1. Poker is a long-term game
The true measuring stick of a poker player is what type of decisions they make. If they make good decisions they will win in the long-run; if they make poor decisions they will lose in the long-run: It’s that simple!
So, why do so many players make poor decisions? The reason for poor decisions is quite simple, most people view poker in the short-term. These players do not hit the tables enough to think beyond a single hand or session. Even if they have heard the term ‘long-term’, it has never been explained properly, and is too abstract a concept to fully sink in.
In poker: Winning is the result of good decisions, not the other way around.
This is an extremely difficult concept for many players to wrap their heads around. It’s hard to explain to someone who just won a huge pot that they made a blunder at some point in the hand, and were merely lucky. Generally you’ll be told, “gotta get lucky sometimes.”
The truth is, just because you win a pot doesn’t mean you made good decisions during it; and just because you lose a pot doesn’t mean you made bad decisions!
You will find most of your opponents have this concept completely backwards. They feel if they win the pot they did something right; they don’t realize that for every 1 in 10 miracle they hit, there will be nine other times they miss. And, it’s these 9 other times that cause them to lose money. They remember the $150 win, and forget about the nine $20 losses.
2. Your money comes from your opponent’s mistakes
It’s extremely important you understand this concept. Poker is a battle of mistakes; the player making the fewest, and least costly mistakes, is the player who will be taking home the money in the long-run (it’s not the player who knows the most, or pulls off the best bluff). If you play in a game where your opponents make more mistakes than you do, you will come out on top regardless of your skill level. All you have to do to be a winning player is look for players that are worse than you!
This holds true for any game or stakes. If the five best players in the world are sitting at a particular table, and the 6th best player pulls up a chair, guess who is going to be the fish in the game?
3. You don’t have to be the best to make money
Another problem even the best players have is they try to beat everyone. Instead of focusing on the weaker players, they are out to prove their superiority over everyone at the table. In a typical poker game there will be one or two players who are feeding chips to the rest of the table (at the lower limits you may find three or four players feeding the table). These are the guys playing 75% of the hands they are dealt, and calling to the river.
Good players will attempt to exploit these ‘feeders’ by isolating them in pots, while avoiding the locksmiths with all but their best hands. There is no point in continually battling skilled players, even if you feel you have a slight edge over them, when you have people who are practically throwing their money at you.
I'm not condoning total avoidance of decent players; just contemplate the risks and the reward before you get involved. Sure you can push a locksmith off a hand when he bricks, but if you're constantly playing pots against players who make few mistakes, you're fighting an uphill battle. Remember, most of your profits are coming from your opponent’s mistakes, not from your good plays. And, the worse an opponent is, the more mistakes he will make.
These small gaffes you commit trying to ‘prove’ something, can end up being the difference between winning and losing in the long-run. There is such a small margin for error in poker that a single mistake can put you in the red (Barry Greenstein guessed this edge to be around 3% for the best players, so imagine what it is for you).
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