There is one particular moment though which happened very early on in my poker career that stands out among all others. And it is still to this day the guiding principle and reason behind why I play this game. And why I succeed at this game.
Hopefully this will help some of you out in your games.
This is a Game That I Can Beat
I, like many others, started playing poker during the mid 00's when it was all the rage. Chris Moneymaker has just won the world series. The WPT was blowing up on TV. And of course online poker was beginning to take off.
But a part of my poker career that I have never really talked about is the full year that I actually just played for play money before I ever sat down in a real money cash game.
I, like many others, had my doubts about whether this was a game that could even be beat at all. I started playing online for two reasons:
- It looked like a lot of fun
- It was free (fake money chips)
Well none of this mattered because I was grinding the play money games day and night. And a funny thing occurred. I started winning big. I started climbing the ranks and eventually I was hitting the "high roller" play money tables on Partypoker and PokerStars playing for millions.
That Lightbulb Moment
Many of you might have a similar story. Anyone who takes this game seriously at all should be able to crush play money. The reason why is that when nothing is on the line nobody plays seriously at all. Even to this day all you need to do to beat the play money games is play tight.
But this really was my first lightbulb moment in this game. Surely I couldn't just be getting lucky every single day right? I was one of the first to hit 20 million on Stars, the limit at the time. Why did I always seem to win more than everybody else?
The reason that I was winning so much was because I was playing better cards than my opponents. I also figured out how to bet those hands when they connected with the board. And lastly, unlike everybody else, I learned to make use of the fold button sometimes too.
The "aha moment" was that poker is indeed a skill game. This is a game that I can beat. To put it most succinctly:
As long as my competition makes more mistakes than I do, then I will eventually win.
The Transition to Real Money Play
Now I would eventually go on to sell a bunch of my play money riches for a real money bankroll. I have never deposited a single penny online to this day. This allowed me to overcome my hangup in that regard.
And I certainly did not expect the real money tables to be as easy as play money had been. I was in fact shocked by the difference when I started at the very lowest stake, 1c/2c. When even $2 is on the line people play completely different.
However, the same principles applied. I was an absolutely terrible poker player back then. My only real strategy still was to "play tight." Oh and bet my hands and find the fold button once in awhile as well.
But this was still easily enough for me to crush these games too. No matter how bad of a poker player I was, my competition was still far worse than me. So I slowly climbed up the ranks in the real money games as well having huge success along the way.
Fast Forward to 2016
Now of course this isn't 2008 anymore and the online poker landscape has changed considerably. The regulars are much tougher even at the very lowest stakes and the fish are harder to find. This has reduced the edges quite a bit.
Many of the ridiculous winrates that I am famous/infamous for in the past are simply not possible in today's games, at least while mass multi-tabling as I always did in those days (24 tables).
However, though the edges (and therefore the winrates) are smaller in today's games that same cardinal rule applies:
If you play against competition who play worse than you, then you will win in the end.
So this is why I have consciously made a huge transition in my approach to online poker in the past 5 years. The days of sitting down on 24 random tables are long gone.
I never sit down at a table these days unless there is a clear reason to be there. I have talked about table selection to no end on this blog and elsewhere.
And I have even been called the "bumhunter king of the micros" among other pejoratives because I suggest an intelligent approach to the game.
Play Against People Who Are Worse Than You
You see as the games have tightened up in the last 5 years everybody else has been trying to re-invent the wheel in online poker. They study complex mathematical theories like GTO, make sure their triple barrel range is merged, count hand combinations and on and on.
Me? I am just trying to find some bad poker players to play against. I play tight against them, I bet when I make a good hand and I find the fold button once in awhile. And I win.
I don't play poker in order to outwit good poker players. I would rather play chess or Starcraft if mental masturbation was the goal. I play poker to make money.
I have said it before. If there comes a day when there are no more bad players in poker I will quit the game forever. I will also stop writing on this blog, writing books, making videos etc.
But that day has not arrived.
There are still plenty of people out there at the micros who play worse than me. Sure, it requires some effort to find them and chase them around but I do it because I know why I play this game.
And heck, there is always still live poker too.
The moment that everything made sense for me in poker happened very early on in my career. And it is such a ridiculously simple concept that I think many people still miss it to this day:
Play against people who are worse than you (preferably far worse) and you will win in the end.
Poker is really a very simple game and many people over-complicate it so much for themselves these days by searching for tiny edges against good poker players.
When you know your "why" in this game though, then you will stop with all this silliness. Much like I avoid parties with all dudes, I also don't sit in poker games with all good players.
You will instead find me playing against people who are considerably worse than me. I will play fairly tight, I will bet my hands and find the fold button once in awhile. And because of this, I will keep winning.
Let me know your thoughts below on this article. Did you have a "light bulb moment" in your poker career?
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