Not even Phil Ivey wins every poker game he plays

Aug 6, 2013 3:00 AM

All poker players know the basic mechanics of the game – how the game is played. But how many of them know the game well enough to be a consistent winner?

Even the worst players will win now and then. The poker gods do spread luck around fairly evenly. There are no favorites – although sometimes it does seem that way. In the long run, we will all get our fair share of Good Luck.

The true mark of a good player is going home a winner much more often than not. (Not even Phil Ivey can win every session he plays.) It has been said, in the long run, 80 to 90 percent of players are losers.

Anything can happen in poker, but don't expect it

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In that case, we might estimate only 10 to 20 percent really know the game well enough to be consistent winners. Judging from what I have seen at the tables, that seems fairly accurate.

Most poker players, including the consistent losers, really believe they know the game. They know it so well they would rather play than spend an hour or so learning winning strategies from an expert.

That’s like the school kid who spends his time staring out the window, rather than focusing on what his teacher is explaining. The losers came to play. They believe they know all they need to know.

Spotting the losers: You don’t have to work hard to spot the losers at the poker table:

When first being seated at the table, they immediately ask to be dealt in – rather than taking a few minutes to look over the other players, observe their chip stacks, and get a “feel” for the texture of the table: Is it tight or loose? Is there lots of raising? How many players stay in to see the flop?

They pay little heed to table or seat selection. They don’t even consider whether this is too tight or loose a table for their “druthers.” It matters not whether a “maniac” is seated to their left or right. Later in the game, they make seat changes only in the hope of getting a “lucky seat.”

Most significantly, they play too many starting hands! When I see a player investing to see the flop more than one out of three hands from an early position, I know he is bound to be a loser.

Say he has two unpaired cards in the hole; and, considering he is most likely to improve (1 out of 3 chances) by pairing one of his hole cards on the flop, it doesn’t take an Einstein to realize small holecards are less likely to prevail over an opponent with bigger hole cards (which have the same chance of improving).

When I see a player enter the pot with a dominated hand – like K-7 – he’s a loser. Most losers love any Ace; so, when I see a player who has invested to see the flop holding Ace-rag (a rag is 7 down to 2), I “peg” him as a loser. When I see a player who apparently does not consider betting position as he makes decisions, he’s a loser.

Losers chase too many hands after the flop. They are chasers! Say one went in with Q-2 suited and caught another deuce on the flop; a loser is likely to call bets all the way to the river in the hope of catching a third deuce or, at least, another Queen. He doesn’t consider that the card odds are so far against him. He has, at best, five outs (two more deuces and three Queens).

That makes him a huge longshot to take the pot at the showdown. Yet he tosses his chips into the pot round after round – as he chases to the end. Last but not least, losers don’t know the Hold’em Algorithm and its exceptions; nor do they know the Esther Bluff.

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