Making money by playing poker
Many players have made their money by playing poker. While many have gone broke in the attempt. We all are just somewhere in between.
Conventional wisdom of poker says that a solid player will win an amount equal to about one bet per hour of the upper limit of your regular game. At $5-$10 you should be winning $10 per hour as an average at one year time. At $10-$20 it would be more like $20 per hour.
Occasionally you will make exactly that amount in a day's play. Some day you may lose and some day you may win in stud poker. But when you average it out over a period of months of year, it should come out close.
This would be the good reason for keeping records. If you don't, how can you tell if you are winning or losing and by how much? And if you are losing, what is the reason? But if you don't know you are losing, you cannot do anything about it.
Decisions at the poker table are based on the significant information. You get the information by watching or observing your rivals and by asking questions to yourself. With practice and vigilance you can ask – and answer – these and other questions in a matter.
What is your main goal? This question would always be hammering you while you are playing poker. If you don't know where you are going, you might finish up somewhere else.
By main goal, we don't mean, “to win money today” or “to have a good time.” We mean what you are trying to achieve with these cards you are holding at the moment against these poker players and the cards they are holding in this hand.
How can you achieve the goal? It depends on the goal. But be careful that sometimes you can't achieve the goal. For instance, we have already learned in this chapter that goal with a big pair such as kings at third-street is to play the hand against one player with a smaller pair and possibly one other player on a drawing hand. You achieve the goal by raising at third-street. Suppose the forced-bet low card is immediately to your left. That player starts the action. Five other players call before the action gets to you. Your raise would possibly drop the low card and one other player only. At medium and low-limits, these players have some money in the pot you cannot get them out with a mortar.
You still have to play the hand against too many rivals. Consider calling and hoping for the best. “Hoping for the best” is not a best poker strategy. But you can do it sometimes.
We will discuss the other side of the problem. Let's assume that the forced bet low card is immediately to your right. Now it is your to act under the gun and so you have a chance to put in a raise and eliminate most of your rivals. Not having already invested in the pot, your rivals are less likely to come in. You are not going to knock out any big hands but you will get rid of the drawing hands and the small pairs that might have stuck around to trip up and beat you. Goal achieved.
What is your position? You should constantly know about your positions without having to stop and think about it. Knowing your positions should be your main concern in your mind.
If they play long enough, most players will figure out that it is best to be the last to act – after the other players have already acted by checking, betting or raising. This is the basic insight about position that new players come to understand.
In all the forms of poker, position is a matter of how many players will be able to act after you do. You should consider what those players might do before you decide what you are going to do. If you are first to act, you have to make your best assessment about what the players behind you will do.
If you are having a decent hand, you won't want to bet it into several hands yet to act. If one of them raises, you are going to be trapped for two bets if you call, or give up one best if you decide to fold.
If you are having a decent hand in last position, you will be already know what action the other players have taken by the time it is your turn to act next. Here you have much more information where you can base your decision.
While position is significant, it will affect your play the most when you hold a “decent to middle” hand. When you are having the best hand, you will have to bet it no matter what your position – unless it is so strong that you decide to slow-play it or go for a check-raise. Even then, you want to be careful of your position. How many players are still remaining to act behind you? What would be their most likely responses to your action? How can you entice the most money from your hand? How many players are already in the pot? What kind of action have they taken? How many can still come in? What do you know what they might do if you check or bet or call or raise? Again, there is no substitute for knowledge of your rivals.
What your rivals are showing on the board? The best way you know for sure what cards are unavailable to you is to see them appear on the board, beginning right from the third-street. If you are not watching them, you could end up drawing dead, having missed seeing that most of the cards you need to fill your straight are already gone.
If you make the hand you're drawing to, is it likely to be a winner? You won't want to find yourself drawing to a straight when three other players appear to be drawing to flushes. Even if you make the hand you were drawing to, you are probably going to lose. The same is true with small flushes when two rivals have each made open pairs and have started a raising war; one or both probably has made a full house.
Do you want your rivals in or out of the game? It depends on what hand you are trying to make and what you perceive your rivals trying to make. If your rival has a big pair at third-street of 7-card stud poker, you want most of your rivals out so that your chances of winning increase without any improvement. But if you start at third-street with a drawing hand, you want rivals in to give you enough pot odds to draw to the hand.
How large the pot is? You should always keep the track of the pot. You don't need to know exactly how much is in the pot – an estimate will do. If the pot size is $48.50 then take the rounded figure, that $50 will do.
Three questions: What are the odds against making this hand; what are the pot odds; and are you justified in drawing to this hand?
Pot odds and drawing odds and their relationship to one another is unknown to many medium and low-limit players. We shall explain it. You will find a list telling you what the odds are against making any particular hand. You should know that much, at a minimum. Now what are the poker pot odds? Let's assume there is $40 in the pot, if you want to call the bet you have to put in $10. The pot will gives you 5-to-1 odds. If the hand you are trying for is less than 5-to-1 mathematically you have good bet. But this doesn't mean that you will win the pot. These are just the odds against making the hand. You might make the hand and still lose the pot.
Suppose you have a hand that is 5-to-1 against making and $20 is in the pot. Your rival bets $10. The pot is giving you 3-to-1 odds. You don't have a good bet.
Pot odds and drawing odds are the reasons you never draw to an inside straight. There are many poker players who don't know the reason. It is because an inside-straight draw is about 12 or 13-to-1 against making. And generally, the pot won't be offering you these pot odds. Now if the pot would give you 18-to-1 odds, you could draw to inside straights and make money.
Without information, your decision will not be accurate. It will be more of guess work. You don't want to make guesses – you just want to make accurate decisions, which are based on information, which you get by asking questions.
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