Take Your Hand Off the Mouse
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, as I was coming up in the game of poker I had a problem with acting too quickly and not thinking through big decisions. It was really hurting my game and causing me to make colossal mistakes in big spots. I was discussing this with a friend who was also a poker coach at the time, looking at a few spots, and he gave me a very simple suggestion that turned the problem around: Take your hand off the mouse. “What?” I said, not grasping at first the simplicity of what he was saying. “If you’re acting too quickly and not thinking through spots as a result, one way you might be able to resolve that problem is to take your hand off the mouse as soon as you’ve acted on your hand. Then on your next decision point, since you can’t simply click buttons without bringing your hand back to the mouse, let that serve as your reminder to think first before you make your decision. To slow it down and take an extra 5 seconds or whatever. At the very least, you won’t be able to snap click.”
It was brilliant in its simplicity and effectiveness. It immediately took a significant problem I’d been experiencing and eliminated it. A recent discussion on the Pokerstars discord #school_handreviews channel reminded me of this. The hero was running a bluff that was failing, but rivered top pair, and moved all in as a bluff. They got called (villain actually had a set). They were asking for thoughts on turning a weak top pair into a bluff when you river it. My comment was a question back to them, a question one should ask them self when considering a bluff: “What better hands are you expecting to fold out?” The reality of the situation was, there were no better hands in villain’s range that would fold, so turning this rivered top pair into a bluff was a bad idea. I believe what happened here was that the hero had gotten the notion of bluffing stuck in his head and when the unexpected happened on the river (hitting top pair), they were stuck in the bluff mindset and didn’t stop to think about how the situation had changed. They didn’t take their proverbial hand off the mouse, if you will.
It was a timely discussion as just the other day I’d had a similar situation myself that also reminded me about this concept. In my spot, I lost my stack fairly early in a tournament by making a horrifically bad river call. The opponent was an unknown, and had defended their blind vs. my open raise. The board ran out AJ329 and I value bet 3 streets with my big ace. On the river, the villain check/raise shoved, and I snap called like a fool. The villain tabled 54, having flopped a gut shot, peeled, and turned the straight. I DM’d a friend on discord and berated myself for this bad play, because no one else was watching and, quite frankly, I deserved a good scolding. After punting this tournament I reminded myself to take my hand off the mouse.
If I’d been thinking clearly about this spot, it’s a ridiculously easy fold. Although the villain was unknown, people are generally very bad at bluffing rivers. The check/raise river bluff shove isn’t even a tool in most player’s tool belts. There was no reason to believe it might be in the tool belt of a random unknown $11 mtt player. So it would be prudent to assume this is largely (if not entirely) a value line by villain. I had a hand strong enough to value bet 3 streets, but one which is never good vs. the value range taking this line. I was so caught up in the moment I clicked without thinking… a scenario that usually doesn’t end well.
Any time sometime unexpected happens, stop and ask yourself what it means. That unexpected thing might be running a desperate bluff post flop and rivering top pair, or having a player you expect to either fold or call, check/raise you all in. Think about the spot, even if it seems obvious. Take the extra time, and if it helps you to do that, take your hand off the mouse! There are enough tricky spots to navigate while playing, enough opportunities to make legitimate mistakes, without the need to create more from sheer folly. If any of this sounds like something you can relate to, the next time you play try taking your hand off the mouse between actions. If nothing else, it will serve as a reminder to be more deliberate in your actions, and think spots through rather than simply clicking away.