To win at poker, in the long run, you need to play better poker than the people you are playing against. Seems obvious enough, right? So you learn whatever you can about the game to become better. Again, an obvious point.
But, what is often not as obvious is that there are two ways to become better than your opponents. One is to improve your skills. You can assiduously study, learn about the game, and practice. If you are at least somewhat intelligent, observant, and disciplined, that will help improve your game. But it is only one half of the equation of making you better than your opponents. The other half (the easier half in fact) is playing against players who play worse than you play.
Find bad players! In one sense that is counterintuitive for the competitive person. We are trained, and our instincts pull us to want strong opponents as we seek to get better. In fact, this is generally how we improve in other competitive endeavors. If we want to play better tennis we play against better tennis players. If we want to become a better musician we find better musicians to practice and perform with. Football, golf, public speaking, running, weightlifting, body building? Just about everything else we might do is improved by doing it with those who have done it longer and do it better than we do.
Not so in POKER!
We want weak opponents in poker. We want players who don’t understand basic poker strategy. We want players who are playing to gamble, just to have fun, or even to lose. We don’t want to compete against other strong, aggressive poker players .
We play poker to win. Sure, we might want to go up against a world class player now and again. But we want to do it when there are plenty of lousy players around to feed us. We don’t want to go heads up against someone who is better because it will cost us money. And we want to make money.
I’ve run some simulations on an excellent computer poker software: Turbo 7 Stud by Wilson Software. I corroborated my theory (and those of many others) that you need bad players to play against if you want to win. I set up a sample $5/10 Stud Slot Gacor game with 8 “strong player” simulations. I ran it for 100,000 hands (or about 4,000 hours of steady play @ 25 hands/hour) When the 5% $3 maximum rake was accounted for, ALL the players lost money. My next simulation had a solid, mediocre player thrown into the mix. They still all lost money; similarly so with two solid, mediocre players (though not as much). However, when ONE bad, loose player, or three solid, mediocre players were thrown into the mix, the remaining strong players won money. And, despite some players’ anecdotal evidence to the contrary, the more bad loose players in the mix, the more the strong players won. The highest winnings were against 7 bad, loose players.
So I repeat my premise. To win at poker you need to be better than your opponents. If you are the eighth best Stud player in the world, but are playing against the other seven best, you will lose. Though it might be good for your ego to be seen in that august company, avoid that game. Instead, learn to spot bad players and play with them.
Spotting bad players, and thereby good games, is pretty easy. Bad players call too much, raise too little, and call too much. Watch a few hands and count the number of people who stay for fourth street. If you generally have four people or more, it’s probably a good game. Similarly, if there are three or more people at the showdown you’ve probably spotted a profitable place to play. If players rarely raise each other, so much the better.
Conversely, stay away from tough games. They’re relatively easy to spot too. You’ll see few hands reaching the River; fewer with showdowns, rarely more than two players seeing fifth street. And you’ll see many raises and reraises. Few if any bring ins go around without being completed.
Look for games where people seem to be enjoying themselves. If there are a lot of dour faces, folded arms, scowling or just expressions of concentration, there probably isn’t a lot of loose money to be had. But if people are laughing it up, loud, drinking, carrying on, and generally having a ball, that’s where you want to be.
There’s also a fringe benefit with games like these. Even if you don’t end up making money, you will have a better time playing poker when you are playing with people who are enjoying themselves. Just be careful that you don’t fall into the habit of making loose calls and gratuitous raises just to be one of the gang. Add to the merriment and spirit of the table with words rather than deeds and you’ll be just fine!