That’s a responsible way to make a living, right?
Actually, yeah, it kinda can be, if you have the resources and time required to make it happen.
Warning you now, you’re going to need some understanding of poker terminology to cope with this post.
There’s a few things that you can do to improve your chances of winning, and every little bit you improve those chances means you’ll come out further ahead. Some of these things will also help you attain your goals in life, if you’re that way inclined.
Claiming What’s Yours
If you land a good hand in Hold’em after the “Flop” (three cards dealt face-up for the whole table to make a hand with), so many novice players think they can just call or check to a gentle win. Nope.
Things like top pair, two pair, even trips — they’re more vulnerable than you might think.
Against an aggressive player, you’ll have to defend your hand, leading to a very difficult decision. Either you fold, in which case you’ve lost everything so far invested, giving the aggressive player an advantage, or you call, hoping that they’re bluffing.
Even if they are bluffing, chances are that they’re “bluffing with outs”, or in other words that they have a good chance of drawing the cards they need to beat you. Typical things to watch out for are flushes, open-ended straights and double-gutshot straights on the board. With a low high pair they might go for overcards.
So what’s wrong? You’re both playing the same cards, on the same table, making essentially the same decision (go all-in/don’t go all-in is what it typically boils down to against a seriously aggressive player). How is it that the defensive player is going to do worse?
Well, every time you fold a hand that had the aggressive player beaten — including middle pairs! — you’ve given him a 100% chance at the pot. Every time you call a bluff, you’ve given him (typically) between a 20-45% chance at the pot, and yourself only somewhere between 55-80%.
By playing reactively you can psych yourself out of hands that you had locked down, but you don’t make that money back by playing the good hands well. Even if you do get him all-in on a bluff somehow, he’ll typically have a chance at the chips, which is more than you do when you fold.
Worse — since aggressive players don’t need to wait for a hand to play, they start accumulating chips sooner. So they have an advantage from the off. In tournaments, they can quickly get to the point where they will survive an all-in and get another chance — if they lose in the first place! They’re just mounting chances on top of chances.
The perception that famous players like Doyle Brunson were just lucky is partly true. Players like him made their luck by sitting on enough chips that eventually, someone was going to just knock themselves out running into them. Doesn’t matter what hand you have, going heads-up repeatedly will throw up an outlier eventually.
The lesson? Play aggressively. Claim what you deserve, even if you only deserve it a little bit. Apply complete dedication to all your natural resources, and all-in early and often on your strongest hands.
Know When To Leave Well Enough Alone
If something looks really scary, most of the time it is. Cut, run.
Find Out What You Can Learn From A Failure
If something looks scary in poker, it will almost always be because you didn’t take control of the game when you had the chance — taking you back to point one. Sometimes you’ve come up against pocket pairs, but that’s another story — perhaps comparable to coming up against a Charterhouse educated PPE student.
When something scary comes along, let go. Look back and see what you did wrong, because there will be something, possibly not even in this hand.
Was your pre-flop bet too small to convince people of the hand you had?
Were you making someone chase a flush for an amount too low to not call?
Was your ‘image’, the rough impression of your playing style, as firmly established in the minds of other players as you thought?
Play To Your Established Image
Many a time I’ve thought I’ve been perceived as an unstoppable juggernaut, whereas in reality people saw me as a depraved and inexplicably fortunate loon. They’d call and re-raise my bluffs in a heartbeat, and that’s when you know to leave well enough alone.
Finding out what your image is, as perceived by other people, is an important wake-up call. Once you’ve established an image in either poker or life, you’re stuck with it for a long time. You’re unlikely to get the opportunity to shake it in time to do anything meaningful, either.
You can’t fight your image once it’s built. You either have to always be 100% in charge of your image (impossible, people often see what they want to), or you have to be sensitive to your image and play to it and its strengths.
If someone is playing aggressively and refusing to believe your bets a lot, for instance, they might not even have an image of you. You’re just “generic poker player #334″, an incidental figure on their road to riches. Play to this. Make unassuming bets that slowly tap out all his resources by consistently making him pay.
Punish people for making general assumptions about your play-style, and switch it up every time play gets too comfortable.
Fill The Niches
If you’re sitting on a table with five other aggressive players, a cautious person can make a LOT of money.
Conversely, if you’re facing five ‘rocks’, or ultra-defensive poker participators who barely count as players, you can eat enough blinds that by the time you come up against the bullets, you can comfortably fold.
There Is Always Luck Involved
Whatever you’ve achieved, somewhere along the line you got a lucky break.
That’s about all I’ve learned from Poker recently.
Oh, and when you win, don’t be an arsehole. You will lose again, probably to the same dude.