Know Your Numbers:
If you don’t learn, understand, and use poker’s mathematical parameters, you can’t expect to be a consistent winner in the long run. For example, if you’re playing hold’em and flop a four flush but don’t know what your chances are of making a flush, what will you do when it’s your turn to act? How will you ever know whether calling, raising, or folding is a play with a positive expectation? Finding positive expectations is the essence of winning poker, and it’s no more complex than recognizing those situations that will show a profit if they could be replayed time and again.
Since poker has a large element of short-term luck, it doesn’t matter whether any one effort is successful. What does matter is knowing when a positive expectation is associated with a given play, then making it. Imagine you’re faced with a $20 call into a $100 pot, but the odds against making your hand are only 3:1. That’s a positive expectation. Repeated 100 times, you’d expect to lose $20 on 75 of those occasions, for a loss of $1500, but on 25 occasions, you’ll win $100, for a total of $2500. Your net win of $1000 ($2500 - $1500) is what’s important — not whether you won or lost on any particular hand. Divide your $1000 win by the 100 times this situation occurred, and you’ll see that in the long run, each correct decision was worth $10 to you.
Applying mathematics, statistics, and probability to poker can be an incredibly involving subject, one that cannot be covered adequately in any one article. But if this article is able to merely raise your awareness about its importance, it will be successful.
Know Your Opponents:
How many times have you made a strategic move that’s doomed to fail because you chose the wrong opponent? Ever run a bluff against a someone who’s a veritable calling station? It won’t work. We all know that, but far too often we do it in spite of our better judgment.
If mathematics was the only skill required for winning, the best players would all be mathematicians — and they’re not. Knowing your opponents is also critical. Observe their actions at the table. Analyze their decisions and the choices they make. Are they in every hand? Do they raise with hands that don’t warrant it? Are they rock-tight? You’ll find it fairly easy to get a read on most players within a half hour. The best time to do this is when you’re not in a hand. If you find yourself waiting for a game, watch your opponents-to-be, so you can adjust and temper your game strategies to their play before sitting down at the table.
Keep Your Ego Out of the Game:
Never, never let your ego control your play. Someone put a bad-beat on you? So what! Never personalize it, even if he looks you right in the eye and laughs like a loon while he rakes in your chips. The minute you decide to “…get him,” you’re sure to miss other opportunities and probably squander some chips chasing him down. If the old adage, “Living well is the best revenge” holds true, then playing well — and walking away with a few racks of chips is a giant step in that direction.
Keep Records — Even When It Hurts:
If you don’t keep records how will you know whether you’re winning or losing in the long run? Every player who fails to keep records deceives himself. Most players, when asked, will say they’re life-long winners. But we both know that’s not true. The next time someone tells you he’s a life-long winner, ask about his records. If he doesn’t assiduously record wins and losses, he’s seeing only what he wants to — and more often than not, it’s an illusion.
While few things are more painful than recording a big loss in your notebook, records are critical, since the human mind is blessed with an endless capacity for self-deception.
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Choose the Best Game:
Much as we’d like to believe otherwise, the truth is this: Most of our winnings come from opponents’ stupidity, not the excellence of our play. Choose the game with the weakest opponents. A game full of weak players who call too often but are reluctant to raise with strong hands will do fine. After all, if you can’t beat players who call too much, who can you beat?
Commit to Excellence:
Want to be a great poker player? Commit to greatness. Declare your excellence tonight, starting with the next hand you play. Visualize yourself as the greatest poker player ever — and act accordingly. It does not take long to make changes. It takes forever to maintain change, but changes of the most dramatic, fundamental and far-reaching sorts, can be had instantly and made today.
You can reach excellence in a heartbeat, and you can do it today. If you want to be a winning, excellent player, go ahead and do it. It takes no time at all to achieve change, but it will take forever to maintain it. It’s that simple.
If you want to learn more about poker mathematics, pick up a copy of my second book, “MORE Hold’em Excellence: A Winner For Life,” available online at www.ConJelCo.com.