I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been in a bit of a poker slump. I’m certainly not the first, and won’t be the last to experience this. When you’re in a slump, you can hit the poker books and maybe watch some poker tournaments and videos to try and inspire a return to the felt.
Some players choose to do something else entirely and take a break, perhaps playing slots at real money online casinos. I’m more partial to enjoying a movie though and a while back, I had a major revelation watching Karate Kid 3. One of the movie quotes was so profound and inspiring it changed my whole approach to poker. Feeling enthused and inspired, I went in search of other quotes from movies that might give poker players something to think about.
Karate Kid 3: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita (1989)
“It’s okay to lose to opponent… must not lose to fear.”
This is not only a great poker lesson, but a quality life lesson as well. How many of us play ‘scared poker’? I’ll stick my hand up. I’ve changed my mindset because of this quote, and there have been several occasions where I’ve taken down the pot because I’ve decided to confront fear with aggression and confidence.
Fear can be a driving factor in poker, and if not confronted, it can cripple your game.
What holds us back from not raising a big hand when four others have limped in?
What’s holding you back from making that bluff? Are you scared you’ll look stupid in front of the other players if you get called?
A good poker player can smell fear. To combat that, you need to spray on some aftershave called ‘Confidence’ to mask that fear.
Rounders: Matt Damon, Ed Norton (1998)
“If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker!”
A great quote from the best poker movie ever made. When I sit at a table, I might not play a hand for the first 20 minutes, but just sit back, observe everyone, and assign them a profile. Who are the calling stations and who are the players that only get involved in two hands an hour. Once you hook a fish, you want to reel them in slowly. You might lose them if you scale and gut them too quick. The real sharks in the poker room are the ones that circle the table looking out for their prey.
Color of Money: Paul Newman, Tom Cruise (1986)
“Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.”
I am dedicating this quote to all the suits who, after a hard week of grinding it out at the office, come down to the poker room and take home twice what they made that week at work. Let’s face it — while all this is going on, you’re visualizing walking into the office on Monday and telling your boss you’re quitting and moving to Las Vegas.
Any Given Sunday: Al Pacino and Denis Quaid (1999)
“You find out life’s this game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small — I mean one-half a step too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One-half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us.
They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second.
On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch, because we know when we add up all those inches that’s gonna make the fuckin’ difference between winning and losing! Between living and dying.”
I found this quote inspirational from a poker perspective because when you’re in a hand, you’re fighting tooth and nail to win that pot. Those ‘inches’ in poker are all about extracting as much value from a hand as possible and striving to play each hand better.
Pacino also talks about timing, “I mean one-half a step too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it.” This speaks to me about making the right bet size, or even folding to early or too late, which costs you either way. The plays in poker are all around us – we just need to recognize the right ones at the right time.
Rocky Balboa: Sylvester Stallone (2006)
“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
The first lesson poker teaches you is that life’s not fair. Last week I saw a player get Aces twice in three hands and both times they got cracked. You’ll get one-outed; flop a set against a straight or nut flush vs. straight flush.
Poker at times can be cruel and ugly. It’s how you handle the punches; the bad beats and bad runs that will determine how you move forward in the game.
Players can run bad for months and months. Winning is the easy part. It’s also easy to blame everyone else when you lose. Losing and fighting to rebuild your stack provides the real test of character.
The Godfather: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando (1972)
“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”
We all know what happened to hot-headed Sonny in The Godfather.
How often has another player put you on tilt when all you want to do is destroy them, but in the end it’s you who gets destroyed? If someone shows you a bluff, it’s not a slight against you or something personal – it’s business. They want your chips and you want theirs.
Poker can be an emotional rollercoaster and players can push your buttons. Generally, the name on that button is ‘self-destruct.’ The wisest course of action is to take the emotion out of the game, and not let yourself be goaded into battle with someone because of ego.
Once this happens you can play methodical poker
Remember: There are generally nine players at a table, so if your sole focus is on one, then chances are you leave yourself vulnerable to everyone else.
Incredibles 2: Agent Rick Dicker
“Do you want to get out of the hole? First, you’re going to have to put down the shovel.”
We’ve all had those cash game sessions where we go through multiple buy-ins in the hope of breaking even or turning a small profit. Sometimes the best course of action is to call it quits and fight another day.
This way you can come back with a clear head and, hopefully, a positive mindset. The break is an opportunity to reflect on your game and where you might be going wrong.
Casino Royale: Daniel Craig (2006)
“Then you also know in poker you never play your hand. You play the man across from you.”
Sound advice from Mr. Bond. As an MI6 agent, Bond not only had to read his opponents, but stay one step ahead of them as well. Poker is a game where you look for patterns in your opponents’ play that you can exploit. You can’t just wait for your cards to hit. You must hit your opponent first.
In the big poker game at the end of Casino Royale, Bond was able to exploit a tell in Le Chiffre to win.
Forrest Gump: Tom Hanks (1994)
“Mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.'”
The key to success in any poker game is finding the right table of players to exploit. You don’t know what kind of players you’re going to get. There might be tight players who only raise pocket Aces and bet the nuts, or players who will raise 6-4 offsuit. It can be a real mix at the table. Playing poker is like opening one of those boxes of chocolates as a kid. Unpredictable and exciting at the same time.
Aside from the players, there’s also real excitement when you flip your two cards over and see what you’re going to get. Will today be a pocket Kings day? Or a run of 7-2 and 3-8 off?
The Princess Diaries: Anne Hathaway (2001)
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.”
How many times have you seen a player run a stack from $200 to $2,000 and then lose it all again? Then there’s the player who has been sitting on $300 for four hours without seeming to play a hand. Poker is about risk-taking. As they say, “No Gamble, No Future.” There’s an exhilaration in putting it all on the line. There’s a huge adrenalin rush. You feel like you’re in the moment and living. And that’s the best inspiration of all.