We've spoken quite a bit already about the importance of maximizing your advantage and thus profit whenever you have the advantage in a hand. However, you're going to make money with these hands anyway, and the trick here is to make even more by ensuring you get as much money in the pot as you can. This is obviously important, and can make a pretty big difference in your game.
What gives almost all players the most trouble though, and has an even greater impact on their bottom line, is their inability to fold in unprofitable situations. And indeed, the difference between winning and losing players comes down to this - the winning players avoid more unprofitable situations than the losers do. And if we even want to win money at poker, we must pay heed to this, and make it our top priority in fact.
It is fortunate that our opponents have such a tendency to overplay their cards. When we have the advantage, and thus are in a profitable situation, we only derive profit because others are playing on with us in unprofitable situations. And the more they play on in these unprofitable situations, the more they contribute to the pot with the disadvantage, the greater our advantage, and the greater our profits.
Aside from a basic lack of understanding of the odds of the game, this arises from the tendency for players to enjoy gambling. Just about every hand can win, in theory, yet they don't really understand the mathematics of equity, which is to say, the aggregate outcome of playing a given hand a certain way, and it's overall contribution to one's profit and loss while playing. This is a very good thing, of course.
Given that, it stands to reason that we do not want to be playing on with the disadvantage, and contributing to the riches of the person in the hand with us who enjoys the advantage over us. We want THEM to be the chumps, and surely we don't want to be the chump for them. So, we need to get in our minds that the most important thing we'll be doing at the table is folding, folding, folding, whenever we don't have the advantage. And in the majority of cases, we won't.
For starters, we're going to be dealt a wide variety of starting hands. On average, aside from the blinds, we should only be looking to play about 1 in 10 of these hands. So it's going to be: fold, fold, fold, fold, play, fold, fold, fold, fold, and fold. That's a lot of folding. Sometimes we may get a little antsy and want to get more action by playing more hands. We don't want, and cannot want any action where we don't have the advantage though. We'd be throwing money away. We're working hard for our money, and we really don't want to throw are hard earned profits away like this, on a whim. Let the losers do that.
We've been waiting for a good hand, and now we finally have it. A pair of jacks, say. Great. Of course, we're going to be playing this, and we're probably going to put in a raise as well. The flop comes: AK7. Someone bets into us. What are we going to do? Well, we may think - I've been waiting for a good hand like this for quite a while, and I'll be damned if I'm going to throw it away now. We may also try to delude ourselves by assuming the person is trying to bluff us, and we're going to show HIM. Or whatever sort of rationalization we may come up with.
In most cases though, are jacks are going to be no good here. And we must think clearly about the matter, and throw them away if this is more likely to be the case than not. Our jacks were probably the best hand pre-flop, but they're probably not now, and we never want to be involved in any probably-nots. This means we probably will not win. And will probably lose. And if we keep this kind of thinking up, we will probably lose over time as well.
We're playing the role of the chump here. If you had aces or kings here, you'd love a pocket pair of jacks calling you down, of course. And our opponent is going to love it when we benefit him this way. It was a good hand though, but the key word is WAS. It probably isn't anymore.
And this can happen with a lot better hands than this as well. What separates the top poker player from the wannabees, more than anything, is that the top poker player knows when it's time to fold, and actually does, it, where the wannabees want to win the hand badly enough that they override whatever good judgement they have, if they have any at all that is.
Let's look at it this way. Every time you fold when you're at a disadvantage, you save yourself at least one bet on average. With all the correct opportunities to fold, in an hour of play, you have the opportunity to either save a lot of bets, or waste a lot. And every bet saved is a bet that's made, and an extra bet you'll have in your account at the end of the day, instead of donating your money to the accounts of your opponents. Simply put, if you waste bets, you will lose money. If you save bets, you will make money. And more than anything, the amount of bets you save is going to be the main reason why you're up money instead of down money.
So every time you fold without the advantage, tell yourself that you just made a bet. And this is true actually. You'll be waiting it out, waiting until you do have the advantage. You've saved your money up to this point, and now you're going to go and make some by capitalizing on the mistakes of others, who are not so skilled and disciplined, and now that you have the advantage over them, they are ready to pay you off by contributing to your account. And this is exactly what we want of course.