When you become the annoying little bastard who is check-calling nearly every street of every hand, do yourself and everyone at the table a favor and please sit out, or, for God’s sake, FOLD. If you’re constantly chasing your hands against already-made hands and you’re questioning your outs and if your card(s) will catch, this is very poor play. You’ll be taken advantage of, and you won’t see much as far as winnings are concerned. You’ll maybe break even if you’re that good at not losing an entire wad while playing that terribly. Being on the receiving end of this type of play is always welcome, however, you do not want to be the person giving away the free money, right?
Playing “not-to-lose” is a terrible way to play, and often it means that you are on tilt from one-too-many bad beats or you’re mindset just isn’t with the game altogether. Sure, there are hands where you legitimately will be check-calling. For instance when you know that your cards are still live to a flush or a straight and someone has just turned aces up or three of a kind and you know they will definitely raise you.
When check-calling becomes a habit or if it is already a habit, cut it out. If you are not playing confidently and want to win significant money, get back on your horse and start playing up to par. Otherwise, sit out, leave or continue the casual play if that’s what you’ve set out to do.
The habit of this type of play at a micro-limit (penny and dollar tables) inhibits growth and necessary skills to advance when playing at higher limit tables. Having your chip stack whittled down while learning how to adjust is a very costly lesson and just may keep you at lower limits for lack of understanding about how the strategy changes at higher limit tables. (see Making the Move)
To get back in focus, leave the past behind you. Re-identify the strong players at the table. (You are probably by now pegged as a weak one). Re-evaluate the starting combos, and pay attention to the door cards and start counting suits and numbers. If you are unable to stay focused on those things, it is not the best time to play. What you want to do with your money from there is up to you. Be disciplined and do not fool yourself into thinking that you’ll turn over a new leaf when you aren’t exactly confident that you will.
Especially in tournament play at the higher levels after losing a significant amount of chips on a bad beat, defensive play may seem like the right strategy, yet in most cases it is not. If you have no business in a hand, get out right away. Tighten your strategy to stretch out the chips and bets, and when you do go into a hand play to win.
A good deal of this is all learned, or, we become aware of playing defensively, in hindsight. Be attentive at all times of how you are representing your cards and presenting your play at a table. If you’re in a space where you are intimidated sit out and take a break until you regain confidence and you’ve let the past go. If you are in a tournament where time cannot be afforded to do so because the bet minimums are going up, your only save is to shift your thinking out of, “playing not to lose” mode straight into “playing to win” mode however you need to do it, and only you know how it can be done.