Discover more from Exceptional Poker
The Single Most Important Concept To Learn In Poker
RDM, or Results Don’t Matter
“Don’t need a gun to blow your mind.” — John Lennon
Over the past few posts, we’ve talked about losing poker hands. We covered the three ways to lose a poker hand, and why all of them can actually be positive things if viewed correctly. But there was a bigger, more important takeaway in those posts you may have missed. In fact, this is perhaps the most significant concept in all poker to understand. And it may blow your mind when you finally get it: RDM.
You win or lose in a hand of poker at the moment that you check, call, bet, fold, or raise—not when the hand actually plays out. In fact, the results of the hand itself are irrelevant. And yes, I’m serious.
Imagine that a friend offers you a wager based on the flip of a fair coin. If the coin comes up heads, pay your friend $1. If the flip comes up tails, however, your friend has to pay you $1.50.
You take the bet—and, before the coin is ever flipped, you’ve already won. The actual outcome of the coin flip doesn’t matter. Let’s repeat that for clarity:
The Results Don’t Matter.
Because you made a positive expected value (+EV) bet, you won. In poker (and other gambling games) we say that you’ve “taken the best of it.” And when you take the best of it in any gambling decision, you automatically win, regardless of the outcome of the bet. RDM, baby, RDM!
When you get your money in good, you’ve “won” in the long run. If you take the best of it over and over, the laws of probability will ensure you make money. In contrast, if you get your money in with the worst of it over and over many times, the laws of probability will ensure you go broke. We can’t control the outcome of a probabilistic event like a coin flip, but we can control the decision to enter a wager on that coin flip. Because the decision is all we control, that’s where the winning and losing actually takes place.
Viewing Poker as an RDM Endeavor
Every poker decision you make should be viewed through the RDM lens. For example, let’s assume a tight and nitty player opens with a strong raise UTG. You know, from past tangles with this person that they only open in that seat with powerful hands, like AA-QQ. Now, let’s further assume you have a pair of deuces on the button. The UTG villain has a small stack (less than 25bb). The action folds to you, and it’s clear the blinds are both going to fold. Should you call the raise and try to hit a set, or not?
You currently know you’re behind in terms of equity against the range of the villain. The only reason you would call is to hit a set. But because the stack depth is so shallow, you aren’t getting the correct mathematical implied odds to call and attempt to hit a set.
If you call, you lose. If you fold, you win—regardless of whether a deuce comes on the flop, and you take down the hand. Heck, it doesn’t actually matter if the flop is a miracle that gives you quads; by calling without the correct odds to do so, you have made a negative EV play—so you lose.
In contrast, every time you call with a small pair in this situation with the correct implied odds to set mine, you win. Again, it doesn’t matter whether you hit your set. You will make money in the long-run. The short-term outcome of this specific hand is irrelevant. Results Don’t Matter.
Or, here’s another one that will blow your mind: Every time you open raise UTG with a hand like QJo at a tough full-ring table, you lose. It doesn’t matter if you get six callers, hit the nuts on an A-K-T rainbow flop, and win everyone else’s stacks—you already lost the EV game the minute you entered the pot. You made a bad, negative EV decision, which means you put money into the pot with the worst of it. So, you lose.
Or, how about this one: Let’s imagine you get your entire stack into the middle preflop with A-A. Here, you’ve won. The results simply are not relevant; if some yahoo calls you with 7-2 offsuit and hits runner-runner for some improbable backdoor hand that bad beats your rockets, it’s fine because you got your money in good. You actually won, and the villain lost. The results of this one hand are irrelevant.
The Long View:
Poker is a game of the long run, of making +EV plays over and over, of forgoing -EV situations, and—especially—of ignoring the results of any one specific hand. When you take the best of it in a poker bet, you win. With time (and a properly sized bankroll), you will become rich.
And when you take the worst of it, you lose. Instantly. How the hand actually turns out is irrelevant. With time (and yes, even with a properly sized bankroll) you will go busto.
To win at poker, you must begin accepting the fact that individual hand results really, truly, honestly don’t matter. If you can embrace this idea, then you quickly realize that decisions are everything. And if you can do this, you’ll begin to a) focus on making only plus EV decisions, and pass up negative EV situations, and b) be able to shrug off bad beats and coolers… because they don’t matter.
The Bottom Line:
Don’t sweat the results of any poker hand if you got your money in good. The results of a single hand literally mean nothing. Decisions and Expected Value are everything in poker. RDM, Baby, RDM.