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View Full Version : tl;dr: how a winning poker player approaches money


dilanesp
08-08-2016, 09:34 PM
One of my favorite people in poker, a colorful limit expert who made hundreds of thousands of dollars playing heads-up online, and who is a one of the best players in the 40-80 game at Commerce, very likely pulling a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year out of poker, said the single most profound thing I have ever heard on the subject of money in poker:

"I don't give a about money."

That probably sounds totally counter-intuitive. Here's a guy who plays poker for a living, who has to make money at the game to sustain his livelihood, and does, and he says he doesn't care about money. How can this be? But in fact, his attitude is essential for anyone who fancies him- or herself a winning poker player.

Now, let's be clear here. There are lots of reasons to play poker OTHER than to win money. It's fun. It's social. You get to meet people. You can test your mind. It's an endlessly challenging puzzle, and each hand is an iterative process. It takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. You can hit a jackpot or get lucky.

But if you actually think you are good enough to win, my friend's dictum applies. You have to not care about money.

This means many things. Let's go through them:

[B]1. You cannot care one bit about the vicissitudes of short and medium term variance. You have to play exactly the same way whether you are up or down. You cannot start playing bad cards because you are card dead, or because you have been running good, running over the table, and feel invincible. You can't stop going to the poker room because you've had a bunch of consecutive losing sessions. You have to be rolled deep enough to play whatever game you play, or have a job you can fall back on if you lose. You have to sit there and play your game and get your money in good and wait for the variance to turn around.

2. You cannot assume that you are a good player just because you have been running good. This is the downfall of so many gamblers. They experience positive variance. They have 4 straight blackjack sessions where they win, or they win money for the first 5 weeks of the NFL season, or they hit 14 winners in the first four days of the race meeting. And then they come crashing back to earth. Good players don't even pay attention to this stuff. Instead, they examine and re-examine each session for what they did wrong and what they could do better. Always study, always try to get your money in better, always find better ways to exploit opponents or to avoid being exploited.

3. You cannot be mentally affected by losses. Losses are built into the game. Indeed, they are why you are able to win money in poker in the first place. The reason fish play poker is the same reason they play slot machines-- because even though the expectation is negative over the long term, on any given day they can come home a big winner. If you never lost, the fish would never win, and the game would never attract fish. So you will have losing hours, and losing sessions, and losing weeks and sometimes months. You will drop money. Lots of money. Even if you play at low limits, you can drop significant amounts of money during downswings. (Due to high rakes in small stakes games, you can sometimes drop almost as much during a downswing at a low limit as you do at a higher limit.) If you freak out because you drop a few hundred dollars, you can't play live poker. (You can still play penny stakes online if you want to.) This is going to happen. Expecting that you can play poker and avoid painful losses is like going to a horror movie and expecting you can avoid looking at bloody corpses. Because you can't avoid losing money in the short term, you have to be willing to lose it. You have to learn to be just as happy and mentally focused and well adjusted when you lose as when you win. If you can't do this, you can't be a winning poker player.

4. You can't worry about what others are taking out of the game. You will face situations where a bad player is winning money from you. And you know what you will have to do? Let her! Over the long term, she will of course give it back, though it may not be to you. It may be to someone else. But the mistake people make is to try and get into pots with the fish with bad hands and outplay her. The problem is, the object of the game is not to outplay or get your money back from one fish-- it's to outplay the entire table. If you consistently outplay your opponents, you will make money over time, even though there may be some fish who always seems to run good against you and take your money.

5. You can't be afraid of taking risks. There's a casino hold 'em variant called Ultimate Texas Hold 'Em which is kind of fun. (Indeed, if a poker player insists on playing a house banked game, I recommend this one because it least it has some poker skill built into it.) When played optimally, the house has about a 2 percent edge. However, many regular players do not play optimally. Specifically, they do not raise enough. Because if you raise your A3 offsuit no heart (as you should in what is effectively a heads up game) and the board runs out 46788 with 4 hearts, you are usually going to lose. Not raising reduces variance, because the player can see that board before deciding to play the A3. But it also increases your losses / cuts your winnings. A lot. There are a lot of correct plays that involve risking money. You have to be willing to make them. You should be raising hands like KJ in late position in multi-way pots, not calling with them. You should be raising and sometimes even capping flush and strong straight draws on the flop. You should be value-betting thin on the river. You have to be willing to make those plays and risk your money. And you have to be willing to lose if your draws keep on bricking out or you keep on missing flops with raising hands. Otherwise you end up like the regulars in Ultimate Texas Hold 'Em, needlessly bleeding money over time because you are missing so much value.

6. You need to play at a high enough limit that the game is not a raketrap. Low stakes limit poker games are usually raked, in absolute terms, at an only slightly lower rate than higher stakes games. For instance, in California you might pay $7 a hand in 8/16 and 20/40 and $6 a hand in 4/8. Or in Vegas, you might pay $5 a hand in 10/20 and $4 a hand in 3/6. (This is because the costs of spreading the two games, paying the dealers and floorpersons, etc., does not change very much, if at all, as you go up in limits.) When expressed as a percentage of the pool, the lower stakes players are paying substantially more in rake. For instance, a typical California 8/16 player pays about 1.75 big bets an hour in rake, and a typical California 4/8 player pays about 3.25 big bets an hour in rake. Given that a typical winrate in a rakeless game for a good player might be 3 big bets an hour, that difference in rake is often the difference between beating the game and not beating the game. The only solution to this is to risk more money.

Bottom line, there's no way to play live poker profitably without tolerating substantial risk of money. You have to get past this. If some posters here think this requires superhuman willpower, maybe playing poker to make money is not your thing. But if you want to be a successful player, you HAVE to heed my friend's wise words and not give a [bleep] about money.

thaskalos
08-08-2016, 10:39 PM
WOW...have you ever considered writing a BOOK? This is revolutionary stuff!!

BELMONT 6-6-09
08-14-2016, 10:55 AM
One of my favorite people in poker, a colorful limit expert who made hundreds of thousands of dollars playing heads-up online, and who is a one of the best players in the 40-80 game at Commerce, very likely pulling a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year out of poker, said the single most profound thing I have ever heard on the subject of money in poker:

"I don't give a about money."

That probably sounds totally counter-intuitive. Here's a guy who plays poker for a living, who has to make money at the game to sustain his livelihood, and does, and he says he doesn't care about money. How can this be? But in fact, his attitude is essential for anyone who fancies him- or herself a winning poker player.

Now, let's be clear here. There are lots of reasons to play poker OTHER than to win money. It's fun. It's social. You get to meet people. You can test your mind. It's an endlessly challenging puzzle, and each hand is an iterative process. It takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. You can hit a jackpot or get lucky.

But if you actually think you are good enough to win, my friend's dictum applies. You have to not care about money.

This means many things. Let's go through them:

[B]1. You cannot care one bit about the vicissitudes of short and medium term variance. You have to play exactly the same way whether you are up or down. You cannot start playing bad cards because you are card dead, or because you have been running good, running over the table, and feel invincible. You can't stop going to the poker room because you've had a bunch of consecutive losing sessions. You have to be rolled deep enough to play whatever game you play, or have a job you can fall back on if you lose. You have to sit there and play your game and get your money in good and wait for the variance to turn around.

2. You cannot assume that you are a good player just because you have been running good. This is the downfall of so many gamblers. They experience positive variance. They have 4 straight blackjack sessions where they win, or they win money for the first 5 weeks of the NFL season, or they hit 14 winners in the first four days of the race meeting. And then they come crashing back to earth. Good players don't even pay attention to this stuff. Instead, they examine and re-examine each session for what they did wrong and what they could do better. Always study, always try to get your money in better, always find better ways to exploit opponents or to avoid being exploited.

3. You cannot be mentally affected by losses. Losses are built into the game. Indeed, they are why you are able to win money in poker in the first place. The reason fish play poker is the same reason they play slot machines-- because even though the expectation is negative over the long term, on any given day they can come home a big winner. If you never lost, the fish would never win, and the game would never attract fish. So you will have losing hours, and losing sessions, and losing weeks and sometimes months. You will drop money. Lots of money. Even if you play at low limits, you can drop significant amounts of money during downswings. (Due to high rakes in small stakes games, you can sometimes drop almost as much during a downswing at a low limit as you do at a higher limit.) If you freak out because you drop a few hundred dollars, you can't play live poker. (You can still play penny stakes online if you want to.) This is going to happen. Expecting that you can play poker and avoid painful losses is like going to a horror movie and expecting you can avoid looking at bloody corpses. Because you can't avoid losing money in the short term, you have to be willing to lose it. You have to learn to be just as happy and mentally focused and well adjusted when you lose as when you win. If you can't do this, you can't be a winning poker player.

4. You can't worry about what others are taking out of the game. You will face situations where a bad player is winning money from you. And you know what you will have to do? Let her! Over the long term, she will of course give it back, though it may not be to you. It may be to someone else. But the mistake people make is to try and get into pots with the fish with bad hands and outplay her. The problem is, the object of the game is not to outplay or get your money back from one fish-- it's to outplay the entire table. If you consistently outplay your opponents, you will make money over time, even though there may be some fish who always seems to run good against you and take your money.

5. You can't be afraid of taking risks. There's a casino hold 'em variant called Ultimate Texas Hold 'Em which is kind of fun. (Indeed, if a poker player insists on playing a house banked game, I recommend this one because it least it has some poker skill built into it.) When played optimally, the house has about a 2 percent edge. However, many regular players do not play optimally. Specifically, they do not raise enough. Because if you raise your A3 offsuit no heart (as you should in what is effectively a heads up game) and the board runs out 46788 with 4 hearts, you are usually going to lose. Not raising reduces variance, because the player can see that board before deciding to play the A3. But it also increases your losses / cuts your winnings. A lot. There are a lot of correct plays that involve risking money. You have to be willing to make them. You should be raising hands like KJ in late position in multi-way pots, not calling with them. You should be raising and sometimes even capping flush and strong straight draws on the flop. You should be value-betting thin on the river. You have to be willing to make those plays and risk your money. And you have to be willing to lose if your draws keep on bricking out or you keep on missing flops with raising hands. Otherwise you end up like the regulars in Ultimate Texas Hold 'Em, needlessly bleeding money over time because you are missing so much value.

6. You need to play at a high enough limit that the game is not a raketrap. Low stakes limit poker games are usually raked, in absolute terms, at an only slightly lower rate than higher stakes games. For instance, in California you might pay $7 a hand in 8/16 and 20/40 and $6 a hand in 4/8. Or in Vegas, you might pay $5 a hand in 10/20 and $4 a hand in 3/6. (This is because the costs of spreading the two games, paying the dealers and floorpersons, etc., does not change very much, if at all, as you go up in limits.) When expressed as a percentage of the pool, the lower stakes players are paying substantially more in rake. For instance, a typical California 8/16 player pays about 1.75 big bets an hour in rake, and a typical California 4/8 player pays about 3.25 big bets an hour in rake. Given that a typical winrate in a rakeless game for a good player might be 3 big bets an hour, that difference in rake is often the difference between beating the game and not beating the game. The only solution to this is to risk more money.

Bottom line, there's no way to play live poker profitably without tolerating substantial risk of money. You have to get past this. If some posters here think this requires superhuman willpower, maybe playing poker to make money is not your thing. But if you want to be a successful player, you HAVE to heed my friend's wise words and not give a [bleep] about money.

Very informative read. This all translates into the belief that 90% of winning and losing is emotional control provided a gambler has the required expertise in his or her chosen field. Obviously, this is an extremely difficult task BUT the few long-term winners all have it.

charm city whizz
08-14-2016, 12:45 PM
Been around poker rooms now 17/35 years of my life and never knew of a casino that would rake a pot on different stakes......maybe take rake at different intervals but not different amounts