Everyone knows the popular saying "Quit while you're ahead." You'll hear it from numerous tourists in Vegas playing the slots, blackjack, and craps. This is actually good advice for those players as they are destined to lose their winnings if they play long enough in games with negative expectation.
Poker is different. For winning players, poker has a positive expectation whenever they sit down at the table. For losing players, it is like playing slots or blackjack; they will eventually lose all of their money if they play long enough. For both winning and losing players, however, the question still remains: "When should you quit a session?"
Determining the best time to quit a session is a topic often debated among poker players. Should you try to quit while you are ahead, before you have a chance to give back your winnings? Alternatively, should you quit when you're behind to make sure you don't lose any more? What other signs should you look for that will tell you it's time to end your session?
From a poker point of view, there are only two reasons why you ever need to end your session:
1. You are no longer playing your best (i.e., you are on tilt).
It is a bad idea to carry on playing when you are on tilt, even if you sti 11 think that you have an edge in the game. We discussed the reasons for this in chapter 6, but in case you need a reminder, here is a summary of the reasons:
This second reason to quit speaks for itself. If you don't have an edge in the game, then why bother playing? Come back another time when you can find a game where you have an edge.15 As an aside, one thing you should never be tempted to do is to play above your bankroll because you see what looks like a juicy game at that limit while there are none at yours. Reread chapter 7 if you don't understand the reasoning behind this.
For the Internet player, this is almost never an issue. There are so many sites and so many
These are the only two poker-related reasons why you should end your session. Of course, you will frequently quit for other reasons completely unrelated to poker, such as being hungry or tired, having to meet someone or be somewhere else, or wanting to watch your favorite TV program. Leaving for any of these reasons is perfectly line; we are certainly not here to instruct you on how to prioritize your life. In fact, you should have other things to do with your life besides playing poker.16
But what about those reasons we mentioned at the start of this section? Should you quit because you are ahead or because you are behind? Do these reasons have any merit at all? Generally speaking, they do not. There is absolutely no point in quitting because you are winning, and very little point in quitting purely because you are behind. To understand why, we need to distance ourselves from the Idea of a "session." Although the results of an individual session seem important, they are actually of no real importance at all.
to imagine every hand of poker you have ever played, and every hand you will play in the future, as one big long session. Because we Bre human and need to eat, sleep, go to work, and do other things, we have to take breaks from this big long session. However, when we return to the table, we pick up where we left off. Sure, our opponents Will have changed, the dealer will be different, and maybe we'll even be in a totally different casino. But we are still playing the same game, putting those same chips on the line.
If you quit because you're ahead or behind, then you are really just delaying the results of your next hand until your next session. For example, you win 20 big bets in a session and you leave the table so as not to lose again. But what are you achieving exactly? You are not protecting those 20 big bets in any way, because you will have to put some of them at risk during the next hand. It doesn't matter Whether that next hand is in 30 seconds' time or next week; you still risk losing it (unless, of course, you plan on quitting poker forever). The same reasoning applies to a losing session. You don't want to tables that you are almost certain to find a good game.
lose any more, but at some point you are going to return to the table and risk losing more anyway, so why not now?
Think back to that one long session again. We will make it a bit more manageable by just looking at the results from one week rather than a lifetime. Imagine a line graph where your winnings are plotted against the number of hands you played. The graph will go up and down because poker is a high-variance game, and may look something like this in a particular week.
This represents 1,000 hands played over the course of a week. Let's now
assume that we played 200 hands per night for five nights and mark on the graph where these five sessions ended.
Do you see what difference it makes where the sessions ended? That's right, absolutely none! You had two losing sessions followed by three winning sessions, but these points are arbitrary. You could quite easily rearrange those dots so you had only one losing session, or three, or even none. Looking at the week as a whole, it makes absolutely no difference; you still finish with the same result (a net win of around $500).
Hopefully, this illustrates the reason why quitting because you are ahead or behind is futile. If you win those 20 big bets and carry on playing, then there is a chance you will lose them again. There is also a chance you will win more. Most important, if you do quit, then you will be faced with exactly the same issue when you next sit down at the table. The key lesson to be learned here is:
Don't look at each session as a fresh start; instead, look at each hand IS a fresh start, not to be influenced by any hands that have come before it.
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