Winning. It is a dominant topic on websites and poker blogs, chat rooms and forums. I am an active member of several forums and have spent a lot of time and energy on this topic.
My poker mates are knowledgeable and successful players. Much of this article on poker strategy is based on our discussions, but the point of view expressed here is mine.
I do not expect everyone to agree with me. If you want to argue, leave a comment. There are few better ways of knowing the truth than a serious, well-founded argument.
First, the level of rates is important. This factor is so much more important than the others that we need to break the discussion down into several levels of poker strategy. The word “level” here refers to rates, not skill. You can find great players at the lowest stakes tables and downright weak players at the highest stakes tables.
Secondly, private games played at someone’s home are different from games in licensed card rooms, live play is different from online play, and short-handed play is different from long-handed.
Basic Secrets of Poker Strategy
For this article, I will limit myself to considering live cash games held in casinos or card rooms.
Other games have basic differences and require a separate discussion, which we can have at some other time.
Lowest Levels: Lowest Rate Limits
Here I am talking about the lowest stakes games commonly found in casinos. These are 50 ¢ / $ 1 limit games (although such low stakes are rare), the more common $ 1 / $ 2 games, and the popular $ 2 / $ 4 games.
A lot of people play at this level. I suspect that perhaps 80% to 85% of all regular poker players never play more expensive games.
There are no no-limit casino games that fit this category in my opinion. The cheapest game you can usually find is the $ 1 / $ 2 blinds game with a $ 100 minimum to enter the game. This kind of play is definitely not at the lowest level. This requires a special poker strategy.
I’m pretty sure none of this legion of regular players is winning in the long run. No one. You cannot earn income from this game over a relatively long period.
The problem lies in the natural variation of the game (ie, “luck”), as well as a combination of other factors. These factors include rake – typically $ 3 to $ 5 (although some rooms now take $ 6 rake) per hand, tip to the dealer and, as is often the case in these low stakes games, the bad beat jackpot.
Collectively, these costs result in up to $ 8 being withdrawn from each bank. In a $ 1 / $ 2 game, this achieves 4big bets per hour.
Winning 1 or 2 big bets per hour under these circumstances would be a brilliant but inherently impossible task, and even if you have the skill to win, gasoline, food and tips to the waiters will wipe out your income.
These lowest stakes games are exclusively for players who treat poker as a holiday. If you play these games and lose very little money, no more than one small bet per hour, then you should be very pleased with yourself and happy.
You spend time with your friends and associates, showing great games, and it costs you less than a dinner in a modest restaurant or a movie for two at the local cinema. Life is Beautiful.
Low to Medium: 5%
This includes $ 4 / $ 8 limit games up to $ 10 / $ 20 or possibly up to $ 15 / $ 30, and $ 1 / $ 2 no-limit games, provided that the maximum number of chips to enter the game does not exceed $ 200.
At these levels, it is possible to win over the long term, but it is very difficult. As with the games above, rake, tip and bad beat jackpot are almost an insurmountable barrier.
It is difficult to imagine how someone can play a plus at this level. I assume that less than 5% of regular players at this level have income from the game.
Yes, rare players with very high skill, proper bankroll management and not subject to emotional breakdowns win 1 maybe 2 big bets per hour, but they are very rare specimens.
Intermediate to Semi-High Level: Real Professionals Appear
These games include limit games with stakes from $ 20 / $ 40 to $ 80 / $ 160 and no-limit games with blinds from $ 2 / $ 5 to $ 10 / $ 20. At these levels, circumstances change. According to my estimates, 10% to 15% of regular players of this level (maybe a little more; difficult to say) receive income from the game in the long term.
The influence of rake in these games is reduced, and the key factor is that at these levels you first encounter regularly playing “sponsors”, very rich and very gamblers.
Gambling fans who make big bets in craps and blackjack also love poker, but they are very weak in this game. They rarely pose a problem for expert gamblers and, as a result, win them over.
Unsurprisingly, it is at this level that the first professional poker players begin to emerge.
All games that are more expensive than the ones described above, I refer to this category. This is where the poker strategy changes again. According to my reasonable guesses, more than half of the players at this level receive income from the game in the long run.
As with the previous category, this is mainly due to the presence of a (smaller but more reliable) group of very wealthy sponsors.
There are many millionaires who love to play – you probably recognize some of their names. They often play well and can perform well at lower levels, but prefer to play with the very best poker players with the best poker strategy. Without these people, the best poker players would simply move their chips around the table, losing nothing, but also not making any profit from the game.
The conventional wisdom is that only about 5% of all regular poker players generate income from the game in the long run. This is probably true, but you should bear in mind that these players are unevenly distributed across all the levels at which poker is played.