Winning poker is difficult to define and everybody has a slightly different definition. Most players want to know how to play winning poker but don’t know how to get there. I’ve played the game for nearly a decade now (casually and more seriously) and there are some critical lessons I have learned along the way.
I’ve talked about bluffing before, but river bluffing is another story. It is one of those things that every player knows they should do, but few players can actually pull the trigger. IMO, many players miss these opportunities because they simply don’t understand exactly what they are doing. The fact that river bluffs are the most expensive in poker tends to exacerbate the problem and reduce the quality of decision making.
What is pokers effect on the brain? Have you considered this before? I don’t think many players have spend too much time thinking about it or concerning themselves with this topic. However, I do think it is a topic that warrants some discussion.
Mental Illness In Poker
Poker Winrates are one of the biggest fallacies in the poker world. Sometimes topics deserve a rant, and this is one of them. Sure, we all like the idea of becoming so good that we have some kind of a reliable “winrate”. That is total nonsense though….
1) We are all human. Yep, I would think that would be pretty obvious to people, but its implications may not be. You may play great on one day and horrible the next. As I write this article Serena Williams just lost despite odds being 300-1 in her favor. If you have a bad day in poker and play horribly is it fair to say you had a “winrate” that day? No, that is absurd.
2) There are multiple independent variables that poker players can not control. Assume that you are no longer human and are a robot so that variable (your level of play) is fixed. The robot still doesn’t have a “winrate” or “lossrate”. Why? Because there are still a couple of critical independent variables at play – think rake and opponent quality/behavior. Rake we can account for, but opponent behavior is extremely difficult to figure out. Ex. fewer maniacs that dump hundreds of big blinds to other players can have a huge effect on player winrates. However, you might not notice a subtle change in the frequency of their arrival if you play thousands of hands.
3) Generally the assumption with winrates is that in the “long term” everything balances out, and some kind of fairly predictable winrate emerges. This is hogwash – it assumes there are no structural changes occurring over the long term that may be altering their “winrate”. As we all know from reading my article Why Online Poker Is Dying there have been some major structural changes in the industry over the past 5-10 years. Almost all of those changes have been significant negatives for players. Very few / none of the players I know have the same winrate or lossrate they had in 2013, 2012, 2009, 2005, etc, etc.
1) When you start to lose you may not stop…. Many players who were once winners have lost tons of money by convincing themselves they are still winners when in reality things changed to make them losers.
2) If playing yields a certain “winrate” for you then it may feel like the way you play doesn’t matter. This isn’t the case and as a player you need to always bring your A or B game at least.
3) You might play too many tables. As we all know from my previous post poker table selecting is critical to your success. Sometimes if you think its all just a pre determined “winrate” its easy to slip into the habit of not table selecting aggressively.
4) Another bad habit that players fall into is becoming to passive while at the tables. If you are in the midst of a long session or playing multiple tables make sure you keep 3 betting light and 4betting light where appropriate.
Human nature drives us to want security and guarentees. However, in poker no such thing exists. There is no reliable winrate, there is no insurance, and there are no guarantees. After all, there is a reason they call it gambling ;). Can you win gambling? Sure, but you can also lose…. The only way to ensure success is to stay one step ahead of your competition. The moment you fall one step behind you are losing. “Winrates”, lol.
-ThePokerCapitalist (No nonsense, no ads, straight talk on poker)
First I just want to say that I really appreciate those of you who buy directly from the author. For a limited time I am offering Exploitive No Limit Holdem in PDF, ePub, or Kindle format 50% off ($19.99).
You won’t find this available anywhere else on the web :). For those of you who haven’t already picked up a copy of the book please do so. There have been numerous positive reviews and I have no doubt you will find value in the purchase.
You can see a number of reviews on this thread.
You can see a couple of Amazon verified reviews here.
Best of luck!
Quitting poker may not be such a bad idea. Yesterday, I was thinking about how much the game has changed over the past 10 years – it is remarkable just how much the game has deteriorated. I think a lot of players started off in the Chris Moneymaker boom – they were in their twenties, carefee, and making lots of easy cash. Today, I think it is pretty fair to say there is very little if any “easy cash” remaining in this business. So, why do people keep playing? There are lots of reasons and every players will be a bit different, but I will make a few sweeping generalizations. It is tough to replicate the freedom and independence that poker provides. Unfortunately, that “independence” can also be “isolation”, which can leave you with few skills and even fewer connections. What I have seen from a lot of players is they don’t continue to develop life skills, which makes transitioning away from online poker incredibly challenging. Compounding matters is the fact that when you run good it doesn’t seem necessary to consider quitting poker. Unfortunately, we all know what happens on the flip side of run good….. So, here are some reasons to quit.
Which poker books are the “best”? How do we know what poker books we should be reading? Are the authors washed up and not providing current advice? These are all tough questions to answer, but I’ll take a swing :). One thing I can guarentee you is, if you type in “best poker books” on google you will fall right into the marketers trap. Unfortunately, the best marketed books don’t always have the best content. In fact, there has been an increasing movement among authors in this field to self publish due to the incredibly high royalty cuts that distributors websites take just to rank highest for “best poker books”. I talk extensively about this in my post on poker book sales.
The biggest mistake consumers make when trying to decide which book to buy is, they ask the wrong question, in the wrong place. For example, I see players who pop over to 2 plus 2 poker and ask what poker book should I buy? Then, I see responses that are frequently from people who are trying to drive the sales of their own books or they have friends who are helping them drive their books sales. Mason Malmuth explicitly prevents authors from directly plugging their own books, but that doesn’t stop lots of indirect plugs.
1) Does the author currently play in the games they are writing about?
I don’t mean to say that for an author to be relevant talking about mid-stakes poker they need to be currently playing in those games, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Many of today’s most well known authors about the game are effectively professional authors. Unfortunately, those authors may not be able to provide you the kind of in-depth analysis you need to compete against modern highly skilled players.
2) Is this a cutting edge book or decade old content?
In my opinion most poker literature lags behind the changes that are happening in real time at the tables. Unfortunately, for an aspiring player this means if you are trying to get better by reading a ton of books you will always be one step behind. Learning to innovate is the key!
2) Is the focus of the book on concepts or on examples?
Poker books that are heavily loaded with examples tend to become extremely dated quickly. Poker has changed so much in the past 5 years alone that it would make any examples prior to that mostly useless. Generally speaking the more a book focuses on concepts and ways of thinking about the game the better. As I mentioned above most poker literature tends to lag behind actual play. In Exploitive No Limit Holdem I focused on theory and didn’t include a tremendous number of examples. The examples are related directly to theoretical points.
Before picking a poker book its important to determine the goals of the purchase. One important question to ask is, what is your biggest strength/weakness as a poker player? This is a great question to ask prior to deciding what book to invest in. If your problems are mental, a poker strategy book might not help you – it would be better to buy a book focused on the mental game. If your redline is swooning then you may want to find a book that is focused on increasing your aggression in a calculated manner (this should include GTO and Exploitive suggestions). For players that are extremely creative and have a solid grasp of the fundamentals I would encourage them to focus on exploitive strategies. Here are a couple of other key points.
One other word of advice, nver pay more than a $100-$200 for a poker book. Frankly, most of the best books are in the $20-$60 price range. There are a couple notable examples of extremely overpriced poker books, but those are outside of the norm. These books were essentially marketing scams and not a good product for consumers. The reality is that you pay for what you get, up to a point. At some point paying more is simply throwing money away – in the poker book market that level is around $100. In fact, I don’t think you should be paying more than $60. However, I raised the number because if a good author came out with a solid book for $90 or $110, that might still be value.
Hope you guys are crushing it out there on the poker tables – today’s games remain a challenging place to make money. Best!
Do you know how to double barrel bluff? Knowing how to double barrel in poker is an important skill to have. Taking a one and done strategy will not work beyond low stakes games. Double barreling is also one of the best ways to improve your red line, which is an area many players struggle with. Given the amount of trouble people have with double barreling, I thought it was worthy of a blog post. Enjoy!
1) Your opponent is a giant calling station. Generally, it is safe to say these are not good players to double barrel – I can think of a few notable exceptions, which are players that like to call call and then fold rivers. Rule of thumb is don’t bluff the station!
2) High fold to flop c-bet number. If this number is over 50% I would be cautious about double barreling because your opponents range is quite nitty. This is especially the case if they start with a slightly lower than average VPIP (below 22%).
3) The hand started off as a multi-way pot. Most of the time when 4 players see the flop, if your opponent calls your flop bet their range will be quite strong.
4) The board is draw heavy (3 parts of straight or flush down) – this is especially true against players who will chase mediocre draws.
5) Your opponent is super sticky/aggro once money is in the pot. This / having a low fold to turn bet % is not an uncommon trait among the super aggressive young generation – my recommendation is to avoid turn equity spew by weighting your turn c-betting range a bit toward the stronger side.
1) Overcards peel off on the turn. Generally, overcards are good cards to continue betting on the turn. Ex. Flop is 10 7 4 rainbow and a K rolls off on the turn. Obviously, an A is even a better card for that – it works especially well against the player type that likes to “put you on high cards” and play low junk.
2) Your opponent has a low fold to cbet number but doesn’t seem to make it to showdown frequently. This suggests they either fold on the turn or on the river – both of those scenarios work well for us. In this case a double barrel bluff can be used to setup the “triple barrel”.
3) It will boost your red-line / non showdown winnings if done appropriately. Having a one and done c-betting strategy will get you nowhere against solid aggressive regulars.
4) When you have a strong amount of equity and there is little chance of being check raised. It sucks to be check raised when you are behind, but have a hand that might force you to call (due to pot odds and/or implied odds). Examples include flush draws + gutshot, overcard + flush draw, etc. If you knew that you would be check raised the solution is simply to check behind and realize your equity.
5) Your table image is loose. One of the common mistakes nits make is they play super nitty and then decide to try to pull off a double barrel. Unfortunately, because their opponent knew they were a nit by the time they call a PFR and a flop cbet their range is incredibly strong, and the double barrel fails. Try to double barrel when you think your opponents ranges are wider. Generally, when you have a more aggressive image at the table players will start to call your cbets lighter – that is the perfect time to start widening your double barrel range.
If you haven’t already be sure to check out my book Exploitive No Limit Hold’em. Hope the tables are treating you well, and let me know if you have any questions.
Deciding when to quit playing poker is a difficult decision to make. To answer this question we first need to break it down into two player types – serious player who want to win and recreational players. For serious players the answer to this question may be imposed on them by losses – however, the answer may not be so simple for recreational players. Since this blog is catered for serious players, I will be focusing on that side.
What are some simple winning poker strategies? A common goal of poker players is the idea of having an unexploitable range. This theory is sound, but sometimes its important to remember that it is ok to be exploitable. Just remember that if the Villain is not exploiting you then you are effectively unexploitable to them. We don’t want to pass up on opportunities to exploit our opponents just because doing so might make us exploitable against a skilled Villain.