Even in the same session winners can be losers

Even in the same session winners can be losers

December 19, 2017 3:00 AM


Playing poker in a casino, winners often are losers in the same session. That’s what I said!

Is that an oxymoron – a combination of words that have opposite or very different meanings? How can anyone be a winner and a loser at the same time? Good question; but it’s a fact of life when you are playing poker in a casino. I’ll explain.

Observing the players at your table, you realize almost every one of them is a loser – as he/she buys more chips to continue in the game, or leaves the table with an empty chip rack.

Looking around the table, a few players may be ahead at this moment. But, a bit later, they likely will have lost it all back, and then some. Some call it “variance” – the inherent ups and downs while playing poker.

The rare player who leaves with more chips than when he started several hours ago, is one who got real lucky and quit while still ahead. That took considerable self-discipline, great skill, and more than his share of good luck – extremely rare. As for the vast majority of us, the cost to play can devour short-term winnings.

There is no admission charge into the casino, but it is a significant cost to play. In a cash game, there is the rake – or the entry fee in tournaments. In a low-limit hold’em cash game, the rake usually is $5 in chips for each hand dealt (slightly less in unfilled tables). Most casinos offer a “bad-beat jackpot” when a player loses with Aces-full-of-tens or higher against an even better hand such as quad 10’s or higher, with both players using their hole cards as part of their hands. Winning the jackpot is extremely rare.

To build the jackpot, another $1 chip is removed from the pot. And finally, nearly every player who wins a pot, will tip the dealer $1 and sometimes more. That adds up to $7 for each hand played. With 30-35 hands dealt each hour, that amounts to between $210 ($7 x 30) and $245 ($7 x 35). With a full table of nine players, the cost per player is between $23 ($210/9) and $27 ($245/9) per hour.

Average it out at $25 per hour. Playing for eight hours, your total cost ends up $200 for that session. To go home a winner, you must win more than that amount; that’s a tough nut to crack. Often, you will not quite make it – and go home a loser.

Let’s assume you are a highly skilled player, winning more than your fair share of the pots. That’s because you fold poor starting hands; don’t chase with only a few outs; move your seat to get to the left of the “maniac;” know how to build the size of the pot when you hold a monster; are good at reading your opponents and observing their tells; etc. You have an edge over your opponents. With all that in your favor, you win more than your fair share of hands. The dealer shoves many a pot to you. That’s great for your confidence and morale, isn’t it?

But, in the final analysis, while you did win so many good pots because of your skill (and fair share of good luck), you still have to overcome that “cost to play” to go home with more chips than when you started. As a consequence, often (in your mind) you will have played well enough to be a winner – but still go home a loser.

We really cannot blame the casino for this cost to play. It has huge expenses – salaries, equipment, insurance, maintenance, supplies, etc. – and they are entitled to make a profit. That’s what keeps them in business so they can provide all the amenities we so enjoy. Of course, you could play in a home game with a group of acquaintances. Your choice.