Requirements for Success in Poker
To gamble successfully, you must:
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Size of your Bankroll
Having a sufficient bankroll means that the size of a typical bet must be small in comparison to your total bankroll so that normally occurring losses do not wipe you out. In the movie, Rounders, the hero, an expert Hold'em player, violates this rule when he wagers his entire bankroll on a single hand of high-stakes, no limit Hold'em.
He is dealt A♣ 9♣. The flop is A♠ 8♣ 9♠. Figuring his opponent is on a spade draw, he bets his two pair. He is thrilled with the turn card (9♥) giving him 9's full. When the river card is a 3♠, he figures his opponent has made his spade flush and will call any bet. He goes all in with his entire bankroll ($30,000). This is a good bet because his opponent cannot have two nines, is unlikely to have the other two Aces, and will be hesitant to fold a flush. The problem: the remaining two Aces is exactly what his opponent has. Aces-full beat nines-full and in the next scene our hero is back to his day job. Despite his poker expertise, he is unable to buy into any games. The hero's mistake wasn't how he played, it was wagering everything he had on one hand.
Placing bets with positive expectations means that if the bet is won, the payoff is greater than the odds against winning. In other words, the pot odds must be favorable. Over the long run, you cannot win money if you consistently place bets with unfavorable payoffs. Many poker players always draw to certain hands. If they need one card to complete a flush or a straight, they will stay in the hand no matter how much it costs or how much money is at stake. With one card to come, completing a flush or open-ended straight happens about one out of every five tries. If the payoff isn't at least 5 to 1, you are losing money because your one win every five tries will not be enough to pay for the inevitable four losses. Just because you will win a certain percentage of these bets, doesn't mean you should make them.
Accumulating statistics means that many, many bets must be placed. It is this third condition that most people fail to understand. Most books on gambling state the need for a sufficient bankroll and teach how to place bets with positive expectations (good bets) and avoid bets with negative expectations (bad bets). While this knowledge is necessary, it is not sufficient to be a winner. What is often g10ssed over is the necessity of accumulating statistics.
The reason for this omission is that accumulating statistics is work. The attraction of gambling is the possibility of wealth without work. But the truth is, successful gamblers must work hard for their winnings.
To illustrate why all three conditions must be present, consider one form of gambling: selling life insurance.
You start a company selling life insurance, and you sell your first policy to a 20-year old person in good health for $100. You agree to pay $1 00,000 if that person should die within a year. Since the odds of a person that age dying within a year are about 10,000 to 1, it is very unlikely that you will have to pay out any money. But suppose a freak accident befalls that person tomorrow. If you do not have a sufficient bankroll, you will be bankrupt before you have a chance to sell another policy.
If you do have a sufficient bankroll, the bet you placed does have a positive expectation. You are offering to pay at a rate of 1000 to 1 for an event that has 10,000 to 1 odds against occurring. Suppose your customer refuses to pay $100 for the policy so you lower the price to $1. At this price, your customer will eagerly buy your policy, but you have just placed a bet with a negative expectation. You agreed to pay at a rate of 100,000 to 1 for an event that has 10,000 to 1 odds against occurring. However, there is a strong temptation on your part to sell the policy for $1, because the chances of the person dying have not changed. The odds are overwhelming that at the end of the year you will be $1 richer. Your sale is much easier and pocketing $1 is better than nothing.
The temptation to sell the policy for $1 illustrates a paradox associated with gambling. Whatever price the life insurance policy sells for, the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of you keeping the money. However $1 is a bad bet that should be avoided and $100 is a good bet that should be made.
The difference between good and bad bets only becomes apparent when statistics are accumulated -after you do the work of selling many life insurance policies. If you sell 10,000 policies, it becomes a certainty that at least one person will die. If you charged $1 each, the $10,000 collected does not cover one 10ss. Your business is headed for bankruptcy. However, if you sell 10,000 policies at $100 each, the million dollars collected covers 10 deaths. While it is almost certain that at least one customer will die, it is extremely unlikely that 10 will die. Your business has to make money.
Anything can happen to a single customer. Therefore, a good bet (the $100 policy) could 10se and a bad bet (the $1 policy) could win. If you sell only one policy, knowledge of mortality rates is useless. Knowing the difference between good and bad bets pays off only when statistics are accumulated, and it is only through the accumulation of statistics that you are assured of making money.
The strategies for playing poker described in this website are designed to maximize your expectations for winning over the long run, as you accumulate statistics. However, even when bets are correctly made and hands correctly played, the outcome of any given hand or any given playing session is uncertain.
Poker is a, deceptive game because good players don't always win and bad players don't always 10se. There are statistical fluctuations in the outcomes. Your goal should be to make the right decisions for the right reasons. You should not get upset or elated over outcomes of single hands. Only as time passes and trends become clear, is it possible to evaluate the quality of your decision-making.
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