Tuesday, October 6, 2009

There Will Be Winners and There Will Be Losers - Which Will You Be?

Let's face it- most people that play poker aren't winning players. Aside from the fact that poker is a negative sum game because of rake, there will always be an elite group of players whose long-term performance exceeds the rest of the population; perhaps an 80/20 split between winning to losing players. So why does this occur when in the long-run all players see the same cards from the same position the same amount of times? Here are some reasons:

-Purpose: People play for a variety of reasons including to escape daily stresses, to socialize, for competition, for adrenaline or excitement, because they have a gambling problem and of course to make money. For most people it will be for a variety of reasons [see the Psychology of Poker by Alan Schoonmaker for more discussion on this topic]. The truth is that most people, even winning players, would be better off taking a part time job at a fast food restaurant as a second source of income than trying to grind it out at the tables. Those that are committed to making money as the number one reason for why they play will be more likely to win than those that simply enjoy splashing chips into pots over a few cold ones.

-Technical Play: People who are committed to reviewing hand histories and discussing betting lines on forums are more likely to experience improvements and profits in their game.

-Fearlessness/Aggression: Those that understand that selective aggression is an asset to a player's arsenal are able to utilize various types of equity irrespective of their cards. For example, in tournaments good players have a lot of survival equity which is why they tend not to put their entire stack on the line early in tournament even with hands as strong as combo-draws and small sets. In cash games players often have significant fold equity before committing 1/3 of their stack to a pot. Sophisticated cash game players understand that every hand has a certain amount of steal quity [even pocket aces] and a raise or re-raise in certain spots could turn a non-profitable hand into a profitable one. You can win a pot two ways: by betting/raising or showing down the best hand. Passive players never experience the advantages of aggression and the ability to win without the best hand.

-Reciprocality [Tommy Angelo]: I highly recommend reading Tommy Angelo's theory of Reciprocality which basically states that poker is a war on all fronts. It's a war of information, bluffing, folding, maximizing, acting, tilting, bankroll management, position, etc. His theory also states that poker can be broken down to many elements [some having greater importance than others] and the goal is to perform each better than your opponents. For example, if I know you never bluff all-in on the river, I never have to worry about making a good fold when you shove the river. If I know that you are likely to call with very light holdings [calling station], I will choose to value-bet you as opposed to bluff you since it is unlikely for me to turn a profit by bluffing you. It is these types of small battles where edges are born.

Phil Ivey said it took him 2 years before he became a winning player. For those that have beat his record, kudos to you because you're on the right track. Stay disciplined and constantly challenge yourself to be a better player.

For those that aren't quite there yet think about your overall approach to poker and consider the following:

-Am I willing to make winning money as my number objective?
-Have I tried any poker coaching or mentoring sites?
-Do I regularly review hand histories with others?
-Do I contribute to and read through poker-related forums, blogs and websites?
-Do I have a network of people that I can receive honest and sound advice from?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent job and good article !
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