In sport, participating and being a good loser is sometimes seen as a virtuous quality. It won’t get you very far in poker! Whether or not you think that poker is a sport, the aim is still to win, and there are far too many players out there who are playing “not to lose”.
Sit and Go games are a very good example of this – especially those that offer “Double or Nothing”. Here players wait and wait as long as they can to bet, for fear that they might lose a hand and fail to get into the top two, three or five that will get paid out (the “Bubble”).
While we would not suggest that you join a game and bet with reckless abandon and no consideration to cost, the best place to be is at the top of the chip stack – not hanging on by the skin of your teeth, hoping that enough players will drop out before you do. Playing “not to lose” is rarely worthwhile when you consider that the reward for coming third in a regular SnG only shows a 64% profit when you calculate the return over your stake including rake.
Every time you do not make the bubble, you have to finish third or better at least twice more to break even.
Multi-table tournaments are another common example of where you will find players using tactics to slow the game on their table, hoping that players on other tables drop out quicker and allow them to creep into the prize money by default.
This happens in any tournament, whether it’s poker or blackjack tournaments. Once these players have reached the lower limits of the payouts, they will never have enough chips remaining to be competitive, and either have to play all-in on their first half-decent hand or be blinded out.
These are areas of the game where experienced players can take advantage, either by raising into the “hanger-on” and forcing poor calls from them, or by stealing their blinds from good position. This is especially appropriate in tournament play where you can elevate yourself into a better finishing position by identifying players who are just seeing out the blinds, and increasing your own chip stack by taking advantage of the knowledge that they will rarely bet against you.
Playing to win may require a change in attitude, but overall it will prove more lucrative to your bankroll. Don’t allow the fear of losing to block your chances of winning – if you are playing with money you cannot afford to lose, you should not be playing at all! Adjust the methods of play that you use on the table.
Keep changing your strategies from passive to aggressive and back again, use position well, never let other players identify a pattern in your play, and generate their respect. A winner’s respect!