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Knowing When You Are Being Beaten In Poker

Aug 17, 2007
Since the earliest days of poker, people have made the mistake of considering it a gambling game. It seems to be a gambling game because it is usually played for money and in fact it is no good if it is not played for money. Nevertheless, poker is farther from a gambling game than almost any other card game you can think of, even contract bridge.

Despite the fact that there are innumerable forms of poker and that the strategy differs in all of them, good players will almost always wind up winners and poor players will almost always wind up losers. I will give advice on how to be a skillful and winning player rather than a losing one; I can sum the whole principle up as follows:

If you aren't beating the game, you are being outplayed. There is a reason why you lose, even if you can't figure it out.

Mathematically, all things are possible. Out of a hundred thousand players, there will be two or three good players who consistently hold bad cards and lose when they should win, and there will be two or three poor players (to balance them) who consistently hold good cards and win when they should lose. It is a form of self-deceit and a matter of flying in the face of probabilities to think you are one of the unlucky few if you are losing when you think you should be winning. For nearly all players, the cards do even up in the long run.

They do not come out exactly even - that would be as unusual, over the course of a lifetime, as for a player always to have 10 percent the better of it - but they come close to even. Most players will hold somewhere between 48 percent and 52 percent of all the good cards they are entitled to. That creates a range of 4 percent.

The minimum advantage of the good poker player over the poor poker player is 10 percent and in a game in which there is a wide disparity - as when one very good player plays with a bunch of total palookas - the advantage can be 25 percent or more. Therefore a consistent bad card holder (who gets only 48 percent of the good cards) will still have enough percentage in his favor to make him a winner. If he is a poor cardholder he may win a little less than he should, and if he is a good cardholder he may win a little more, but he will still win.

The conclusion is this: when you are convinced that you are playing the game as well as possible, and then if you still lose your only recourse is to find a different game to play in, a game in which the other players are not quite so good. Don't give up on the game though, there may come a time when it will be the perfect way to pass the time when it arrives!
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