Word to wise: Specialize in one variation of poker

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Everyone is entitled to his own opinion. “To each his own.”

Reading one of the leading poker publications, a well-credentialed WSOP poker player touted the idea of learning to play a wide variety of poker games. And he is not alone.

Many poker celebrities agree with him. On the other hand, I teach my students (and practice) the concept of specializing in one game. The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners, Basic Rule #2, explains there are significant differences in the strategies related to different games.

Therefore, logic strongly suggests it is wise to specialize; become the best you possibly can at one, certainly not more than two varieties of poker.

There are significant differences between cash games and tournaments; more so for diverse games. What’s more, by specializing you can be more confident in your playing skills. That makes the game more enjoyable and profitable.

Analogy

Every important professional occupation has learned to “specialize so you can excel” (quoted from The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners). Does a dermatologist perform brain surgeries? Does an electrical engineer design structures? If it’s important to you to succeed, it is far better to specialize so you can be the very best in your field. Likewise, in the game of poker, if you are really intent on going home a winner, you are best advised to play the game at which you are most skilled.

A “jack-of-all-trades” can never be as skilled as the specialist!

Rationale

The WSOP player argues you need to play many different poker games so you are not limited in the number of tables at which you can play when entering the cardroom. Personally, rarely do I have to wait more than half an hour for a seat at the game I prefer – at which I specialize.

What’s more, you can use that waiting time to socialize with others, reading GamingToday (available in most casinos in the U.S.), or – better yet – observe the play at tables to which you may be assigned.

That way, I have a better idea of the texture of that game and the playing styles of some of the players against whom I will be competing.

The more I know about my “enemies,” the greater my edge. Then too, there are occasions when I will turn down a seat at a table I have observed to be too tight or too aggressive preflop, or if the seat is located just before a maniac.

He further argues (I quote): “You don’t need to be the best at any one game to be a huge winning player.”

To the extent luck is a factor, that is true – at least for the moment. But, in the long run, as luck evens out, the more skilled player will be the winner over his less-skilled opponents.

With skill comes edge. That’s just a matter of logic.

Mistakes

He states “you make most of your money…from your opponents making mistakes.”

I accept that statement but I don’t see how this can be an argument in favor of spreading your efforts over a variety of poker games.

Fact: The more skilled you are, the fewer mistakes you will make. That’s more of an argument in favor of specializing to become as expert as you can at your chosen game – and make fewer mistakes.

Bottom Line

Each of us is entitled to our own opinion. There is no law against failing to use logic. I have even seen engineers do that; and politicians even more so.

You don’t have to be a guru to realize the inherent value of specializing when the results are important. In the game of poker, specializing gives you a much better chance of being a winner at your game.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

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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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