The path from starting as a poker player to being able to win consistently is usually long. It takes a lot of work, and many poker players never reach the end where consistent profit awaits.
Why do so few poker players ever learn how to win? All of the information you need to make a profit is available. So, why don’t more people use it?
By the end of this article, you’re going to know all of the ingredients required for winning poker play. All you have to do is add your dedication and time to the mix and you can be a winning poker player. too.
1 – Know Your Chosen Variation
Poker is available in many different variations. This is a good thing! But when you’re trying to build a winning formula, it can be dangerous to have too many options. The best poker players in the world are able to play many different variations of the game profitably, but you can’t afford to divide your focus.
In fact, until you can win consistently, you should only focus on one variant. It doesn’t matter what poker variation you choose. Never focus on more than one until you’re profitable and comfortable with that variant. You need to learn everything you possibly can about your chosen poker variation.
Here’s a list of different poker variations to consider:
- Limit Texas Hold’em cash games
- No Limit Texas Hold’em cash games
- Limit Texas Hold’em Single Table Tournaments
- No Limit Texas Hold’em Single Table Tournaments
- Limit Texas Hold’em Multi-Table Tournaments
- No Limit Texas Hold’em Multi-Table Tournaments
- Limit Omaha Hi Only Cash Games
- Pot Limit Omaha Hi Only Cash Games
- Limit Omaha Hi Only Single Table Tournaments
- Pot Limit Omaha Hi Only Single Table Tournaments
- Limit Omaha Hi Only Multi-Table Tournaments
- Pot Limit Omaha Hi Only Multi-Table Tournaments
- Limit Omaha 8 Cash Games
- Pot Limit Omaha 8 Cash Games
- Limit Omaha 8 Single Table Tournaments
- Pot Limit Omaha 8 Single Table Tournaments
- Limit Omaha 8 Multi-Table Tournaments
- Pot Limit Omaha 8 Multi-Table Tournaments
2 – The Math of Starting Hand Selection
You need to become good at many different things to be a winning poker player. But one of the most important things you need to get good at is starting hand selection. And you can see why this is so important using some simple math.
If you research the odds of winning a hand based on the cards in the hand, you can see that some hands have a better chance to win than others. And if you dig deeper, you can find that it’s been proven that on average, the player starting the hand with the best hand wins more often than any other player at the table.
What this means in practice is that if you want to win, you have to start hands with better hands on average than your opponents. And the only way to do this is by limiting the number of hands you start with.
In other words, you need to play fewer hands so that you can only play when you have a strong enough hand. Don’t make the costly mistake of playing too many. And this requires you to know the basic poker hands and hand rankings.
3 – Using Simple Poker Odds
I personally believe that the main reason why more poker players don’t learn how to win is because they don’t like math or maybe they’re afraid of math. But what they don’t know is that most of the math used by winning poker players is pretty simple and can be learned.
Poker math starts with simple odds. Even if you know nothing about odds, you can learn what poker odds are and how to use them quickly.
The odds are a way of looking at how often, or the likelihood, something happens or will happen.
Odds are also helpful when you’re trying to determine your chance of improving your hand at any point of the hand. If you need one card to complete your flush, you know that there are nine cards that do complete your flush, and you know how many cards are left.
Get started by thinking about the odds of things happening every time you play poker using what you just learned in this section. Using poker odds doesn’t have to be hard. The more practice you get, the more the odds are going to help you make smart poker decisions.
4 – What Are Pot Odds?
Once you learn how to use simple odds and probability when you play poker, you can start using pot odds to make more profitable decisions. In fact, once you master using pot odds and expected value—which you’re going to learn about in the next section—every decision you make when you play poker becomes easier.
Pot odds are a combination of the odds of something happening and how much money you can win when they do happen. A complete explanation of pot odds is too long for this article, but I can give you an idea of how they work.
You’re playing no limit Texas Hold’em and have four clubs, including the ace. After the turn, your opponent bets $50 and the pot is $450 before the bet and $500 after the bet. You need to know if it’s profitable to call the $50 bet or if you should fold.
The opportunity to win $500 costs you $50. You can compare this to how often you’re going to win the hand by drawing another club to see if it’s profitable. And I’m going to show you an easy way to do it.
You know the value of six cards, so there are 46 possible cards you can get on the river. You also know that nine of these cards complete your flush. You assume that you’re going to win the hand if you hit the flush, which is a good assumption.
The odds of getting the flush are nine out of 46, or 9 to 37. This is close to 1 to 4. You win $500 for a $50 call, which is 10 to 1, or 1 to 10. 1 to 10 is much better than 1 to 4, so it’s clear that it’s profitable in the long run to make the call.
5 – The Magic Ingredient: Expected Value
Expected value is the magic ingredient that all winning poker players use. The expected value is how much any decision is worth in the long run. This starts with whether or not you enter the pot and can be used on every step of the hand.
Consider the example in the last section. Here’s how to determine the expected value of making a call in the example:
Expected value, or positive expectation gambling, is a deep subject. But you must learn about it and use it for every decision if you want to win as a poker player.
6 – Choose Your Competition
This section is smaller than the other sections because it’s mostly about changing the way you think about one aspect of poker. But don’t think it’s not important just because it’s short. It’s actually the most important section on the page.
Losing poker players just join any game that’s available. Winning poker players make sure they play in games where they’re the best player.
They do this even if they have to create their own game. They also watch games before they join to make sure they’re better than the competition.
Winning poker players use knowledge to make money. This doesn’t mean that they’re smarter than you; it just means you’re not using your knowledge the right way.
You just learned the six most important pieces of knowledge that you need to win as a poker player. As a whole, there’s a lot to know, but you can work on each ingredient individually to improve your results.
Pick a poker variation and know it better than anyone else. Understand the simple math behind smart starting hand selection to immediately boost your results.
Once you master odds, pot odds, and expected value, there’s nothing standing in your way.