When to Quit a Poker Session

When it comes to your win-rate, knowing when to quit is one of the more important factors in maximizing it. In fact, quitting is an essential skill to have if you hope to be a big winner at poker. There are lots of reasons why should you look at your attitude to wrapping up sessions and in this article we’re going to look at some of the most important ones.

Stopping the Rot

The most obvious time to quit a poker session is when you’re losing. Unfortunately, it’s probably most difficult to quit when you’re stuck. If you have an online poker tracking software package, take a look at your sessions and I virtually guarantee that all of your longest sessions are those where you got stuck a lot of money early on and spent hours on end grinding to get it back. Losing 10 buy-ins in a session is not unheard of for online cash game players, particularly if you play a lot of tables, and no matter how strong your resolve you will not be playing your ‘A-game’ after such a bad run. As difficult as it seems, quitting in this spot is definitely the best decision.

A good way to look at it is the following: Let’s say you lose 10 buy-ins (which is equivalent to 1000 big blinds), while multi-tabling at 1000 hands per hour. Assuming you’re a good winner in the games, your expectation might be say 5 big blinds per hundred hands (assuming you’re playing well, which at this point is quite an assumption) or 50 big blinds per hour. That means that in expected value terms it’s going to take you 20 hours to get even. Clearly you’re not going to play for that long, so why are you still playing at all? All you are doing is hoping to run good, and that’s what bad players do; so press the power button and go for a walk or watch TV and takes a few hours or a few days off until you’re fresh and in a good mindset again. The game isn’t going anywhere.


tilt in pokerIf you’re prone to tilting badly the ability to quit is going to be even more valuable to your long term win-rate. Tilt recognition and control is one of the key soft skills for a poker player to possess. Some of the most skilled players in the world never made it to the top because they went on bankroll-busting tilt sessions after a bad call or a lost coin-flip in a big pot.

As soon you identify that you are making plays that you wouldn’t normally make when you’re winning, no matter how small, you need to reach for the power button on your PC immediately. Don’t just close the client; turn off the PC and leave it alone as soon as possible!

Don’t Quit While You’re Ahead

In the same way that your longest sessions will be ones where you got stuck early, your shortest ones will be those where you won a few buy-ins in the early going and decide to ‘book a win’ and decided to go and do something else. When you’re winning and things are going your way, you’re most likely playing in a soft game and you’re naturally going to be playing more confidently and conversely your opponents may be playing poorly if you’ve been taking a lot of money off of them. You should by all means be kicking them when they’re down!

While there is of course some excuse for doing this if you’re the type of player who lets their poker fortunes affect them away from the tables, in pure poker terms booking a win is meaningless. You should be playing when your expected value is highest and for most of us, that’s when we’re in the middle of a winning session.