This article is going to tell you exactly what you need to know if you want to make a profit playing poker. This isn’t filled with vague theories or missing information. But it’s still going to be 1 of the hardest things you’ve ever done.
The reason why you can find everything you need to know to make money playing poker in a single article is because there are 6 goals that every winning poker player has achieved. All you need to do is accomplish the same 6 goals, and you’re going to win.
1 – Learn about Profitable Starting Hand Ranges
Do you have any idea how profitable or unprofitable a starting hand is when you play poker? Do you know that some starting hands are more valuable in some games than others? Winning poker players know which hands they can play and which hands they have to fold. And they know when they can play more hands based on their opponents.
Winning poker players have ranges of hands for every situation. They adjust these ranges based on many things. This is the foundation for any winning poker strategy.
You need to learn how much your position influences the value of hands, and how to adjust your starting hand ranges based on how loose or tight the rest of the table is playing.
This skill takes a lot of time and experience to master, but if you never master this skill you’re not going to make as much profit as you can. In fact, you’re probably not going to make any profit at all.
2 – Master Simple Poker Odds
The next goal is to learn how to use simple poker odds. The good news is that these are easy to learn. Here’s a quick overview that gives you everything you need to know to start using odds when you play poker.
Simple poker odds use the cards in the deck to determine how likely something is to happen. For example, if you’re drawing to a flush, you can determine exactly how likely it is that you’re going to complete your flush.
With 4 cards of the same suit in Texas holdem before the river, you know the value of the 2 cards in your hand and the 4 cards on the table. This means there are exactly 46 possible cards for the river. 9 of these cards match your 4 suited cards, so you’re going to complete your flush 9 out of 46 times. This is 19.57% of the time.
Get some cards and deal hands out. Use these simple odds to determine how likely you are to improve your hand in as many different situations as possible. This helps you understand when you should fold and when it’s profitable to stay in a hand hoping to improve.
The great news about learning how to use simple poker odds is that they’re the first part of using pot odds, which is the goal in the next section.
3 – Learn How to Use Pot Odds for Profitable Decisions
Now that you know how to use simple poker odds you can use your new skills to determine when it’s more profitable to call a bet and when the best play is folding. You do this using something called pot odds. The best way to see how pot odds work is to use an example, which follows.
When you have to decide whether to call a bet or fold, you can do a quick calculation to help you understand the best play. In the example in the last section you have a 19.57% chance of making a flush. If you round this off, you can say you have roughly a 20% chance.
If the pot has $180 in it and you have to call a $20 bet, this is only 10% of the amount, so it’s a profitable call. If you have to call $60, it represents 25% of the final pot, so the call isn’t profitable.
You can, and should, use pot odds in every situation where you have to decide whether to call a bet or fold. And this skill leads directly into the most important skill you can have as a poker player: expected value.
4 – Expected Value Is the Most Important Goal
Your ultimate goal as a poker player needs to be to be able to use expected value in as many situations as you can. The more situations you can apply expected value too, the more profitable you’re going to be.
The truth is that every decision made in a poker game has an expected value. Some decisions return a negative expected value, which means they cost you money, and other situations return a positive expected value, which means these decisions are profitable.
The problem is that it’s difficult to assign an accurate expected value to every situation. If you have a pair of 5’s in middle position, is it more profitable to enter the pot or fold? This doesn’t have a clear answer, but it’s an example of how experience will help you make these decisions.
In the last section I used an example where you had to call $20 to stay in the hand to draw to your flush. This is an easy example to run expected value numbers on. With 46 possible cards, if you played 46 times it costs you $920 in total.
You win a pot of $200 on 9 of those hands when you get a flush. You win $1,800 total. This is a profit of $880. $880 divided by 46 hands is an expected value of $19.13 for this situation.
Any situation that returns a positive expected value is something you should do. The key is learning how to assign expected value numbers to situations that aren’t as clear cut as this situation.
5 – Advance Slowly
Poker players tend to want to play at higher stakes. Once they start beating low limit games they look for higher limit games, where they hope to make more money.
While it’s true you can make more money when the stakes are higher, it’s dangerous to believe that you can get the same results at a higher level.
You also need to keep your bankroll in mind when you consider moving to a higher stake table. Without a big enough bankroll a few losing sessions in a row can really hurt you.
6 – Commit to Picking Your Poison
A big difference between winning and losing poker players is that winning poker players know how to pick their opponents. Losing poker players don’t think they have a choice about who they compete against.
When you look for or create a situation where you compete against worse players your profit goes up. If you play in games where better players play, your profits go down.
Make a commitment to finding or creating poker opportunities where you’re the best player in the game. This isn’t always easy, but winning poker players learn how to do it.
Of course, the better your skills are, the easier it is to find games with weaker opposition. Continue improving your poker skills while seeking the right games.
Our Final Thoughts
I love things that are simple. But I’ve tackled many things that are simple that were extremely hard. Learning how to win as a poker player is 1 of these things.
If you can achieve the 6 poker goals listed in this article you’re going to be a winning poker player. This works because these are the exact same goals that winning poker players have achieved. It’s like a paint-by-numbers painting, but with 3,491 steps. It’s simple, but hard.
The most important goal is to understand and use expected value. Once you master this everything else falls into place.
You can practice your poker goals on the go with these poker apps.