There are lots of reasons to play poker. It might be a source of income, a fun way to spend time with friends, a way to keep your brain engaged and active, or just a relaxing way to pass the time.

But sometimes it makes sense to leave the game.  

This article will explore four of the reasons for doing so.

1. Your Opponents Are Too Strong

Some activities are best when you are against superior opponents. Tennis, golf, bridge, and billiards might fall into that category. You benefit from the stiff competition, as your opponent sets an example to emulate, helping make you a better player in the process. 

But poker is not one of those activities.   

Since the goal in poker is to win money, you are best served by facing inferior opponents.  That’s why game-selection is so crucial.   You want to find games where you are better than the average of your opposition.   

That’s where you derive your profit.

Sometimes, however, despite your game-scouting skills, you will notice that you are surrounded by your betters.   The best players seem well entrenched around you  -- and you face a long session with the worst of it.  Try though you might, all attempts to find a softer game might fail.

six-handed game

When this occurs, your gut might tell you to stick out, fight back against these players, and prove your mettle in the process. Similarly, you might just be too lazy to get up and leave – convincing yourself that there’s no cause for alarm.

Do not trust these impulses.  Your best course of action is to leave – notwithstanding  a competitive spirit or inertia.  You must have the wherewithal to recognise when you are outclassed, and the disciplined enough to find a better spot or leave entirely. There will always be another game.  

Find a softer one or wait until there is one for you to play in. That’s not to say you have to leave the poker room for the day – or permanently. Maybe you leave the game for a bite to eat. Perhaps you use the stiff opposition as an excuse for a walkabout for half an hour or so.   

But get up and leave the game– at least for a while.

2. You Are Low On Funds

Poker books are full of great stories of gamblers, down to their last few bucks, making an fantastic recovery, hitting a few long-shot draws, and finding themselves back on top.  The expression “a chip and a chair” embraces this concept.   As long as one chip remains, you still have a shot.

Similarly, some strategies call for playing with a relatively short stack.  When you think you are no better than about average against your opponents in a no-limit game, it may well make sense for you to limit your buy-in.  Your ability to win less, with a small stack, may be outweighed by your ability to be more aggressive with less at stake.

Even so, when your stack is limited not because of a strategic decision, but because your bankroll is limited or otherwise severely restricted, it probably makes sense for you to pack it in for the day and come back when you are more flush.

Shortage of funds can be a punishing drag on your game, as you worry about making bets because of the possibility of going bust.To play at your best, you need to weigh risk and reward strategically, not financially. This calculation is challenging for most players to do when their available money is limited. 

open bank vault

So,don’t play with this burdensome restriction. Wait until you’ve built up a sufficient bankroll to play without worrying about the financial impact of a loss. 

3. There’s Something Else You’d Rather Be Doing

Unless you rely on poker for your livelihood, it should be pleasurable for you to play.  While moments may come and go that are unpleasant (think of many tough decisions that upset your stomach), the experience as a whole should always be strictly voluntary.   

Accordingly, if you’re thinking that you should be -

  • home with a sick child
  • at work, 
  • or that it’s beautiful outside and you should be enjoying nature
  • or if there are any of a dozen things that you’d rather be doing, 

you should leave the game and pursue that which is making you think you should go. The bottom line is that you should never play poker when you’d instead do something else. The desire to be somewhere else or doing something else will be an unnecessary distraction.

4. Wondering Whether You Should Stay Or Leave?

Sometimes, when you’ve won or lost an amount that strikes you as significant, you start to think that it might be more prudent to leave the game than to stay. This thinking may go against your better judgment as a skilled player. Many have learned that they should remain in a game if it is good – no matter whether they are up or down. 

Schemes to leave when you’re ahead, with a pre-determined win limit; or leave when you’re behind, with a pre-determined loss limit are vestiges of the gambler’s fallacy that you can gain an edge over the house by timing when you leave.This thought-process is purely imaginary.In games of chance with a house advantage, you will lose in the long run no matter when you come and go. The odds are immutably against you.

two poker players at the table

In poker, winning is the product of your skill versus your opponents. Strategically, we should stay when the game is good and leave when the game (or our play) is bad. Nevertheless, despite this, if you are starting to think that it might be time to go – for whatever reason, you should leave.

Whether or not the game conditions have become unprofitable, thinking of leaving is a distraction that will hurt your game. In this regard, we can learn a valuable lesson from our parents when they taught us how to cross the street safely. 

If you have to consider whether you have enough time to cross the street before the next car came, then you should always wait for it to pass.   

It’s the same thing with leaving the poker game.   

If you’re thinking about leaving, it’s time to go.

About the Author
By
Ashley Adams has been playing profitable casino poker since 1993 and writing about it since 2000. He is the author of over 1,000 poker articles and three poker strategy books Winning 7-Card Stud (Kensington 2003), Winning No Limit Hold'em (Lighthouse 2012), and most recently Winning Poker in 30 Minutes a Day (D&B Poker, 2020).  He is also the host of poker radio show House of Cards.
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