Being Honest with Your Poker Self
Here's the thing' poker is probably one-third skill, one-third luck, and one-third personal accounting. That might sound strange, but it's really a few key concepts rolled into one: bankroll management, game review, and game selection.
Like I said, you can read all the books and play for years, but that is only one-third of what makes you a winning player. One-third is luck'which is actually manipulated through solid play, though on any given night, it will determine if you are a winner or loser. This should be obvious, because if you're hitting your draws that night in regularity and your hands are holding up, you'll win more. If the luck runs bad for you and you can't get AK to beat AQ as much as it should, then you won't win tonight.
However, the other one-third is entirely something each player needs to learn. Some learn it the hard way, which really is a double edged sword. On one side, you need to learn the hard way to learn why all of these things are important, but on the other side, it can wipe you out.
That's why you're reading this, of course. I, and many other great professionals before me, have learned how to manage money, review our own game play honestly and objectively, and how to make good game selection. These are all vital elements to your game and without them, you will never prosper as a player.
I have written an article on the topic of bankroll management, but I wanted to hit a few other ideas about it. This sort of ties into being honest with your game review. When you review your poker sessions, you should be honest with your results in every way. It's very easy to just forget to add in one night of losses or one tournament buy-in you lost. If you're keeping accurate records of your play (which you should for obvious reasons), you can fully dissect your poker game.
After thousands of man-hours of play, it will be impossible to misjudge your game'you're either a winner, or you're in the red. That's how you keep score in poker' there are no points and you don't get anything for the second-best hand. If you consistently turn over a winner more often than your opposition, or at least drag the most chips in the long run, then you will be a winner. That is directly reflected in your long term results, which you should be tracking.
I will point you to my recent review of Professional Poker by Mark Blade, which discusses this very topic. He recommends, as do I, many programs like Poker Tracker and Poker Office. These will help keep your online results regularly and with full statistics, and you can actually see where you are winning and losing. If you're a loser, then you need to use the next topic of discussion to figure out why.
Having good review of your own game is essential, just like bankroll management. You need to learn to be objective with your game. The next time you lose a pot (that isn't a victim of an honest bad beat), then analyze why. No, I don't mean figuring out how your pocket queens lost to ace-king'this is NOT a bad beat. Quit dissecting these hands, because bad beats are just a part of the game.
Start analyzing where you are losing your money in poker. Figure out what you're doing wrong, and study the game more as you do. This is the only way you will achieve an expert status of the game. Thorough self-analysis is mentioned often in poker books, but rarely discussed at length. You really should read Mark Blade's book as I mentioned earlier, to fully understand how to analyze your game.
Finally, game selection and your process for such is very important. This shouldn't sound too strange to you. I mean, if you had the choice between a $20-40 Hold 'Em game with nine world-class professionals and a game of nine complete donkeys from out of town, which one would you choose' Obviously the latter would be far more profitable and the first would probably be a losing proposition for yourself.
This extends into tournament play, online play, and everything in between. Don't start playing the $200 sit and goes when you can't beat the $100. If you can't beat the $5, why are you asking about the $10' No, just because 'these idiots call me with anything,' you aren't ready for the $10. Learn to beat weak opposition before moving forward. You are only as good as your opposition.
Keep all of this in mind as you start playing the game more seriously. Before you even think about quitting school or your day job, learn how to play and how to become the best poker player you can. It's foolish to ignore these areas of your game, because even the luckiest of professionals can't keep from going broke if they don't do these things on occasion!
note by gank: Jon Eaton is a very talented poker player who has had a lot of recent success both in real life and online in No Limit Holdem.
Quit Lying Your a Loser at Poker
If it sounds like I'm being harsh, it's because I am. This ties into another column I wrote this week about being honest with yourself. When it comes to your bottom line, if you are a loser, you are a loser! I read a lot of message forums about poker, and people are constantly coming up with crazy conspiracies, even posting dozens of hands of 'proof' that a site is rigged.
First, let's take one element out of this argument. Let's say for one second that all of these crazy hands that you have seen, whatever they may be, and however severe the beat was that you saw, all took place in a casino. Would you start looking for an excuse, saying the dealer rigged the deck' Would you start questioning the validity of the casino' Would your first reaction be how unlucky you are or would it be how badly you played the pot'
More than likely these thoughts wouldn't cross your mind. But when you play online, you can't physically see the deck or table or dealer. You're taking someone's word for it that the game is honest. If you quit squabbling over bad beats and stop trying to place the blame for your losing sessions, you will realize the real blame is to be laid upon yourself.
Like I said, until you can be honest with yourself, you will never be a winner. Plain and simple. Poker is very easy to keep track of who is winning. If you walk away with more money than you had to start more often than not, then you're a winner. If you walk away questioning the software of your preferred online poker site, cursing them for taking your money, then you are a loser and you're searching for excuses.
The purpose of this wake-up call isn't to piss you off, or to even brag that I am a winner. I don't care if you think I am a good player by any means, I am just writing to improve your game (although I doubt you'd be taking my advice if you believed such)!
As for crazy conspiracies about online poker' let's analyze them for one minute. People have been saying since the dawn of online poker that poker rooms are rigging hands so they increase the rake. Now this is absolutely absurd for many reasons, the first being that they don't need to rig the deck to create action! Bad players will always be around to shove their money into a pot with no hope.
As for juicing up the rake, the rake would usually max out (usually only $3) on almost any pot that goes to the flop or turn anyway, so they have no vested interest in creating 'action pots.' Others believe they do this to keep losing players from going broke, but the simple matter is, they are always going to take the worst of it. Unless the site is so rigged that an 80-percent favorite doesn't win even 50-percent of the time, no matter what, the bad players are going to go broke in the long run.
What interest does a poker room have in the action generated at their room' They want you to be happy of course! Do you really think they want to drive customers away by rigging their software and making good players run bad' Do you really think that their business would benefit by making bad players win more often, and casting the shadow of a doubt about their integrity' No!
Just like a brick and mortar casino, their only interest is in getting in as many hands as they can and generating as much rake as they can. They achieve this by providing a good service for their customers and keeping them happy. The Bellagio doesn't have to do anything to get people into the games, other than spreading what games they want and giving them the service they demand. They don't need to have special decks or rig pots to make players win more often and jack up the rake, because players will come and play regardless.
The same goes for online poker rooms. If they spread an honest and fair game, their business will only improve. Degrading the odds of hands holding up will only hurt business. Bad players will always be lining up to lose their money, so good players don't need any extra incentive and bad players don't need any added benefits.
In short, quit telling yourself that you're losing because the site is rigged. Keep studying and playing hard! You will eventually improve your game if you are dedicated and have your heart in it. Subscribe to something like Pro Poker School and improve your game, and keep swinging. The long run is a lot longer than you think!
note by gank: Jon Eaton has improved his no-limit holdem game by learning from me and studying other pros.