Poker

Stop losses

Marcus Bateman RSS / Marcus Bateman / 25 September 2008 / Leave a Comment

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It does not matter if you are as talented as Phil Ivey playing your a game, if your B game consists of haemorrhaging money at a catastrophic rate.

The single hardest thing to cope with in poker is losing money. No matter how objective, or how detached from the money you become, you will always have to struggle to stay composed in the face of big losses.

Everybody tilts at some point, the key is in how you deal with that tilt. As Mike Caro so cleverly wrote: 'Money you don't lose buys just as many things as money you win'. It does not matter if you are as talented as Phil Ivey playing your a game, if your B game consists of haemorrhaging money at a catastrophic rate.

One of the most effective tools to deal with tilt is to introduce stop losses on your play. A 'stop loss' is simply a figure that when you reach it, you stop. They are regularly used by city traders as a way of controlling investments and they can be extremely effective when playing poker. Stop losses are a very personal thing, and have to be geared around your own personal playing style. Very loose players (who will have to deal with substantially larger swings during their playing careers) should have larger stop losses than very tight players, who will have lesser swings, and usually less psychological tolerance for losses.

My own preference is for a stop loss of two full buy ins (obviously if you are short stacking you can lose the equivalent number of smaller buy ins) in no limit and pot limit games, and forty big bets in limit games. If I hit either of these I will stop and take a break that can range in length from an hour to a week. The important thing is to have a break and remove yourself from an environment where you can continue to gamble.

Everybody tilts - it seems to be a simple fact of human brain chemistry and is nothing to be ashamed of. The important thing is how you deal with it. What really separates the good players from the truly great is not how they play when they are winning, it is how they act when they are losing. It can be very disheartening if you have psyched yourself up for a long session of poker only to start badly and have to stop. You might not like it at the time, but your wallet will certainly thank you for it later.

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