“Making it hard for yourself” is a trait that poker players get into when they have just mastered the basics of playing online, won a little money by playing ABC poker and gone up a level (as they should if they are applying proper bankroll management). These guys feel that they are competent players and have a load of theory in their head that they are just aching to try out on the pros. They also have the confidence of a successful start to their poker playing, and this causes their attitudes to change from “want to learn” to “want to show”.
An example of this is where a player (we’ll call him John) is seated in late position and is dealt AK. With one call on the table so far, he (correctly) raises, and is called by the big blind (we’ll call him Tim) and the player who called in the first circuit (AKA Peter).
Then the flop comes down, T-8-3 unsuited, and Tim and Peter both check. John – believing that as he is in late position, he should do something – raises. This is a big mistake inasmuch he could have got to the turn for free and then bet, or indeed the river. However, he is currently sitting with ace high, whereas Peter could have entered the betting with a mid-range pocket pair (even 8s or Ts, and now has a set) and Tim might have initially called on the blind holding J9 – and now is looking at two possible outside straights.
If Tim and Peter now call Johns raise, what is John going to do when the turn fails to produce an ace or king? If he fails to bet, the game is up that he does not have at least top pair and he will get laid into by either of the callers if the river also delivers a low card. If John does continue to bet with nothing, it is likely that he will lose out to Jim or Peter, who have the odds in their favour that they will catch something in the next two cards.
The reverse can also happen, when a player fails to take a good opportunity to bet and makes it more difficult to win. In this scenario, three players have already called pre-flop, and John, sitting once again in late position is holding pocket aces. However, rather than raise on his turn, he decides to downplay the perceived value of his hand, and just calls. The small blind now has a half bet to make for his inclusion in the flop, and the big blind just checks.
What John has done here, is to allow to further players into the action who may catch two pairs or trips on the flop against his top pair, when they may have folded against a strong bet. By allowing two players cheaply into the game, John will actually win less money than if he had raised and had the previous three players call his raise – if he now wins at all.
The moral of this tale, is to bet when you have good cards, and get to the flop cheaply when you don’t – barely rocket science, is it? There is no need to make it hard for yourself.