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There are a lot of parameters that go into characterizing winning poker. It is a combination of skill and luck, along with a lot of studying human nature.

Besides explaining how poker is played on a very basic though often technical level, in my book I outline the Four Basic Rules for Winning.

Read more Poker by George stories.

I’ll give an overview of them here, with the hope that readers will want further explanation in the book.

Rule No. 1: Set your goals and limits; use money management

When you sit down to play poker, you should have a goal in mind. How much do you hope to win during this session?

Your objective certainly is to win, but your goal should be to win a reasonable amount of money.

For example, suppose you start the game with a stake of $50; in that case a reasonable goal might be to double your money.

Perhaps you have set a higher goal. You will consider quitting when you have won $100 or perhaps $200.

Whatever you decide, when that goal is reached, the time has come to think about leaving the game until the next session.

Many poker players do exactly that. They quit when they reach their goal.

Rule No. 2: Carefully select both the game and table at which you play

All games of poker are not equal. There are a wide variety of poker games available, and betting stakes can range from pennies to hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.

Needless to say, it is important to be comfortable with the game and stakes you play. The stakes should be high enough to be meaningful for you and to permit you to be effective when raising or bluffing, on carefully selected occasions, of course, yet not so high that you have “butterflies” in your stomach when you are raised or re-raised.

As noted there are a myriad of poker games: draw poker, stud poker, low-ball poker, high-low poker, Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Mexican Poker and Razz.

There are also dozens of variations, such as Crazy Pineapple, Black Maria, Hurricane, Twin Beds, Baseball, just to name a few. You might want to take the time to review some of them to see if they appeal.

After finding something that sounds like you’d like to play it, if you really want to be a winner, you should select and play one particular game of poker. It is difficult enough to become an expert at one game, never mind two or more.

Yes, it is possible to master more than one game of poker, but it would really be stretching your intellectual facilities and time.

Rule No. 3: Don’t lose; play only those hands you have a good chance of winning

In the game of poker, this rule is the most important, although all of the rules must be followed to be a consistent winner.

It seems ridiculous and simple-minded … don’t lose … but there are a lot of practical and technical considerations in deciding when you should play a hand.

It depends, of course, on what game you’re play. If you’re playing seven card stud, you need to have an understanding of what constitutes a good starting hand, as well as what’s happening with the up-cards on the table.

You have a different mindset when playing Texas Hold’em, when you have to decide what to do with your cards before and after the flop.

These situations will vary and they should be understood in order to be successful. I go into detail in my book on how this is accomplished.

Rule No. 4: Don’t drink alcoholic beverages or use drugs while playing poker; don’t play poker if you are tired or disturbed

Surely you would not drink and drive a vehicle. Alcohol dulls one’s senses and ability to think clearly. Drinking alcoholic beverages while playing poker is likely to cause you to make some poor decisions or outright blunders.

After all, it is well known that alcohol reduces your inhibitions; it makes you less cautious, more willing to take unwise risks.

That can be costly in a game of poker.

Likewise if you find yourself rather tired, the time is long past that you should have excused yourself from the poker table.

Playing when you are tired is bound to cause you to make a mistake now and then. Certainly it will make you less alert and less likely to win.

The same precautions apply to being hungry, or emotionally disturbed for any reason. It is a big mistake to play poker if you are angry for some reason. And if you are hungry, satisfy this need before you try to concentrate on playing poker.

Comments? George “The Engineer” Epstein can be contacted at [email protected]

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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