Ye Auld Risk versus reward dilemma

I was almost hit by a Ferrari yesterday. I got the busy Bayswater Road in West London running almost right outside my front door, and in order to get to Kensington Gardens on the other side I often have to dodge red busses, disgruntled motorcyclists named Harvey or pro footballers in their Aston Martin Vantage who is late for afternoon practice (give them a years tube tickets this Christmas please Mr. Mourinho).

A run in the park

Anyway, I was going for a run in the park, decided not to wait for green, and narrowly avoided a red Ferrari 340 shaving my legs clean off. I stuttered “Nice car man” before he took off, after all if it was going to be my time to go id rather have it to be a Ferrari than a Ford.

So what does all this has to do with poker you think. Well, nothing and everything. Poker and crossing a busy road is often about risk versus reward. You do not play 44 heads up but you do not mind seeing a flop with it if 6 other players are seeing it too. And you do not cross when red unless you expect to gain something from it, in my case 10 lousy seconds. Was it worth it? No, but at least it gave me the idea for this article.

Risk v reward is a tricky concept, often crystal clear to understand and almost as often as hard to make the right choice from. If I gave you a choice of heads or tails when I flip a coin and I say you have to bet 500 $, but I will give you 1100 back if you win you would probably take the bet if I said it was now or never and just one coin toss would take place. If you on the other hand had a stupid friend who would offer the same bet in a week, but would give you 1300 back if you win, then what would you do?

You only have 500 $ and if you lose to me you cannot take your friends bet next week. Still it is one week away and you can make the bet with me right now. Risk and reward.

Whenever you sit down at a poker table you are expecting to win (if you are not you are in the wrong game pal) and online you have hundreds of tables to choose from. None of us prefer a table full of sharks, and very few of us prefer a table full of dummies (can be equally hard to make a profit). The ideal solution is usually a mixed table, easy to spot the good players as well as the bad and act on it.

When you make a choice of table you are taking a risk. You are putting your money on the line and naturally you prefer to pick a table where the rewards seem the most promising. When I don’t have time to study a table before I sit down – which is almost never, I prefer instead to take a look at the average pot size of the tables in the lobby. This usually indicates the level of play and naturally I try to avoid a table where the number is very low.

The big pots

I will be varying of tables with a high pot size, but you will need a broomstick to keep me away from it. Just like you have a choice of the coin flip bet today or next week you will also have to make a choice whether to play on a day when there are no tables that look interesting. There might be no 1-2 tables running and you can chose to play 2-4 even though you don’t feel ready for it, or what about trying out this game called Omaha?

Your potential reward might easily be seriously diminished if you feel forced to choose a table that you do not really like or a game of poker you have not tried before. In fact it is highly likely that you will end up being the loser in a game that is outside of your comfort zone.

The solution is fairly simple but can involve an element of patience. If you have money on several sites you get a wider array of table selection making it much easier to find a table that suits you. Another alternative is to wait an hour for a cash game and play a Sit & Go tourney with 10 players instead. Tourneys are fun and allow you to play a lot for the money and it can increase your skills, though you will have to remember that cash game skills and tournament skills are not always interchangeable. Especially the tactic late in tourneys got almost no resemblance to what you need in a cash game.

If you just cannot find a table and the tournament alternative is not your force, seriously consider walking away from poker for a couple of hours, maybe come back tomorrow instead. Hone your skills by reading some poker literature, write a post at the forum on this site or spend the time on your family or friends. Never feel forced to pick a bad table just because you only have an hour to spare, the risk might not outweigh the reward.

So what is the answer if you ever is “lucky” enough to get to pick whether to get hit by a Ford or a Ferrari? Make sure it is the Ferrari (it is lighter and there is a better chance of rolling over it than ending up under the wheels). Good luck at the online poker tables.


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