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A key poker principle.

Over countless years of evolution, nature has endowed humans with a set of abilities and features that serve us well in the everyday struggle for survival. Anything resulting from such a long evolutionary process, obviously works, and having been tested and verified millions of times over, it is 100% reliable.

Such a subconscious ability that we have, is the ability to choose our battles. It has been proven that humans will readily go up against something or someone when they consider they have a good chance for success, and they will shy away from any competition when they’re clearly outclassed.

I once saw a test on television, in which students from a university were supposed to play a simple game of betting on a high or low card against an actor. The actor first dressed up and acted as a Las Vegas sharp, and consequently, students only placed the minimum bets against him. Next up, the same actor took up an obviously clumsy and insecure image. Not only did the students (different people than the first group that went up against the “sharp”) place more daring bets but a few of them even wagered the maximum limit.

Of course, this time they were deceived by the talent of the actor, but they showed an otherwise very healthy reaction. Part of being a succesful human being is indeed the capacity to selectively pick your fights.

Quite similarly, part of being a succesful poker player is the ability to choose the battles you’re about to wage. However, unlike in real life - where the odds regarding a possible confrontation are mostly obvious - in poker, knowing which battle to jump into and which battle to avoid is much more complicated.

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Besides being able to choose positive EV situations, players need to be on the lookout for other telltale little signs of what the battle they just chose to fight will be like. Not all types of positive EV battles are suited for every player, since we’re all different in mentality, skill, and of course bankroll size.

Continuing with the real life - poker analogy, it is a well known fact that it is easier for someone to turn a million dollars into two million (and thus earn a mil) than for someone to turn 0 into a mil. In real life, good businessmen make their money work for them. They all do it. The difference between a moderately successful businessman and a excellent one is the way they make their money work. The same goes for poker. A large bankroll starts with the best chance at the poker table, because a large bankroll will give the owner the opportunity to adopt and adapt to multiple approaches. The large stack will always swallow the small one (unless it’s in the hands of a complete newbie, of course). The best example to illustrate this, can be found in online poker tournaments.

Here, it is a good strategy to keep things extremely tight in the beginning, in order to allow other players to beat themselves, but as soon as the going gets tough, you need to move, in order to increase your stack otherwise soon you’ll be hopelessly overwhelmed by other- lot bigger stacks. If you get stuck in a situation like that, pretty soon you’ll see that even when acting on the best possible hand and with the best possible strategy you’ll only be able to put but a dent into the other guy’s stack, while he’ll represent a perpetual life and death danger to you. It’s like fighting a boxing match with one hand tied behind your back.

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Back in an online poker ring-game, where every hand matters, there’s another little surprise waiting for you as far as the choosing of your battles is concerned. You like to win big pots don’t you? As a matter of fact, many people think that if they can get up from a table having won a certain amount of chips, off a lucky big pot, they’re succesful poker players...If you’re one of those people, think again.

Luck doesn’t make a good poker player, consistency does. What good poker players do is that they consistantly win small pots. Just think about it... How do casinos make their money? Do they hire some skilled dealers and then pray that these guys get lucky more often than not and win money from the players? Hell no.

They look to carv out a small bit of advantage for themselves and then endlessly repeat games with them having that tiny bit of an upper hand. You should think of poker the same way. The fact that you get lucky every now and then doesn’t make you a winner. Create a small edge over the opposition for yourself and then systematically exploit it.

- by Joseph Pierce

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