An in-depth look at the nature of poker - and the reasons why the vast majority of beginners will never become true, long-term winners.
Poker (and online poker) are apparently simple games. One just has to learn a few fairly straight-forward rules, hit the tables of the nearest poker or online poker room and there’s not much more to it. At least this is what the majority of people taking up poker think about it. Poker’s biggest attraction however, needs to be sought in the very fact that despite its apparent simplicity it is in fact a game of an almost infinite complexity. You may hear and read all sort of bloated "beginner’s luck” success stories and other commercially-oriented comments about how easy it really is to beat online poker, all over the internet, the sad truth remains however, that the majority of online poker rookies end up as losers.
The game of poker is very deceiving, not only regarding the above named "apparent simplicity vs actual intricacy” issue, but also because of the fact that it misleads people regarding its very nature. I bet that 99 out of 100 rookies picture the game as one where getting lucky is imperative, though there’s also some element of skill involved, which will basically determine just how well one can “milk” the luck factor or protect him/herself against its downsides. These people also imagine poker as a glamorous activity in which huge sums of money change hands at the push of a button, and where a single decision can mean the difference between going back to work at the car-wash or heading to the presidential suit for a champagne bubble-bath.
The difference between the weighted contributed poker rake and the dealt rake is that the latter will allow tight passive players to rack up MGR and thus earn rakeback virtually doing nothing. Basically, it’ll be the aggressive players who will generate rake contribution for these players and therefore rake back as well. When you choose a rakeback deal, make sure you know which method the poker room uses. You do not want to generate rakeback for others, do you?
Well, all that might look good in a Hollywood movie, but in reality it’s as far from the truth as it gets. The worst thing about Texas Holdem is (especially when played online) that the huge impact of the luck factor, stemming from its very nature, will often prove a lot of those erroneous assessments right in the short run. As soon as you realize what the true nature of poker is (whether it’s Holdem, Omaha, Stud or anything else we’re talking about) you’ll see dramatic improvements in your play, and also in the way you perceive poker as a source of cash.
Poker is unlike any casino game you’ll ever play. As a matter of fact, it fits in much better with chess, backgammon or other such skill-games. Now, you’ll probably be surprised to read this but indeed, in theory, there is no luck-factor in poker. The situation is very simple, but in order for this statement to truly make sense to you, you’ll need to understand a few other concepts first. Expected value (EV) is one such concept, which is – in turn – influenced by a bunch of factors. Expected value is the mathematical gain (or loss) you’re likely to register off any one given bet.
If let’s say, you and I are playing a game of coin-flip, but I always bet $1 and you always bet $2, the positive expected value will be on my side, (exactly 50 cents on each bet) which means – in the long run – I’ll make money no matter what you do and regardless of the luck-factor. On average (the odds on a coin-flip are exactly 50-50) you’ll win one bet and I’ll win another out of every two bets we play out. This doesn’t mean you won’t win 10 in a row or more, what we’re looking at here, is the average. So, on the first bet you win, I lose a dollar, on the next bet (which I win) I pocket $3 (my 1 plus 2 from you) that means it’ll cost me $2 to win $3, which is a $1 net gain on every two bets, which means I pocket $0.5 on every single one of these bets. That suits me fine, so we can keep playing like that all day if you feel up to it. Depending on the number of bets we’ll be able to squeeze into the hour, I’ll be earning a steady hourly wage, which is great.
If you were only willing to only wager $1.5 against my $1 on every bet, I’d still have the edge, only my expected value/bet would plummet, and thus so would my hourly earning.
If I decided to try to force my edge by putting more money into the play, and ending up wagering $1.5 against your $1.5, I’d lose my positive EV completely. That means, EV s directly influenced by:
- the sum your opponent bets
- the sum you bet
- the odds you get on the bet (which in the above example were 50-50).
You need to factor in all these things because the most important thing in poker is to play with positive EV. If you have no positive EV, you shouldn’t play at all.
Taking the above example and reasoning into account, we can safely state that whenever you play positive expected value situations you win (even if you lose) and whenever you play negative EV you lose (even if you win). The size of these wins or losses shall be determined by just how big the EV+ or EV- is. In the long-run, you never win or lose more than that on any hand. What you need to do is push the EV+, avoid the EV- and pocket the steady trickle of cents and dollars. When you look at it like this, it doesn’t look much like an overly glamorous activity. Does it?
How come some poker rooms can afford to give such outlandishly generous rakeback percentages? Simple: they’re desperate to secure basic player liquidity. Those rakeback deals are basically wages for players who are “hired” to secure this liquidity. So no, over 100% rakeback offers are not scams, as a matter of fact, these rakerebate deals have made many losing players into winners.
Once you can hammer this concept into your head, you’ll realize that winning poker is like a job, really. Putting in the hours will reward you with money, but nothing really fabulous. This is what winning poker is about: riding the EV+, wherever it may come from, staying clear of EV- situations and putting in as many hours as possible. I’m sorry to destroy the Hollywood image you had in your mind about poker, but it’s time for a reality-check.
Looking at poker this way, will hopefully make you at least partially immune to bad-beat related tilting, because you know you win when you play EV+, no matter what happens on any given hand. Of course, you also need to be properly bankrolled to survive these bad beats, but that’s material for a different article.