The Essential Guide to Becoming a Long-Term Winning Poker Player
September 21, 2015 Leave a Comment
There are a few essential concepts we must commit to mastering in order to become long-term winning poker players.
These essential concepts apply to both cash-game, and multi-table tournament poker.
In both forms of poker, we must develop a solid awareness of when to apply these concepts to our strategy, in order to maximize our potential for profit in the long-run.
Understanding The Fundamental Concepts of Becoming a Profitable Poker Player
Developing into a profitable poker player is not an easy task.
If you are new to the game of poker, you must understand that your opponents will most likely have more knowledge and experience than you do.
In online poker, many opponents you will encounter at the smaller and medium stakes can be considered “regs”, or “regulars”, in the level of stakes they play.
In live poker, there is also a good batch of regulars that frequent the casino’s you may play in, albeit many of the players within the player pools of the smaller stakes are simply recreational players looking to have fun, and maybe win a few dollars in the process.
These amateur players are usually pretty easy to identify due to a variety of factors.
These factors include, but are not limited to:
- Open limping pre-flop, instead of raising, with a wide range of hands, from a wide range of positions, with no regard for being positionally disadvantaged when they are faced with a raise from opponents in later positions.
- Playing tight-passive, only betting and raising if they have strong hands, and folding their weaker hands to continued action.
- Playing loose-passive, calling with a lot of marginal hands, in marginal situations, hoping to win if they have any kind of hand
- Not recognizing the different tendencies of each player at the table, playing an ABC style of poker that is incredibly easy to read and subsequently play against profitably.
- Not adjusting to the table flow of the game, playing each hand the same way they always would, regardless of important meta-game factors that are occurring at the table.
- Not considering what their “table image” is, and failing to identify the table image of their opponents, and how that image might be adjusting due to how that opponent is performing in the short-term.
- In tournaments, failing to recognize the value of their current stack size, and the stack sizes of each opponent that creates multiple variables in strategic decision-making.
- In tournaments, failing to understand the Independent Chip Model (ICM), and the value of their current stack size relative to the entire prize pool.
- In tournaments, playing way too passive when they are shorter stacked and approaching the money bubble.
- In cash games, failing to buy in for the maximum amount, creating the dynamic of not being able to extract maximum value from their big hands when they hit.
- In cash games, failing to understand the equity of their hand, in relation to the potential range of hands their opponent might hold in different situations.
- In cash games, failing to get away from solid hands that potentially could be beat. (An example of this would be an amateur overplaying their pocket aces, when faced with heavy action on coordinated boards that create the possibility of AA being a massive underdog to win the pot by the river.
Learning to Recognize The Glaringly Obvious Flaws in Yourself & Your Opponents at The Poker Table
These are just a few factors to recognize in not only your opponents, but within yourself as well. When you are in a hand, take your time to think of all the possible hands your opponent could have, while also considering what hands your opponent might think YOU have.
This is a concept that many amateur players fail to recognize. They are only concerned with the value of their hand, yet they fail to determine what the potential value of their opponents holdings may be.
Failing to identify what your opponent might have, and what he thinks you might have, is a recipe for disaster.
First, you will not get payed off on your big hands if you don’t consider what your opponent may have.
Bet sizing appropriately on each street is essential for maximizing your long-term win rate, and failing to bet size adequately leaves a lot of potential value on the table, and also the possibility that you will get drawn out on if you give your opponent a good price to continue in the hand.
You must defend your strong holdings against potential draws with larger bets. Subsequently, you must recognize situations where you can be beat by a lot of potential holdings, and find the courage to fold.
You must identify situations where you almost always have the best hand, and are facing an opponent with a strong hand. In these type of situations, we want to “play for stacks”, and win all of our opponents chips by bet sizing effectively on each street of action.
Failure to extract maximum value from your monster hands, essentially can be considered losing money, as your bets would have been called if you sized them bigger to get your opponent all-in by the river.
As an example, in a cash-game, with 100bb effective stacks, if we are dealt 44, call a raise pre-flop from an UTG raiser, and see a flop of 4A9, we want to play for stacks.
We are hoping our opponent has a big ace, such as AK, AQ. Both are hands that wont want to fold to multiple bets, and we must figure out the best approach to getting all of the chips in the middle.
If our opponent bets and bets, we can call, and call, hoping to face a big bet on the river, which we can move all-in on, and force our opponent to call if they are inexperienced, and aren’t disciplined to get away from a strong, albeit inferior holding.
You will find MANY of these opponents in the small stakes live cash games.
These opponents are the ATM’s of the poker world, and we must learn to cash out as much as we can through them when we know we are ahead, and they are strong as well.
Staying Disciplined Throughout an Individual Session
Playing consistent, disciplined poker, is extremely difficult to maintain throughout a long session of poker.
Whether it be in cash games, or tournaments, remaining disciplined, no matter the circumstances, is of utmost importance if we want to be consistent long-term winners.
If we start to lose our focus on discipline, we open up ourselves to the possibility of making fatal mistakes that can ruin our entire cash game session, or our entire tournament life.
I often see certain opponents play extremely solid for a majority of their session, only to make one fatal mistake that could have been avoided if they remained disciplined.
This one fatal mistake may cost them all their profit in the session, and can turn a winning session, into a losing session.
Once this session turns into a losing session, a lot of these players continue to “chase their losses”, play undisciplined, and lose more money in the process.
This phenomenon is known as “Tilt” in the poker world, and it can be avoided if we develop an awareness of when we may be out of balance emotionally.
Identifying and Avoiding Tilt
Tilt comes in many shapes and sizes.
Tilt can also be very blatantly obvious, or it could take form in very subtle ways that are not easy to identify, but still will affect your long-term results in a negative way.
Tilt is by definition, any moment in time where you fail to achieve a state of disciplined focus in an emotionally detached and balanced state.
Can you think of any specific points in time in your poker career when this was the case, only you failed to identify your imbalance, and ended up losing in the process?
I can for sure think of many, many times in my early career when I fell victim to the unavoidable tilt bug.
Looking back, I realize now why I was a victim of tilt, and how I failed to adjust my mental state, which ultimately cost me money.
I can say that at my current level of poker skill and awareness, I have become more adept at identifying when my emotional state may be out of balance, and I am able to re-align myself to play solid, disciplined, poker.
Tilt is something that has taken years of experience at the tables for me to learn, identify, and subsequently avoid. It will certainly take you hours upon hours of game play to experience situations where you will tilt, lose as a result of it, and be faced with the challenge of avoiding it altogether in the future.
Can you avoid tilt in the future?
Can you trust yourself enough to know when to quit when unable to get off tilt?
Can you avoid “chasing your losses” in situations you should be avoiding?
Using Poker as a Tool For Developing Your Mental Ability
What I find super intriguing about the game of poker, and most likely the reason I am drawn to the game, is the fact that your results in the game are a direct result of yourself, and no one else.
You cannot blame your mistakes on others when you are the one making all of the decisions.
Unlike many competitive endeavors that require teamwork, poker is a game that is solely focused on the individual, and how well that individual is able to deal with adversity.
You must develop a strong knowledge of yourself, and build a level of trust within yourself that you will rely on when in the heat of battle.
I enjoy the mental stimulation that poker gives me each and every time I play.
Developing a Lasting Trust Within Yourself From Playing Poker
I must remain alert of everything going on around me, and the challenge of maintaining this disciplined focus is what keeps drawing me back to the tables on a consistent basis.
I am only interested in improving my abilities, and anything that would hinder this result I consider to be not worth my time.
I crave competition, and poker is a game where I can find that competition, and if I am able to overcome the competition, I will be rewarded financially.
I enjoy many other physical team sports, as well as team based video games, but poker is the ONLY competitive outlet where my financial state can be affected directly.
There are many sporting, and video gaming events alike that have a financial aspect attached to them, but I don’t feel I am at a level where I could compete profitably from them.
My results would also be determined by other external factors outside of my direct influence, which I won’t experience in poker.
I don’t rely on anyone but myself in poker, and I have built a level of trust within myself that has enabled my poker game to reaching increasingly higher levels of skill and ability.
Developing Your Own Unique Approach to Poker
What are you hoping to accomplish from playing poker?
Are you seeking to become a long-term winning player, or are you simply playing the game for fun and excitement?
Are you wiling to study the game of poker, and evaluate your own play at the tables? This is the only route to improving your overall poker game. If you are not interested in studying and applying the concepts you study at the tables, become familiar with the fact that you will never become a long-term winning player.
Are you able to remain intently focused during a session of poker?
Are you able to channel this focus on a consistent basis, over a large sample size of individual hands and/or tournaments?
Are you willing to be honest with yourself that you may be currently outclassed by other disciplined winning players when you sit down to play poker?
Are you willing to accept this fact, and work on improving, or are you too lazy to want to get better?
Do you consider poker a form of gambling? If you do, do you understand that the game of poker is indeed a form of gambling in the short-term, albeit long-term skill will ultimately always outweigh short-term variance?
Are you willing to treat your endeavor in poker as a business, rather than a recreational hobby with no financial infrastructure?
For more information on how you can turn your poker game into a business, check out poker professional Dusty Schmidt’s book: Treat Your Poker Like a Business
Should You Pursue Poker as A Business Investment?
Poker is not a game for everyone.
Those who seek to play poker, and improve their play, will ultimately experience a profit assuming they take all the required steps, and achieve a desirable adequate long-term sample of volume of play.
While I don’t recommend the game of poker for everyone, I do recommend the game of poker for those who can see beyond the perceived “gambling” aspect of poker, and wish to treat their endeavor in poker as a potentially profitable business investment.
Failure to treat poker as a business will create a failure to experience profit from the game of poker in the long-run.
Aspects such as bankroll management, and game selection are of utmost importance. If these concepts are ignored, it is a virtual guarantee that you will not succeed in the game of poker.
Much like the stock market, your finances will be subject to short-term fluctuation that cannot be avoided in the short-term.
In the long-run however, we can be assured that making profitable decisions at the poker table will net us a return on our investments.
The long-run is impossible to determine due to the fact that it theoretically goes on forever into infinity. As players, we can achieve a solid long-term analysis of our game by constantly playing hands, and evaluating our play afterwards.
Failing to evaluate our play at the tables creates barriers to improvement, and these barriers restrict our ability to increase the potential return on our business investment in poker.
The road to achieving a successful poker business is filled with many hurdles you must learn to overcome. I have designed this poker strategy section of our website to help you overcome those hurdles, and improve your game as you see fit.
Feel free to get your hands on any available resource you may find helpful in improving your game. Many of these resources are free, and available throughout the internet.
It is solely up to you as an individual to determine what you would like to achieve from poker.
Be comfortable with where you stand, and constantly evaluate on where you would like to go.
There is no-limit to the success you can achieve from the game of poker, only the limits you restrict yourself to in your own mind.
Good luck at the tables! 🙂