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Dealing with luck in online poker.

People often argue whether poker (or online poker) is really a game of luck or skill. People who argue about something like this, are most probably not good (hell, they're probably not even reasonable) players.

It should be quite obvious to everyone that poker cannot be qualified as either a game of luck or a game of skill. It is a fine blend of the two, and that's exactly what makes it extremely interesting. Players who learn basic strategy and then suddenly hit some success, become firm skill-believers. When hitting a losing streak though, they become convinced that either the software they use, is rigged, or this game is one based on pure luck, after all.
The truth is somewhere in the middle: poker is both a game of luck and a game of skill, but what I would really call it, is a game of skillfully handled luck. The luck factor is certainly present in the game, and it doesn't differentiate between good and bad players, it treats everyone equally. The difference between good and bad players is in the way they handle the luck factor.

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A bad player will take a pocket AA for a sure winner. When he loses on such a pocket hand, he'll be outraged and blame a number of factors for his misfortune. He might even go on a tilt for something insignificant like that. Tilting will make his already bad play downright abysmal, and bankroll-wise it'll send him back to the stone-age. That will further aggravate his rage, and thus the spiral of destruction begins.

A good player, on the other hand, will see pocket aces for what they really are: a good start. If you hold Ac, As, and the flop comes 3h, 5h, 6h you're already in trouble. You definitely need to see the turn on such a deal, so you commit some more chips and stay in the game. The turn comes 8h. And there are still four more players in the game. What do you do?

You have a pair of aces and someone damn sure has another h in the pocket somewhere. The wisest thing you can do at this stage is fold with all the money you've already committed to the pot. Out of four players, at least one, if not more, are absolutely sure to have a h. Any h will beat you, so you'd better drop the whole deal. There goes your formidable pocket pair.

What if the turn comes Ah? Then you'll have trips, but the board texture will still be there for a flush. This is the case when Lady luck decides to toy around a bit with you. She'll grant you the A you've been waiting for, but she makes it a h so it'll be of no use whatsoever. The irony of the situation is obvious and it might well be too much for a novice player to swallow. He had pocket As and made the trips but has his hand beat anyway. Most players go on checking and even raising in this situation. I know poker is a betting game, but you'll have an awful lot of trouble convincing someone with a flush not to call your raises. That's luck in action right there for you.

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Now let's suppose you're the one holding the flush in the above named situation, and your opponent has the A trips. He decides to raise and you obviously call or even reraise him at that point. The river comes a 6c and he's got Aces full of sixes on your flush. As they say: "tough luck". What do you do then? Start cursing and go haywire, or accept the fact that luck just wasn't on your side that day? (btw this has happened to me so I know what I'm talking about ) At first sight, it might appear that it's a case of an extreme bad luck strike. But it isn't, really. Since any 3, 5 or 6 would've had you beat, that makes it 9 cards that could've all beaten you... (of course, there's the possibility that some other player might've held and mucked some of those 9 cards, but you never know) The odds aren't so bad after all...that's luck in action again.

Let's consider, yet again, that you're the one who holds the AA pocket pair. The flop is the same as before, but the turn comes Ad. You have your trips and the chances of a flush are greatly reduced. You obviously go in, all guns blazing (whatever that means for you, poker-wise), then the river comes another h (not the Ah, though) and you're in trouble again. This is poker, there's a lot of luck involved in it. The ability to foresee what might happen and how likely it is for it to happen, is called skill. Making decisions based on this probability and on pot odds is called skill. Making others believe that you have something, when you have in fact an entirely different hand, is called skill.

Luck is a different matter. Learn to cope with luck, or go home.

- by Jim Jackson

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