To Be Great at Poker You Have To First Be Consistently Good

Winning takes discipline, the long view, and hard work. Sorry.

The legendary comic Steve Martin rose to the top of his profession by being consistently funny. He has said he never worried about being the best comic in the world. He focused instead on improving his basic skills and being consistently good no matter what the situation. Martin never tried to be the world’s funniest comedian, or the most controversial, or the most outrageous. Instead, he knew that if he just worked consistently on trying to make people laugh every time he went up on stage, he’d eventually succeed. Slow and steady would win his race.

Don’t be great. Be consistently good.” -Eric Barker

Screw defending your blinds, looking to play more hands OOP is not a good way to improve your win rate. Stealing more, on the other hand, is where it’s at.” — from TwoPlusTwo poker forum.

Quiz: Suited Gapper in Small Blind Facing Multi-Way Limp

Donkey Test Question #16

Question: You’re in a $5/$10 NL full ring 9-handed cash game. You have a tricky, tight-aggressive image. Everyone has about $1000 stacks. Three people limp in preflop. You are in the SB with 5c-7c. What should you do?

  1. Fold
  2. Call
  3. Raise
  4. All-in 2% of time, call 98% of time
  5. Big raise 50% of the time, call 50% of the time

Pay Attention When When You First Sit Down

And don’t immediately dig yourself a hole. Unless your name is Maverick.

Remember the movie “Maverick”? Yes, the ersatz old-time poker movie with Mel Gibson playing the lead is silly, cheesy, over the top, and highly unrealistic—but I enjoyed it anyway. And, surprisingly, there are a few decent nuggets of poker wisdom hidden in the rest of the silliness. Take the scene where Mel’s character, Bret Maverick, is trying to convince a group of grizzled saloon players that they should let him sit down and play cards with them. They eye him as an interloper and cardsharp, and some of them are adamant about not letting him play—that is, until he says:

“I promise that I will lose for at least an hour.”

The players like this idea, so they let him sit in the game. And in the ensuing hour, Maverick indeed does lose. But not a lot. More importantly, he takes that first hour to learn what his opponents’ tendencies, tells, and betting patterns are. At the end of the self-imposed losing period, Maverick begins playing real poker, exploiting all that gathered information—and promptly starts crushing the game. Let’s talk about this.

Just Say No To Poker Orphans!

Raking pots that no one else wants 

I see orphan pots go unclaimed all the time at the micro- and low-stakes tables: There’s a bunch of preflop limpers, then a dry flop comes out and everyone checks around. The turn card is then dealt and nothing changes; the board is meh and people check it around again. Same thing happens on the river. Frequently, the winner of the hand is someone lucky enough to see a showdown for free with a crappy bottom-pair or Ace-high hand.

Question: Why doesn’t someone step up and make a stab on the turn to take down the pot?

The 10 Commandments of Winning Poker

The ten skills and abilities that separate the winners from the losers...

There are 10 commandments that all winning poker players adhere to. If you’re not incorporating all of these into your game, you’re probably not winning. I’m serious. The importance of these ten commandments cannot be overstated. In this post, I’m going to delve a little more deeply into where these come from and what they mean in practice. 

We’re going to start with the concepts of poker profit and expected value. Pay attention people–this is important:

Memphis Mojo Out in Seventh Place

What a great run for Memphis! Yes, it would have been better to win, but still… seventh place out of 1,720 entrants? Wow! Great job, Dave.

Another Deep WSOP Run for Dave “Memphis MOJO” Smith!

Friend and fellow poker blogger, Dave “Memphis Mojo” is doing it again!

Long-time readers of my blog know that Dave made the final table of the WSOP seniors event a few years ago. This year, he registered for the Super Seniors tournament and I’ve been (virtually) on his rail through the ride. I can’t tell you how happy I am for Dave when, late last night, he texted that they were down to 22 players and were bagging chips for the night.

Good Skill, Dave! You can take the whole thing this year!

If you set your goal as making money, you tend to play poorly when you’re losing, because you’re focusing mainly on outcomes. However, if you set your goal as being a good decision-maker, it won’t matter whether you’re winning or losing, because all that matters—all that matters—is the quality of your decisions, not the outcomes of those decisions.” – John Vorhaus, on results vs. decisions in poker.

Short-Stacking Some $100NL Zone

Playing with a 50bb stack, on purpose.

A blog reader contacted me recently to discuss his short-stacking strategies when multi-tabling PokerStars Zoom tables. He specializes in this format and is a long-term winning player. His methods begin with buying in for a non-standard short-stacking amount of 50bb. (Traditional short-stackers play with much smaller 25-35bb stacks.) When he drops to around 35bb, he rebuys back to 50bb. When he gets over 75-80bb, he cashes out and starts the process over.

We exchanged half-dozen emails on the subject, and in the end, I decided to try my own experiment with his tactics: