Raise or Fold:  Learning (From) Poker

Writing and playing poker as if they were activities worth doing well.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Fold

One thing that poker teaches you, or ought to anyway, is how to fold.
Your hand has no promise, and there are no prospects for a successful steal: fold.

You’re out of position, with a modest holding: fold.

You’ve missed the flop, you have no draws, and your canny opponent has led out: fold.

You’ve raised in early position with pocket 10s, and there’s been another raise and then a shove from a tight player behind you: fold.

Your only choice at this point in the tournament is to raise or fold, and raising will put your whole stack at risk with a weak hand and no fold equity: fold.

You’ve finally realized you’re at a table with significantly more skilled players than you: fold and pick up your chips.

There’s a common saying among poker players: “No one comes to a casino to fold.” And it’s true. Most people go to a poker game to “play” ~ by which they mean to see flops and turns and rivers. To gamble. To bluff and go all in. Not to mostly fold (which, of course, is what professionals do).

No one likes to see the money they’ve invested go to someone else because they surrendered the pot. It’s no fun realizing that the river bluff isn’t going to work and that the better part of valor is to give up a failed betting line. And when faced with a massive raise, it’s a miserable feeling to be backed into a corner (is it a bluff or a monster?) and having to fold. Let’s face it: folding because you were outplayed or outdrawn… both unpleasant.

No one likes to give up. No one likes to quit. And nobody likes to fail.

My friends, I find myself facing the decision: raise or fold. I’ve played for thirteen months. I’ve looked at the numbers, I’ve done the math, and the results are pretty hard to dispute.

I am a marginally profitable player. I cannot possibly make a living playing poker unless my skills improve significantly. I’m a much better tournament player than I am a cash player, and if I could tolerate the huge variance associated with tourney play, it’s possible I could eke out a living that way. But I’m not prepared to make that experiment, it’s simply too risky for my taste.

I’m not particularly happy about this conclusion. But I’m a grown-up, and I truly believe in fiscal responsibility. I do not have, at present, the wherewithal to be a professional poker player. So it’s time to acknowledge that, make the "pro" fold, and move on. Time to generate a viable Plan B. (Got a job for me?)

I do not, however, plan to stop playing poker. It’s a hobby that makes rather than costs money. It has taught me much about myself and others. It has introduced to me to wonderful people. Poker has made incredibly positive contributions to my life, and I expect it to continue doing so. I hope to keep improving my game, and I also intend to keep writing.

I hope that those of you who have joined me for this journey will continue to come along.

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Blogger Crash said...

I'll sure come along. You are on my A-list. There will still be poker content in addition to whatever comes next for you. Good luck in both.

9/16/09 8:13 PM  
Blogger bastinptc said...

Here for the long haul, Sis.

9/16/09 9:23 PM  
Anonymous THETA Poker said...

I really prefer stories with happy endings, but maybe this one's not quite over yet. With the burden of that tough decision over, perhaps another tweak or two or ten can lift your play to a new level over the next, pressureless year.

Good luck and good skill!

9/17/09 12:51 AM  
Anonymous astrobel said...

After reading your whole blog this post makes me cry. What can I do? I'm so silly. I do understand your final decision though and am sure it has been reached after solid and mature reasoning.
Anyway, anything could happen from now on and I still wish you the best of luck and look forward to reading anything you fancy writing.
Please , keep us posted.

9/17/09 5:09 AM  
Blogger Forrest Gump said...

I would actually call it a happy ending. CG set out on a journey that most of us think about but never do. She also followed it through and made it to the destination. And she gained the knowledge that she's not quite there to be a full time pro, but most certainly has the potential.


9/17/09 6:51 AM  
Anonymous KenP said...

I think it has a happy ending. Not all our goals are ever realized. Adulthood can be a bitch. But it is the best of the alternatives available.

9/17/09 9:30 AM  
Blogger e alcantar said...

your writing is wonderful. Please finish that book!

9/17/09 10:17 AM  
Blogger FkCoolers said...

Doesn't help to hear it, but you made the correct decision. Thanks for the entertaining read.

9/17/09 10:53 AM  
Anonymous joxum said...

There's no shame in folding when you know you're beaten. Thanks for the ride, looking forward to many more.

(So I guess it's safe to tell us about The Tweak now, huh?)



9/17/09 1:25 PM  
Blogger Philly said...

But if you do that (get a real job), I won't have anyone to be jealous of. WTF?

9/17/09 3:14 PM  
Blogger Poker Dreams said...

At some point I would love to read a brief summary of high points and low points throughout your year. t What was the biggest adjustment when you started to play full time? Biggest winning day/worst losing day. Funniest moment/worst moment etc.

you know best tweak. just kidding

it would be very interesting to read and if I must I will buy the book when it comes out.

9/17/09 3:42 PM  
Blogger BWoP said...

I know this decision has been weighing on your recently, and I am glad to see that you've come to a conclusion.

It has been wonderful getting to know you. I hope to see you at the tables soon!

9/17/09 4:11 PM  
Anonymous OHPoker said...

It has been a great time reading your blogs. Thank you for letting us take this journey with you! Best of luck with whatever comes your way. I echo the others in saying I would love to read your book when it comes out. Good luck.

9/17/09 4:46 PM  
Blogger F-Train said...

Hope you had fun along the way. Poker is a cruel game sometimes.

9/17/09 10:14 PM  
Blogger dbcooper said...

Keep up the writing and the poker playing

9/17/09 11:59 PM  
Blogger Dr. Pauly said...

I admire you honesty and your self-awareness. That's why you will be a successful and profitable person in life over the long term.

Keep writing. Keep learning. Best of luck.

9/18/09 3:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I reached similar if not worse levels of frustrations playing poker..i get humbled at the felt 8/10 times...the remote utopia i had about leaving off poker is long gone...i am now happy with playing poker as a hobby playing a couple of tourneys a week and maintaining a steady job..this is not that bad as i get my poker fix often without compromising my future..unless you're extremely luck (i consider luck to be 60% of the game) you cannot make a living off it.
Best of success in your endeavous Cardgrrl.

9/18/09 12:05 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Good for you. It can be so very, very tough - especially when surrounded by people whom you know, deep in your soul, are just plain idiots - to honestly assess where we are at. While long term being good is enough to get by in our crazy game short term luck counts. I know that those who have made very large scores and gone on to fame and fortune would, if they were capable of being as honest, admit they got lucky.

Hang in there - keep playing - and let me know if you make it to Sydney/Melbourne/Macau or anyplace in between. As they say in my adopted homeland: I'll shout the first round.

9/18/09 1:40 PM  
Blogger lightning36 said...

"Closing time. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."


Best wishes as you navigate through life. Poker as a hobby -- it's not bad.

9/18/09 1:50 PM  
Blogger Cranky said...

Cardgrrl - I know I'm late to comment on this, but I applaud your decision. And not because you followed through with your plan, tried out being a pro and realized you didn't have the skills for it.

No, my reason is that you have skills that could be applied towards being a productive member of society. Face it, playing poker for a living is essentially a parasitic exercise.

9/21/09 10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry it didn't work out. Like others who have followed I cheered your successes and cringed with the set backs.

Can we do a QandA sometime in the future?

First question: If you had to do it over again what would you do differently?


9/21/09 12:03 PM  
Anonymous astrobel said...


I totally disagree with you. Making money playing poker is in itself as parasitic as making money playing other sports / competing at other games. Plus there are many ways in which you can help / contribute apart from your 9-5 ( which let's face it, more often than not it's an activity that directly or indirectly is damaging the planet more than anything ).

9/21/09 1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Abdul Jalib dealt with the issue of a poker player's contribution to society: players keep dealers employed.

If you oppose that you oppose freedom and why do you hate freedom and provide comfort to our enemies. :)

Free to play.


9/21/09 6:46 PM  
Blogger FkCoolers said...

"Making money playing poker is in itself as parasitic as making money playing other sports / competing at other games."

No it's not. Re-think that statement.

9/22/09 10:15 AM  
Blogger diverjoules said...

Glad to see you will still be playing and writing. I have full faith that your skills will continue to grow. As I hope I can always do the same. Your writing is so engaging, thanks for all your sharing. I also could use about ten tweaks to my game. And since I will most likely never play with you, you could just share yours with me.. LOL I won't tell a soul. GL with that job hunt.

9/22/09 12:37 PM  

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