Why It’s Gotten Harder to Win at Poker Consistently

Poker Cards in Pile, Poker Logo
Making a living playing poker is harder today than it’s ever been, especially if you play online. You used to be able to beat many poker games even if you were an amateur with only a little skill and knowledge. One of the reasons the game has gotten tougher has to do with the so-called poker boom.

At one time, an American poker player could choose from a couple dozen websites where they could play real money Texas holdem. Almost all these sites were full of loose, passive players who didn’t know what they were doing. When Chris Moneymaker won an entry to the World Series of Poker then won the Main Event, these games got even bigger and better.

Think about the difference between playing live poker and online poker.

At a full table in a casino, you’re lucky to get 30 hands per hour. At an online casino, you’ll get at least 60 hands per hour. Play two or three tables at a time, and you can get in almost 200 hands per hour without a lot of trouble.

Winning poker at the time involved nothing more than folding most of your hands and betting and raising with the hands you decided to play. In other words, you had so many fish playing that a super-tight aggressive strategy was enough to win enough money to earn a living.

Today’s online poker environment is different. Yesterday’s fish are today’s sharks. More pros are competing for the same profits, and the number of sites accepting real money action from United States players is dwindling.

So, yeah, it’s harder to win consistently at poker, especially online. But a smart player can still make money playing poker online or off. This post offers some tips for how to do that.

It Takes Time and Practice to Get Good at Poker

You’ve probably heard that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. So, how long does it take to get 10,000 hours at the poker table?

Let’s assume you’re bankrolled well enough that you can play 40 hours a week. If you play 50 weeks a year, that’s 2000 hours a year, so you’re looking at five years.

Group of Guys Playing Poker Game

And most people can’t devote 40 hours a week to poker every year. If you can, though, you can become a master. But I’d suggest that not all this time needs to be spent at the table. Some of that time could be spent reading poker books, writing a poker blog, or watching poker tutorials on television.

Also, don’t forget about the difference between playing online and off. 10,000 hours at 30 hands per hour is dramatically different from 10,000 hours at 200 hands per hour.

If you specialize in online play, you might argue that you could get in 10,000 hours’ worth of hands in less than a year because of multi-tabling and the faster dealing in online poker games.

Keep this in mind, too, master poker meant something different 20 years ago. Since the competition is tougher, you need to be a better player to be considered a master, too.

2 – Where to Learn About Playing Poker

You can find an almost unlimited number of places to learn how to play poker well today. 20 or 30 years ago, you had to read Super/System and get in a lot of hands to learn how to play. You also had to be able to think about the game in a counterintuitive way.

Some of these ways to learn how to play poker well cost money, but others are completely free. In fact, no matter what your budget is, you can learn how to play poker and win consistently.

If you’re almost completely broke, you can spend time on the internet reading strategy articles and watching tutorials on YouTube.

If you have a little money, you can buy some of the excellent poker strategy books available. I enjoy anything from Two Plus Two and find their materials worth studying. Anything written by Ed Miller is also worth reading.

If you have more money, you can invest in poker classes or even individual poker coaching. If you’re serious about taking your game to a professional level, these kinds of learning experiences can take years off your learning curve.

3 – It’s Still Easy to Find a Poker Game

Fewer sites accept players from the United States, but live poker is in more demand than ever. The country has more casinos in 2019 than it did in 1999, and almost all of them have cardrooms now. I used to play in Dallas in the underground cardrooms there, but that’s no longer necessary when you can just take a 45-minute drive to Oklahoma to visit the tribal casinos there.

Casino Table Games in Casino

In fact, I’d guess that 80% of the population lives driving distance from a casino that offers live, real-money poker. The variety of games and limits at these real money casinos is better than it’s ever been.

You can still find plenty of action online if you’re willing to look and have a reasonably high-risk tolerance. Many of the offshore sportsbooks that accept real money bettors from the United States also offer real money poker online.

4 – Why Hands per Hour Is so Important

It might seem like I spend a lot of time talking about hands per hour. That’s because the number of hands per hour has a bigger effect on your win rate or your loss rate than anything else.

When someone plays poker professionally, they start thinking about how much money they win on average per hour at the table. Since you’re dealing with a casino house edge that can be measured as a percentage, you can use an old formula to estimate how much you’re expected to win on average per hour.

For example, if you have a 1% edge, you just multiply that 1% by the amount of money you put into action per hour.

Let’s say you play 30 hands per hour live, and, on average, you put $10 into action per hand. That’s $300 per hour in action. If you have a 1% edge, your hourly wage is $3/hour.

Sure, you can increase that by getting better at the game, but you still have limits. Even if you get to a 2% or 3% edge, your hourly wage is $6 or $12 per hour.

You can also play for higher stakes, but a lot of times, the competition at the higher stakes tables is tougher. This means that your edge drops.

But let’s say you double the stakes you’re playing for and maintain the same edge. Now, you’ve gone from $12 to $24 per hour. Finally, let’s say you start playing online, and everything else remains the same except you’re now playing four tables at a time. Instead of winning $12 to $24 per hour, you’re winning $48 to $96 per hour.

Conclusion

It’s gotten harder to win at poker consistently for a couple of simple reasons. The first is that you don’t have as many poorly educated players in the pool of competition. You don’t win money by being better than the poker pros, you do it by being better than the people who are bad at poker.

The problem with bad players is that they improve, and become good players, or they lose all their money and quit playing altogether. This combination makes it tough to find soft competition and win money easily, which is the goal of any poker pro.

But you can still win money at poker consistently. You need to avail yourself of the many new learning opportunities available, and you need to take advantage of the ability to play multiple tables at online poker rooms.