How to Manage Risk While Learning Texas Hold'em Poker

How much risk are you willing to take as you play poker?

One of the many reasons we all love online poker sites and poker tournaments is the poker risk involved in every betting round session. The thrill that comes with placing real money bets, even a minimum bet, while not knowing what the outcome might be, is unparalleled.

But, as poker players, while taking risks is fun and exciting, it can also be rather dangerous if you're only beginning to learn Texas Hold'em poker rules or even other poker games. The fun is to discover the different limit games in a poker room and learn the ropes as play proceeds.

Sure you can watch the World Series of Poker and learn from the Las Vegas big winning hand players of different rank and their decision making. But, it is only as active players, that you'll get a feel of exactly the type of player you are when playing a community card game and what kind of betting action suits you.

So, the main question is: how do you manage risk levels as you play poker online or take part in a Texas Hold Em poker tournament? When is it good to take a big blind or small blind chance, and when should you avoid the unpredictable aspect of the game betting rounds at all costs?

Learn all about risk-taking, how it affects your brain, and how you should deal with risk as you get better at hold em poker cash games.

The Biology of Active Player Risk-Taking

First and foremost, let's figure out how our body decides whether taking risks is good or bad.

According to studies, two specifics areas in our brain are related to risk-taking: the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. Scientists have found that the connectivity between those two parts of our brain affects our inclination to take risks. The more those brain sections are active, the greater the risk people are willing to take.

That means that your risk-taking tendencies are affected by your biology. And while some poker players might perceive risk as a positive thing, others will try to avoid it as much as possible – simply because their brain tells them to do so.

But our innate tendencies are not the only thing that might affect our approach to risk-taking. You can actually train your brain to react positively to risks with positive reinforcement. If you get rewarded for taking a risk – for example, by winning bit-time – your brain will release dopamine, creating a natural high. In the future, your brain will want to repeat the action that caused you to feel this happy, and it will react positively to any risk you take.

How We Should Deal with Risks at the Poker Table

Now that you know how your brain reacts to risk, it is time to understand when you should take a risk and when you should stick to the safe route.

Before you make a high-risk decision at the poker table, you need to take two things into account:

  1. Your gut feeling as betting continues

  2. The objective data you've gathered from the hand dealt and remaining players

First of all, listen to your instincts. As we've mentioned, every player has an individual risk-taking limit. If you cross that limit, you might get anxious and start feeling overwhelmed, which might affect your ability to make rational decisions at the table. If you find yourself under too much pressure as you play poker online, you should consider folding and waiting for a better hand.

But sometimes, your gut feelings can lead you astray, especially if you love risks, and you might get overconfident as you place last round real money bets. If you're prone to taking too many risks, you should rely more on solid information. Analyze every pot limit, five card hand situation, and every hand before deciding whether offering a big blinds maximum raise or if folding is your best option. Here are a few questions that might help you understand whether the game is becoming too risky or not:

  • How much money is involved in the game? If I lose, can I cope with it?

  • Do I have enough chips to keep playing higher stakes games? Will other players see me as an easy target because my chips stack has dwindled? Does that mean my chances of losing are high?

  • Am I clear-minded? Can I make decisions without letting my emotions control the situation, my private cards, final community card and the final betting round?

  • Have I been taking too many risks throughout the game? Should I change tactics with a small bet to confuse my opponents?

If you take a moment to answer all those questions before you go all-in and take a major risk, you will be able to remain in control of the situation at all times.

Learn, Practice, and Win!

Knowing when to take a risk and when to quit is a crucial part of becoming a better Texas Holdem poker player. Are you a big blind poker game risk-taker? Or do you prefer to play it safe?

Showdown for the risk! When playing Texas hold'em of, for example, five community cards, if you and two or more other players remain after the final bet round, a showdown occurs.

The player with the best five card poker hand begins using their hole cards that are dealt face up and the community cards wins the pot. Was taking the risk worth it?