By: Kent Anderson


How much is enough? How much profit? How much loss? The answer to these questions is different for everyone, but at the poker table when you get up will determine your success or failure. Figuring out when to leave is possibly the most difficult part of the game.


A couple of months ago I was having tremendous success. I was regularly building my initial $100 buy-in to $600, $700 and even as much as $1500 on a few occasions. The problem, and I reckon I'm not alone in this, was that I didn't leave the table with these sums. It was so bad that at one time I didn't even have the two dollars to pay for parking following a soul crushing collapse.


One session compounded the next. In reality I had only lost $100 or $200 on any given session, but it felt like had lost much more. I would admonish myself on the drive home. "Why didn't you get up? That was real loot you just dropped off. Arrghh!"


There are many reasons – rent was due, 'I'm going to make more..', etc. Thinking back, I knew exactly when to get up or at least when to change my approach. I simply didn't listen to my instincts and failed to read the writing on the wall.


The bellwether signal is when you begin to think of your checks as actual money. What I mean by this is that you're making a bet and thinking, "That's fifty bucks" and "I don't want to, or can't lose this money". When thinking like this creeps into your dome you are immediately handicapped. You may find yourself calling a bet when your instinct is to re-raise. Playing a passive game with the intention of conserving your checks almost always has the opposite effect. It's easy to call off an entire session's profits in a few hands. If you are afraid to lose, you can't win.

Cards and ChipsOne of the dealers at Hollywood Park Casino, where I spend a lot of time, is an accomplished player and has watched thousands of folks go down in flames, told me that after about six hours most people lose their effectiveness. This doesn't mean you can't succeed during a long session, but playing well takes a lot of concentration and it only takes one mistake to lose it all.


So what do we do? One idea I've been exploring lately is to get up with my profits, pocket them, and buy in again. This allows you to continue playing but safeguards the good work you've done.

The worst thing you can do is to set specific profit goals for a session. I had been setting a goal of $300 per session a while back and this was a disaster. On a number of occasions I was bouncing around between $250 and $290 yet never quite reaching $300. I eventually got busted, not realizing that I could have walked away with real money.


So the limits I set with the intention of being responsible actually sunk me. Poker is not about rigidity. Rather, you must be absolutely in tune with your instincts and how you feel from moment to moment. The second you feel hesitation it's a good idea to stand up, get some air and take an honest inventory. Like I've said before, there is always another hand at the cash game and there is always another session. When it's time to go, you will know, if you listen. Until next time…

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