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I’ve basically posted this in a thread as well as on here, just to see people’s thoughts.

This thing called poker…

It’s an interesting game this Poker. You play cards, you make bets on how good you think you are compared to someone else’s “hand” and whoever has the better of it wins. And people make millions doing this every year!

Not quite. It’s neither not that simple or as easy as it sounds. So I’m going to take a moment to really sit down with you and talk you through exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

The Game
Poker is about doing the right things long enough for the law of large numbers to take effect. In the Poker world it is called EV – expected value – but it means the exact same thing. Salesmen use it, investors use it and now you’ll be using it. Let’s say I have a bag filled with 100 coloured balls. There are ten red balls and 90 blue balls and I’ll give you $100 for every red ball you pull out. Ready?

You can reach in and take hold of a ball, pull it out and find out it’s a red. $100 for you. Now what happens if the next 90 balls you pull out are blue? Are you going to stop playing just because you haven’t picked the other 9 red balls or are you going to keep picking because you know that at some point you’ll get them?

Law of large numbers. I’ll tell you something that is going to shock you hard and possibly make you faint. Are you ready? Right, here it is….If you play No Limit Hold ’em and go all-in every time you get AcAh and I call you always with 7s2d I will win around 12.5% of the time. That’s right, out of 1,000,000 (1 million) times we do it I’ll come out ahead 122,000 times. You will LOSE with your AA over one hundred thousand times.

That’s what I mean by the law of large numbers. What happens if you lose all 122,000 times in a row? Well you’ll feel sick in your stomach, mostly likely say that the game is rigged and want to push me out of the window. However, the next 878,000 times you will beat me! You’ll win around 87% of the time, ALWAYS.

If you ever want to do more than have poker as just an expensive hobby then you’ll need to wrap your head around this law. Are you tough enough to deal with it when your aces/flushes/set/whatever get “cracked” by the numbers? You’re playing by the big laws now.

Your future in Poker
What do you want out of this game? Before you even pick up a deck of cards you need to know what you want out of the game you’re about to play. Now this doesn’t have to be set in stone but it has to be true for where you are in your life right now. Are you going to be a recreational player? Do you want to know enough so that you’re a “winning player” when you decide to play or is it more? Do you want to make as much money as possible until you find your true calling or is this your future? You must know where you want to take the game or else you’ll get nowhere fast and perhaps even learn to hate it.

This is completely personal and comes down to what you want out of the game. There are some people who play because they enjoy it so only learn what they need to know in order to “beat” whichever level they are playing at. There are players at all levels which are like this, they will never be great players but they will be very good ones and they will bring in the money. I’m sure there are some on here who are just focused on the money, focused on beating their level and secretly don’t give a flying fuck about getting out of their comfort zone. After all, why should they?

And you know what? That’s perfectly fine. That’s exactly what they want out of the game. But what do YOU want to do. First of all you MUST have your short term, medium term and long term goals laid out in regards to Poker (and life in general if you want to get anywhere). Focus on these goals, live and breathe these goals, become ONE with these goals. Above all, know the cost of these goals. Are you willing to pay the price of getting where you want to be? No one knows what that cost will be until we have to pay it. Don’t not-push yourself but never over-stretch yourself either.

Starting out
First you need to work out exactly how much you can afford to start with and understand the concepts of Bankroll Management. I’m going to put my own thoughts about BR management here…..

It comes down to WHERE DO YOU WANT TO TAKE THIS!

There are going to be a lot of people who tell you to move up as soon as you can. Find a “good” level where you can play at and move up after you gain 20-30 buyins for the next level. They’ll say just move between levels if you have to, keep taking shots until you reach it. But the reality is it has to be down to you, you’re the person who is going to have to “take those shots and miss” before finally getting the hang of the next level. Some people are fine with that but there are a lot who with each passing “miss” they hurt more and more.

My advice comes in two parts:

Recreational player – You want to just enjoy the game and make money. Follow the 20-30 buyin rule and shift between levels until you reach your settling point. This is where you could go higher but you’re ok where you are…for now. Maybe “for now” lasts a few months, maybe you never get past it but that’s ok.

I want to be the best I can be – Use tighter rules. Right now I am using a minimum of 50 buyins per level. Yes, even at 2nl to 5nl I am looking to go from 50x2nl to 50x5nl ($100 to $250). Why? Because I need to learn what 2nl means. My advice for those who want to learn about Poker in all its being is to find a place which has a decent 2nl level (Stars is the best one I’ve found) and grind! Grind, grind, grind! Or failing that, get to a soft 5nl level and do the same.

You see, poker isn’t just about AAs vs 72o. It isn’t about trapping someone when you have the nuts or making a play and getting people to lay down the best hand. Poker isn’t even about making money. Poker is about all those things and so much more. Poker is a microcosm, a world within a world in which you are the explorer. It’s your choice how much of the world of Poker you wish to see. Be a traveling adventurer or a stay-at-home-guy-made-good. It is anything and everything you want it to be, and you can only see it all by learning about each level you come across.

A lot of regs might be up in arms about this “gasp, deliberately be “over rolled” at xnl, NEVER!”. But let’s look at it from two different angles. Basics and money.

Basics – You need a platform in which to build on. You need to understand betting patterns, hand selection, folding, pot odds, implied odds and everything else out there. Being at the bottom level, with decent play (rather than UBs AI fest), is the perfect arena for you to learn what you need to in order to become a solid poker player. You can’t hit a bullseye if you don’t know how to throw a dart (or use a gun for those of you who have never seen such a fine English sport).

Money – For some people $100 doesn’t mean anything. For some money just doesn’t hold too much of an importance unless it’s the “big bucks”. For others the very fact of losing 5 pounds/dollars from your pocket is going to freak you out for the rest of the week. Which is why there are different buyins for different people, with 20-30 being the starting block. What’s losing $2 if I have $100? 2% of my bankroll is fine. But maybe I can’t deal with losing 3%, or 5%. In which case a $50 roll at 2nl is bad for me but a $100 isn’t.

Who to listen to?
Find the person who is the most exceptional person at the level you want to be at and do everything they do. Easy.

Seriously. Keep an eye on who gives you advice, who gives “pearls of wisdom” and who just tells you you’re an idiot for playing that hand. Read up on anyone and everyone who seems to want to help you, take their words with a pinch of salt until you can be sure they KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT. And even then, adapt what you’re told into your own life. Take what you can use and discard the rest. Even this article, ignore it if you don’t consider me a good enough person to learn from.

You see, not everyone has been in the situation you are in and not everyone is in the situation you want to be in. If you want to know how to earn $30,000 a year then listen to career advice from someone earning $30,000 a year. But they sure as hell are not going to be able to teach you how to earn $100,000 a year. Find out where someone’s mental state is at, at what level have they allowed themselves to peak. Is that where you wish to be? If so, listen to what they are talking about. If not, listen, take notes, but understand there is more that what you are hearing. Otherwise the person giving you the advice would be at a higher level than they are.

Timing is Key
Some people make it to x-amount a week/xnl within months. Some people take years. Just like the law of large numbers, the time-frame is equally important and not so important at the same time. Take as long as you need to, know that it isn’t going to happen yesterday. But also know that the more #s you work through the faster you’ll move up. You can’t get to 100nl from 5nl by 1-tabling, 2 hours a week for 3 months but you might be able to get close after learning how to 4-table for 30 hours a week for 3 months.

That’s 24hrs total play vs 360hrs 4-tabling (1,440hrs total). See how the law of large numbers always comes into play?

See you at the tables!