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Money Saved Equals Money Won
Poker Strategy
by Lou Krieger

Not every poker player realizes that money saved is equal to money won. When we sit down to play we want to win and we come out swinging with good hands, get ourselves into pots we can win, and take the money down. When we do that we’re happy. If we sat down with a rack of chips and increased it to a rack and a half, we’d have seen our fortunes grow by fifty percent and displayed our primacy at the holy game, visible evidence of our skill, knowledge, cunning, and luck. Our opponents can see it too, and breathes there a poker player alive who is not justifiably proud of a terrific bluff, the ability to lure an opponent in for an additional bet while holding a powerhouse hand?

Everyone loves the moment. Dragging in a big pot full of chips is incredibly satisfying to our egos. But that’s only half the battle. Money you save by not calling a bet with a weak hand spends just as well as that extra bet you garnered through your impressive offensive display. We love offense. Perhaps it’s endemic to poker players. We like to win. We seem to be that way when it comes to any competitive endeavor. Quarterbacks who make the big plays get the big bucks, more than the cornerbacks and safeties that prevent big plays. We prefer big hitters who can’t field a lick to gold-glove shortstops with their .243 batting averages. You can argue about which player is more valuable. But in poker there’s no argument at all. Defensive play is the equal of offensive play; only many players never realize it.

What you don’t spend, you don’t have to earn. Money represented by a bet saved spends just as well as money gained. This is quite an important notion. If you’re a good player, able to win between one and one-and-one-half big bets per hour (and it’s tough to ever average more than that), a bet saved is a pretty big thing!

In a Hold’em game you’re in the blind about six hands per hour and some of your blinds will be raised. Routinely calling each raise from the blind may cost you quite a bit of money. The same thing holds true if you make weak calls when the flop neither hits your hand nor provides a draw to a flush or a straight. These are all opportunities to save a bet. While it seems small, after all, “…only one bet,” those bets add up. A bet here and a bet there, and pretty soon you’ve traversed that line separating consistently winning players from consistently losing players.

When the skill gaps are small, often the determining factor between who wins and who contributes is the discipline to save a bet with hands that aren’t quite hopeless, but do not offer the right price to continue the fray. Saving a bet is neither dramatic, nor ego satisfying, nor likely to rouse the envy of your peers and adversaries, but it’s spendable cash. The degree that you know when to save a bet by folding may be the key to your success at the poker. After all, even Kenny Rogers knows “ ...you gotta know when to fold ’em.” Do you?

This story was first published in the Winter 2002-2003 issue of Gambling Times Magazine.

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