Keeping Your Cool

Source: Wikimedia

No matter how much you learn about Texas Hold ‘Em, from David Sklansky’s hand group table to the complex math of the Chen Formula, if you lose your cool, you can still end up losing big. This was brilliantly illustrated in the new poker-based movie Molly's Game, which hits U.K. cinemas starting on January 1st. The film tells the story of Molly Bloom, who ran high-stakes poker nights for top Hollywood stars and industry millionaires, including the likes of Leonardo de Caprio, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Tobey Maguire.

One of the most interesting characters in the film is Harlan Eustice, played by veteran actor Bill Camp. He is sought out by the team as a solid professional player who can bring some credibility to the game with his skill and strategies. Initially, he plays a conservative game, not getting involved in the action for the sake of it, but reserving himself for hands where he genuinely stands a chance. In the process, he takes many of the players for a small fortune.

However, one night, he is beaten in a hand that he is convinced he is going to win, losing out on the turn of the river card to an opponent who had nothing until that point, and he loses his cool. He is described by one of the characters as going from being a pro poker player to a college chancer, trying to hit every hand out of the park. As word gets out that he has lost his cool, his former victims start turning up to the game, queuing up to get their revenge.

Without his customary cool, calculated approach, he continues to make bad call after bad call, chasing his losses to break even. By the end of the night, despite Molly trying to talk him out of buying more chips each time, he is down a cool $1.2 million.

Of course, keeping your cool is not as easy as it looks, as Kevin Hart proved in his recent #gameon challenge against the mighty Usain Bolt. The challenge was simple enough: the two contestants had to sit in an ice bath, and whoever lasted the longest would win. Ever the cool customer, Bolt slipped effortlessly into the ice and the clock began running. Hart, on the other hand, could not bring himself to dip in more than a toe, and quickly lost his cool, freaking out at the freezing temperature of the water.

Source: Wikimedia

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With Bolt winning hands down, the challenge does not bode well for Hart’s chances when he faces Bolt at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. That said, few of us would dare to call the bluff of the 6’4”, muscle-bound hero, especially when he puts on that focused, serious stare of his.

The moral of this story is that when it comes to poker, either live or online, keeping your cool is as important as any strategy you can learn. It is the cards you have in front of you that count, not the last hand that you should’ve won, or a lucky, bold opponent who risks everything on the river, only to get exactly what they need. Harlan became the player he was by staying calm and calculating and lost big as soon as he lost sight of that approach. So, stay cool, trust your skills and never let the game get the better of you. In the long run, your skills will get you through even the worst run of cards.