at anything above 1/2 and now can play 10/20 without being bothered. The mechanics of the game don’t change and the chips are just bets. By looking at them as just parts of a big bet instead of their actual value, you won’t worry about it. Top-level poker is such a mental game that anything that interferes with your mental state will hurt your game.

In the game mentioned above between Beal and Brunson, obviously they both had the proper mindset. I am smart enough to realize that I will never be able to play for those stakes without it bothering me, but I would like to be able to play 50/100 or 100/200 someday without it mentally changing my game.

Evaluate your personal feelings about the limits you play and set a goal to expand them. There is no shame to be concerned about the stakes. The shame is not learning from the experience and improving you game and mental abilities.

Until next week, good luck at the tables!