Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Finishing – Poker Lessons from the Gridiron

Now that you’ve gotten your fill of football, it’s back to poker, and I’m going to delay our discussion of bet-sizing to talk about something I heard over and over during the games yesterday – finishing.

Jon Gruden said it a lot during the Michigan-South Carolina game (he does tend to get stuck on themes that way).  Michigan was able to move the ball up and down the field, but had trouble finishing, settling for field goals.  Of course, their defense went home early and they lost, but that’s another story.

Finishing is important in poker, too.  Many times players play well, make money, make the final table, and then can’t seem to seal the deal and win it all.  Different football coaches have different strategies in order to score once they’re in the red zone – how can you score once you’ve made your poker table’s red zone?

If you follow those teams who do seem to score at will, you’ll note that they DON’T change what’s working.  They don’t get cute, they don’t get tricky, and they don’t change what they’re doing since it’s succeeding.  Steady, consistent, aggressive play makes all the difference between winning and second or third place.

Of course, a lot will depend on how you arrive at the final table.  If you’ve barely made it and are the short stack, you’ll want to pick your spots, be aggressive when you do play (use your all-in move for fold equity), and try to move up as you can.  Patience is the key.

And if you’re the chip leader?  Pretty much the same thing – patience and aggression are the keys.  You don’t want to let up and let other players get back into the hunt.  Keep the pressure on, make THEM make the tough decisions, and don’t panic.  You got to be the chip leader for a reason, so keep on keepin’ on.  How often have you seen teams go into a "prevent defense" and give up a quick score or two?  How often do you see fast-break basketball squads go into a stall and then watch their 13 point lead dwindle to 2?  If it ain't broke...

Smart play works whether it’s the first hand or the last.  If you have trouble finishing, finding yourself always second or third (or worse), review your play, your hands, and your strategy, and find ways to make things happen.

And if you’re on the football field, for cryin’ out loud, TACKLE.

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