doug polk playing live poker

How To Be Smart About Losing Poker Sessions

It’s tough knowing when to walk away from the poker table, but sometimes its the most important skill to have.

A couple of days ago I was sitting at my home in Las Vegas and felt the itch to hit the live felt.

This is generally fairly rare for me, as I tend to prefer playing online in general when possible. Sometimes when you get the itch though, you just have to scratch it.

I showed up at the Bellagio at around 8:00 pm Friday night, planning to play somewhere in the vicinity of 6-10 hours. When I play poker, I like to play for long sessions when possible. There is something about once you start shuffling the chips and are being dealt cards that is simply hard to walk away from.

About 8 hours into my session, disaster had struck. Due to some unfortunate timing with AK in a 3-bet pot where my opponent flopped a set and I flopped top pair, and my trips running into a boat, I found myself stuck to the tune of $45,000.

Now if there is anything I am not, its a quitter.

Quitters never win right?

You gotta fight the good fight right!?

On more then one occasion in my life I have been in the depths of despair only to come out gloriously ahead.

100 200 comeback correct

A  session played against Ben Sulsky on September 29th 2013, things weren’t looking good halfway through but I stuck it out!

I remember a session that one of my best friends played in what must have been 2010. He started playing a full ring session at 50c/1, and quickly got stuck about 12 buyins. He decided right then and there that he was not leaving the session until he finished up money.

I went to lunch and came back, he was playing. I went to dinner and came back, he was playing. I went to bed woke up and stepped outside my room, he was playing. I went to lunch, he was playing. By evening time the net day he had come out ahead (including rakeback) and had decided to call it a session.

Well the funny thing about that was, I thought there was no way he should have done that.

But then the moment I am the one stuck, I always want to grind my way back!

It can be very tough to know when its time to hold strong, and when its time to live to fight another day.

Here  are some good general rules for if you should continue your session or not:

  • Are playing well? If you think so, by all means carry on.
  • Is the game you are in still good? Sometimes there are lineups you simply CANNOT leave. In these scenarios you have to battle onwards
  • Are you feeling up to the task? Oftentimes we can be playing not our A game for a variety of reasons (such as sadness or tilt), if you dont feel up to it then walk away

Well in this session, I thought the answers to the above questions were yes, yes, and YES. So I stuck in there and battled it out.

bellagio stack

I had won a lot of chips in pure Quantity, but unfortunately the quality of them wasn’t nearly enough to get us back all the way.

I had a good run of cards, although to be fair, I had my share of missed draws and failed bluffs. I think by the end of the session I had doubled up something to the tune of 6 different players. Some of them for small stacks of $3,000 , some with stacks of up to $25,000 (Those ones were quite a bit more expensive on the bankroll.)

At one point, a guy to my right sat down about 22 hours into my session. He looks at me and says “Wait, you are still here?” I laughed and confirmed what must have been given away by me having on the exact same clothes as the day before.

Well sure enough, 26 hours into my session, I did it! I got unstuck. I turned a $45,000 loser into a $4,000 winner. I had done what seemed to be the impossible.

I could say that this was my happiest $4,000 win ever, but that would be lying. I can think of one that made me even happier…. and it might just be on this same page.

While I was lucky to make it happen in this session, the reasons I kept going where because all of the points above I thought were solid reasons to continue playing.

So remember that if the spot is good, keep grinding. But if it isnt, life is just one long session, and there surely will be another day.

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I have over $5,000,000 in live tournament winnings. In 2014, I won my first World Series of Poker Bracelet, followed up with a 2nd bracelet in 2016. My online winnings are over $2,000,000 on Full Tilt and PokerStars alone, mostly at Heads Up No Limit, and those graphs are publicly available on HighStakesDB.

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