In poker, position is profit. Today’s self-interview explains what you need to know to get the most from where you’re seated, relative to your opponents. First question, please…
Question 1: How much does position really matter in poker?
Well, how about this: The majority of the best poker players in the world–and possibly all of them–lose money for their lifetimes to opponents on their left. There! I said it, and I’m proud.
That’s a statement of fact that will probably shock most readers. Almost all the profit you’ll ever make playing poker will come from players to your right–players who usually act before you do. I said usually, not always, because sometimes players to your right act after you.
That happens on the first betting round when you enter a pot from an early seat and the opponents to your right are in the blinds. However, you regain positional advantage on all subsequent betting rounds, when they’ll act first. You also temporarily lose your positional advantage of acting last when you’re “under the gun”–meaning first to act–in a non-blind, ante-only game. But you’ll regain the advantage quickly on future deals.
Overall, you’ll be acting after players to your right most of the time. And, in poker, getting to see what opponents do before you act is a huge advantage. In fact, you can’t overcome the positional advantage of an opponent sitting immediately to your left in a full-handed game–unless your level of skill is monumentally better. The best you can do is play good enough that you diminish your disadvantage.
And, in fact, averaged over years of play, you’ll lose money to players on your left and make money from players on your right. This effect is so powerful that if you looked down at a poker table from a weather satellite in space, you’d see a phenomenal and continuous poker storm. The money would be swirling around the table in a clockwise direction, because that’s the way the action flows. Money would blow from players acting earlier to players acting later.
Of course, there would be some cross currents, too–currents that went against the direction of the storm. That’s because short-term luck would cause gusty distortions in the dominant direction. But, averaged over time, the money flows clockwise.
So, your mission in poker is to win as much money as you can from players on your right and lose as little as you can to players on your left. Your goal is just that simple.
Question 2: So, how do you go about maximizing profit from players on your right and decreasing your losses to the left?
From Tom McEvoy To All His Readers— Best Of Luck At The WSOP! Plus, An Interesting Decision You Should All Know About!June 21, 2013 - 10:39am
by Tom McEvoy
The World Series of Poker has officially arrived. By the time this newspaper is printed, the series will be in full swing. Will it be bigger than last year? Nobody knows for sure, or at least they aren’t telling if they have inside information.
The economy is not fully recovered and Internet poker in the U.S. is still mostly unavailable, so that will hurt attendance. On a positive note, the $1,000,000 first place guaranteed purse for the $1500 buy in scheduled for June 1st should be a huge success. Re-entries are allowed so this “Millionaire Maker” event should be one of the best events on the schedule. It is much harder to predict what the other events will do, especially the main event. The over and under for the Championship event is around 6500, and the answer is, no I am not taking bets either way. Good luck to all my readers, and I hope to see you at the final table—with me.
That Decision I Spoke About...
by Barbara Connors
Tilt is an occupational hazard of being a poker player. None of us can escape it completely. The good players simply tilt less often, and less severely. Perhaps, most important of all, the best poker players continually monitor themselves for signs of tilt, which is something we should all do. Problem is, the signs of tilt aren’t always that easy to identify. Sure, we can recognize tilt when we’re bluffing off a huge stack of chips for no reason other than wanting to pulverize the guy on the other side of the table. But tilt can also be as simple and as subtle as one loose call.
We’ve all done it. Called to see a flop with a marginal hand, bad position, lousy pot odds — or all of the above. We know we shouldn’t be in the pot, but we toss the chips in anyway. Usually this sort of thing happens when we’ve been card dead for a long time, or because we’re sick of being raised out of the pot every time we want to limp. But any way you slice it, it’s tilt.
To succeed at poker, you need to survive. Today’s self-interview deals with bankroll survival, with tournament survival, and with the powerful truth that survival isn’t a factor at all when making decisions in regular non-tournament games.
I’ll explain it all. So, let’s get started.
Question 1: What does survival have to do with making poker decisions?
In everyday poker games, outside the tournament arena, you should never be thinking about survival when you make decisions. If you’re playing for uncomfortably high-stakes and worried about surviving a large pot, then you’re competing in a game too large for your bankroll. You shouldn’t be there. You see, the nature of a winning poker strategy dictates that you must invite risk, not avoid it. If your personality is such that you crave reduced risk, poker probably isn’t the right game for you.
A primary goal of poker should be to put your money at risk. You should be eager to do that, as long as that risk offers a long-term advantage. You could play more safely by declining to exploit small advantages and waiting for really big edges before risking your money. But, then you’d be surrendering the sum of the profit from all those small edges. And those small edges added together often comprise the largest portion of your profit.
So, you should want to take risks. You should be looking for opportunities to put your chips in jeopardy. I know that sounds strange, but that’s really what successful poker strategy is about – finding ways to increase risk at an advantage.
Question 2: Can you give an example of how poker players make a mistake when playing to survive?
by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
Well the World Series of Poker is upon us again - it sure seems like the year flew by. I want to lay out some tips for making your WSOP experience the best that it can be. These are all of the basic things that sound easy, but most people overlook. Besides having to play well (and everything that entails), we have to put ourselves in a position to win by doing the little things right.
Make sure to drink plenty of water. This is something I always struggled with, as I didn’t want to have to run and go to the bathroom every 30 minutes. Keep in mind the WSOP prelim events have 1 hour levels and breaks every 2 hours (the Main Event has 2 hour levels). My advice is to drink a bunch of water, and don’t worry about missing a hand here or there. I also like to drink coffee, but it’s important to recognize that coffee (and tea) are diuretics that zap your body of hydration. Therefore, we’re forced to drink even more water after drinking coffee. Between the dry Vegas weather, the lights staring you in the face at the table, and the highstress environment, you’re going to need to stay especially hydrated. One immediate side effect of dehydration is getting a headache. Also, keep in mind that the brain needs a balance of water and other elements to operate in peak form.
by David "The Maven" Chicotsky
There’s an old phrase, “Nothing good in life comes easy.” If you’ve played enough poker, you know that this relates well to what we have to deal with when we sit down to play on the felt. To succeed in the poker arena, we are essentially throwing ourselves to the wolves, and must realize that we will have to push through a pain barrier in order to get pleasure, or in our case, win money. As a general rule, most players start out tighter and work themselves into more situations where they get involved in hands. Especially in tournaments, the tight players that are simply trying to survive, ultimately have very little chance at hitting a top-3 score. With progressive payouts, it basically makes it “risky” to play too tight. We don’t often think of not making a move as “risky” - but when you put it in the context of our goal (of scoring a top spot at the final table), it is just that.
It’s safe to say that when you’re watching the WSOP Main Event final table, that as a whole, not a single player played snug and was able to make it there without making a host of moves. This is nothing new: it’s been this way since the days of Stu Ungar - the more aggressive (and loose) players tend to have a better shot at the top spots. The same thing goes for cash games as well. Doyle Brunson wasn’t known for simply out-smarting his opponents; he also bullied them out of pots left, right and center.
Over decades, I’ve identified one of the main reasons that the majority of skillful poker players fail to win. It’s surprising, and it isn’t what you think.
It has to do with their inability to “stabilize.” And in today’s self-interview, I’ll explain what I mean.
Question 1: What does the word “stabilize” have to do with poker?
A lot. Like I said, it describes one of the primary reasons that poker players lose.
Question 2: Before we get to that, you said it was “one of the primary reasons” for failure to win. What are some of the other reasons?
Besides an inability to stabilize, which I’ll discuss shortly, presuming that you ask relevant questions, there are several reasons for failure.
Going on tilt is one. Competing against too strong a group of opponents is another. Being cheated is one, also. Not treating poker as a business, playing too large for their bankrolls, playing too creatively, entering too many pots, not choosing the right seats, and poor game selection are others.
Question 3: Wow! Interesting list. Is going on tilt really that common a reason for losing money at poker?
by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
How we approach tournaments will have an affect on the way we play. We’re aware going in that there will be ups and downs - that we’ll need to make many correct decisions if we want to have a chance at getting to the final table. When bad things happen while we’re playing, we need to be able to hit the proverbial reset button. Tournaments are long poker marathons where it is necessary to make many correct decisions, and it only takes one mistake to knock you out.
There are many things that set off poker players and make them lose their mind. When a player loses a big hand, they’re all of a sudden more likely to play in a polarized fashion: go into a shell and play extremely tight, or go on tilt and spew their chips off. Recognizing this, we must be very precise with how we play after we (or our opponent) lose a big hand. These are the times at the table where there is a strong connection between the last hand and the present hand.
by Tom McEvoy
My friend Paul Zibits was playing a tournament at the Commerce Casino in Las Angeles when the following hand came up. This hand was haunting him and he did not know if he made the right play or not so he asked me for my opinion. Here is the situation: We are now one table from the money and Paul has an average stack and is in the big blind. One player goes all-in and Paul has him covered. Now the biggest stack at the table (a good young tournament player) flat calls. Since he is the chip leader he could have a wider range of hands to call the first player’s all- in move. Paul looks down and has pocket Jacks and the action is now on him since all the other players have folded. He knows he has no fold equity since he would not have enough chips left to push the other player off his hand. His thinking was that he probably had a coin flip against one or both of these guys and the 2nd player could have flat called with a bigger pair to trap in this spot which is not uncommon. In the end he folded. If he was up against just the original all-in player, he would have called for sure. If he made the call and lost he would be very short-stacked even if he put no more chips in the pot. This hand has been haunting him ever since and he wanted to know what I would have done in this situation. This was a big tournament at the L.A. Poker Classic so there was a lot at stake.
by George “The Engineer” Epstein
Here’s an interesting query I received from reader Jack Durr who picks up his copy of PPN at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY where he enjoys playing 1-2 NLHE $50Min-$200Max:
“Could you tell me how many players would have to limp in before the blinds for it to be a +EV to complete the small blind with any two cards?
The game is small stakes – $200 max NLHE; lots of limping preflop.” It’s an intriguing question—one I have never seen/heard addressed. Basically, the question deals with starting-hand selection. With Jack’s permission, here’s my answer: