Poker is often played in a casino. This is the same type of establishment where slot machines are pulled, dice are rolled, and roulette wheels are spun. Maybe because of this association, many people lump these games into the same category. But poker is not like these games. Poker is a game that can be routinely beaten, because it is not a game of luck but rather a game of skill. You don’t play against the house or dealer but rather other human opponents. When a player sits across the table from another, the player with the most skill will certainly have the advantage. The longer the two play, the more likely the better player will end up with all of the chips. The question that I am addressing is “What skills determine who the better poker player is”? There are 3 fundamental areas where one player can have an edge over the other.
1. Understanding the math.
Poker is very much a math based game. A large emphasis is placed on probability and statistics. Many of the games mathematical decisions are made from understanding that there are 52 cards, and that there are a certain amount of cards left to be dealt. Good players only put chips in the pot (the total amount of money played by each player in a particular hand) when it is favorable to do so. The determining factor of rather not it is favorable, is a concept called “pot odds”. Pot odds are the ratio of the current size of the pot to the cost of what it takes to call the previous bet. Pot odds are compared to the likeliness of hitting your hand by the river/ The likeness of hitting your hand is also called equity.. When your odds of hitting the hand are better than your pot odds, then you should call the bet. The player who can more accurately determine his equity and pot odds has a large advantage against those who cannot.
2. Gathering information quickly
Poker is a game of impartial information. You can never be sure of the 2 cards that your opponent holds in his hand. But, there are many cues that can help you piece together a range of hands your opponent is likely to have, thus allowing you to make the correct decisions. Examples of these cues include, Body language, siting position of a pre flop raiser, even assumptions like age of the opponent or how a person dresses can be valuable in aiding to narrowing a players hand range. Probably the action that gives the most information is bet sizing. Bet sizing in relation to the size of the pot can be very telling, especially when bets are abnormally large or small. It is important to gather as much information as possible, but a good player uses that information to pick up on the tendencies of his opponent, then exploits them. The player who gathers the most info and uses it correctly will have an advantage.
Poker favors aggressive actions. Aggression in poker can be rated based on how often you bet and raise rather than check or call. Aggression often allows you to win pots without having to show your hand. This allows you to conceal how you are playing from your opponents, as well as potentially win hands when you don’t actually have the best hand. Putting pressure on your opponents will force them to make decisions. Forcing decisions increases your opponent’s chance of making a mistake. This is clearly an advantage. Winning players make less mistakes then their opponent. Aggression is an important factor in making that happen.
Working on these 3 aspects of your game will get you closer to your goal of being a good poker player.