6 Dumb Poker Myths You Should Stop Believing

6 Poker Myths You Should Stop Believing

This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Fran Ferlan.

Poker is a game that’s been around for a while, and over time, it has developed its own set of myths and misconceptions. 

Some of these affect the way people play the game, and they can lead to poor decision making, and ultimately, worse poker results.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at 6 common poker misconceptions, explore if there’s any merit to them, or should you dispense with them altogether.

Poker Myth #1: Poker is All About Luck

Poker being no more than a game of chance is by far the most prevalent poker myth you should stop believing. 

It’s mostly propagated by people who don’t play poker in the first place, but it’s quite common in people who frequently play poker as well.

The logic goes along like this: 

Poker is gambling, and all gambling games are luck based, therefore poker is a game of luck.

It’s true that poker is gambling in so much that you’re wagering money on uncertain outcomes. But that alone does not make it a pure luck game.

Poker is all luck

There are pure skill games like chess, and there are pure luck games like roulette or the lottery. 

Poker is a game of luck in so far that the outcome of any given hand is uncertain.

However, since there are better and worse ways to play poker (i.e. more and less profitable), this makes poker primarily a game of skill.

For example, there are better and worse starting hands in no-limit hold’em. If it were a game of pure chance, each starting hand would have roughly the same chance of winning, which is not the case.

You don’t have to be a genius to realize that pocket Aces are a better hand than 72 offsuit.

If poker was all luck, there would be no difference between the two. When you play the lottery, certain numbers aren’t objectively better than the others. There are no patterns, no rules, and no strategy.

In no-limit hold’em, on the other hand, pocket Aces will win against 72 offsuit 87% of the time. 

You may argue that it’s all luck, but you’ll still play pocket Aces more often than other hands. Why would you do that if it were all luck, anyway?

Bottom line: there are better and worse ways to play poker, which makes poker a game of skill. There are no better or worse ways to play the lottery, save for not playing it at all.

Check out my other article on why people think poker is all about luck.

To be fair, poker has a short-term luck element involved that can’t be overlooked. That’s why it’s important to recognize that success in this game takes time. 

It takes time for your skill edge to truly manifest. If you’re not satisfied with your results so far, don’t worry, because nobody got there overnight.

As long as you know that you can improve your results by taking the time to work on your game, you’re already way ahead of the competition.

Check out Nathan's recent video with the 5 simple tips to quickly improve your poker game (and profits).

Poker Myth #2: Online Poker is Rigged

One of the most commonly believed poker myths is that online poker sites are somehow “rigged” for action.

In other words, online poker sites deliberately fudge the algorithm in order to induce players to bet more. 

Since the site takes a small percentage of every pot (aka the rake), it’s in their best financial interest to constantly deal out “action cards” so the players would make bigger pots, which means more profit for the site.

To be fair, there have been a number of fraudulent sites with scummy business practices in the past. But there’s fraud in every industry, and the poker industry is unfortunately no different. 

Wherever there’s money to be made, there will be unscrupulous people who don’t mind defrauding others for their personal gains.

But by and large, online poker sites are heavily regulated and scrutinized. If you play poker online, you should only do so at reputable, licensed poker sites.

The fact is, there’s no reason for poker sites to rig action in their favour. 

They already have a fantastic business model. After the site is set up, it becomes a literal money making machine with very little maintenance costs. 

Why would a reputable poker site risk losing its licence for the prospect of pinching a few pennies more at the microstakes?

Online poker rigged

You might say that greed is not rational, and fair enough. And these pennies do add up tremendously over the long run.

But the fact is that these sites make money because people trust them with their money. 

This trust is what keeps them profitable, and it’s what’s keeping the lights on. Much like a bank or another financial institution, it can’t operate without the trust of its users.

This means that rigging the games is just not worth the risk. Frauds like these get discovered sooner or later. 

This brings us to the second point why online poker is not rigged. 

When you listen to the theories of online poker being rigged, there’s usually not a shred of evidence for these claims besides the anecdotal evidence of a disproportionate number of coolers, setups, and other unfortunate events in online games compared to live games.

People have a hard time coming to terms with randomness, especially “negative” randomness. Instead of accepting it as an integral part of the game, they craft narratives as to why bad things happen to them. 

This means they often miss the point that bad beats happen to everyone, all the time. 

Another reason why poker sites are not rigged is the fact that it would be nearly impossible to build an algorithm that’s somehow rigged for action AND the one that’s impervious to getting discovered. 

It’s far easier (not to mention cheaper) to simply make a random number generator.

Check out my other article on why people think online poker is rigged for more info on the topic.

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Poker Myth #3: Winning Poker is All About GTO

Poker is a game that’s constantly evolving. For every strategy, there’s a successful counter strategy. 

This has led to the question of whether it’s possible to create a perfect strategy that can’t be countered in any way.

Enter GTO, or Game Theory Optimal. 

GTO strategy means playing in a way that stops the other players from exploiting you, and making it harder for them to guess your hand strength.

GTO poker strategy is bad advice

This is different from an exploitative poker strategy, i.e. the one that targets the weaknesses of other players, but also has weaknesses of its own.

GTO strategy has no weaknesses, but it also doesn’t exploit the weaknesses of other players.

Example Hand #1

You are dealt AA UTG (under the gun). You open-raise to 3x. 

A player calls from the CO (cutoff).

Pot: 7.5 BB

Flop: K83

You: ???

What you should do in this spot depends a great deal on the type of opponents you are up against.

Suppose you were up against a recreational player who likes to call a lot. You would make a c-bet 100% of the time with a strong hand like this. Conversely, you would check if you didn’t have a strong hand.

This means that the more observant players could figure out that you’re only c-betting the flop with a strong hand, so they can theoretically play perfectly against you.

The GTO solution would be to sometimes check the flop with strong hands, and/or balance your range by throwing out occasional light c-bets as well.

A light c-bet (or a bluff c-bet) is a c-bet made with the intention of getting your opponent to fold, as opposed to a value c-bet, where you want your opponent to call.

GTO poker comes down to balance and frequencies, i.e. how often and how much to bet in certain spots to constantly keep your opponents guessing.

As you start climbing the stakes, it’s important to at least be aware of GTO strategy to stay competitive against more skilled opponents.

But knowing all the intricacies of the GTO strategy is not absolutely crucial to win at poker, even in today’s environment.

In fact, getting too wrapped up in GTO theory can actually hurt your results, especially if you’re playing the lower stakes.

GTO only works if you’re playing against a table full of skilled, observant opponents who are tracking your every move.

And the fact is, this simply isn’t the case in most in-game situations. 

You are not playing against a table of robots who make perfectly rational decisions at all times based on all the available information. 

You are playing against living, breathing humans with limited ability to process information and dubious judgments at best.

Unless you are playing against world class professionals, virtually every player you encounter at the felt is going to have leaks in their game. You just have to know where to look to find them.

This means that being adaptable is going to produce much better results than getting too wrapped up in solvers and trying to play perfectly against theoretical opponents that don’t even exist.

Again, this is not to bash GTO in any way. This is just about not putting the cart before the horse. 

GTO is an advanced poker strategy that shouldn’t come before a solid foundation of knowledge.

A lot of players get into the GTO thinking it’s some sort of a magic bullet, while having a tenuous grasp of more fundamental poker concepts at best.

Bottom line: being familiar with GTO is useful when you’re up against skilled opponents, but a vast majority of players you’ll encounter have enough leaks in their game which makes GTO a suboptimal strategy, especially at the lower stakes.

Contrary to the common lamentation on many poker forums, most players are not playing anywhere close to GTO.

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Poker Myth #4: There Are More Bad Beats in Online Poker

One of the gripes some players have with online poker is the fact there are allegedly more bad beats and setups online than in a live poker environment.

This one is not actually a myth, but a fact.

There truly are more bad beats online than in a live brick and mortar casino.

However, this doesn’t have anything to do with the rigged RNG.

There are more bad beats online because you simply play way more hands online than you ever could at a casino.

More hands played equals more bad beats. But when you look at the whole sample size, you realize that there is nothing particularly special about online bad beats.

Let’s say you play a hundred hands live and suffer a single bad beat. Then, you play a thousand hands online and get 10 bad beats.

Are there more bad beats online? Technically, yes, but if you look at the percentage, it’s still only 1% in both cases.

Of course, I’m not saying that you will suffer 1% of bad beats for every hundred hands you’re playing. This is just an example to illustrate the point.

Here’s another piece of good news: bad beats are actually good for you, and the more of them you get, the better.

This sounds weird, but bear with me.

Bad beat means that you’ve put the money in with a huge mathematical advantage, but that edge didn’t manifest in this particular instance.

But it doesn’t matter, because you’ve played the hand perfectly, regardless of a bad outcome. 

If you keep putting your money in with a mathematical advantage, you’ll do much better than the players who “keep getting lucky”.

The math is on your side over the long run. As much as bad beats suck at the moment, remember that they make the game profitable in the first place.

Good players suffer bad beats, and bad players inflict them. 

If bad beats annoy you, check out my other article on how to deal with poker variance.

Poker Myth #5: It’s Easier to Win at Higher Stakes

Of all the poker myths with a backwards logic, this one has got to be the worst offender.

According to this theory, it’s easier to beat the higher stakes than the lower stakes, because players play more logically at the higher stakes, make less mistakes, and therefore don’t give you as many bad beats as the weaker, recreational players at the lower stakes.

Better players also allegedly “respect your raises” more, meaning they are actually able to fold their hands from time to time.

6 Dumb Poker Myths You Should Stop Believing

This makes it easier and more profitable to bluff them, so you don’t have to rely exclusively on your hand strength to win the pot.

To give credit where credit is due, it is true that if you want to make decent money playing poker, you’re probably going to have to play higher stakes. 

Also, the rake becomes less of a concern once you start climbing up the stakes.

The rake is notoriously high at the microstakes, which is one of the reasons a lot of players struggle to turn a profit. 

When you play higher stakes, not only are you paying less for the rake, but you’re also getting more money back in the form of a rakeback.

So you should definitely work on improving your game and building up a bankroll to play on higher stakes as your skill level progresses.

However, if you intend on jumping stakes, first make sure you’re beating your current stake over a reasonable sample size. 

Also, make sure you’re beating it comfortably, not just barely breaking even.

As you climb the stakes, you can expect your winrate to decrease, because you will encounter tougher opposition on average, meaning your skill edge over your competition will decrease.

This is precisely the problem with the theory that it’s easier to beat higher stakes than the lower stakes.

You wouldn’t make such a statement for any other competitive arena, so why would poker be an exception?

To be fair, recreational players can be frustrating to play against. They seem to constantly get lucky against you, and it’s as if they’re getting rewarded again and again for their asinine plays.

Not to mention the fact that you can never put them on a hand because they play just about any random hand dealt to them.

Example Hand #2

You are dealt AK and you open-raise to 3x from the MP (middle position).

A player calls from the BU (button). ♥♦♠♣

Pot: 7.5 BB

Flop: K63

You c-bet 3.5 BB. Villain min-raises to 7 BB.

Let’s say the villain is a loose and aggressive recreational player. It’s virtually impossible to put them on their exact hand in spots like this.

While you could probably narrow down the range of other player types in similar spots, in this example it's an exercise in futility.

You have a top pair top kicker hand on a fairly dry board, so your hand is probably ahead, and you should continue playing it. 

But you have no way of knowing what the villain is holding. They could hold absolute air or a monster hand or anything in between.

Against other players, you could probably exclude hands like K6, K3, or 63, but you can’t do so against this player type, because they will routinely play nonsense hands like these and sometimes smash the flop in an unpredictable way.

They could also hold a hand like 54, 74, or 75, or any other drawing hand that has a huge chunk of equity against you.

But here’s the rub: 

Just because you can’t read your opponent's hand in a precise manner, it doesn’t mean you can’t beat them.

If you know the player type, you will know that your hand is good most of the time, because it’s so far ahead of their overall range. 

It doesn’t matter if a small part of their range beats you, or if you happen to run into the top of their range.

In spots like these, it can be frustrating to lose to a hand like 63s. But you have to remember that a player who is playing 63s is losing money over the long run, no matter how many times they get lucky.

It might seem that it would be easier to play against opponents that aren’t making boneheaded plays all the time, because it would spare you the frustration.

Here’s the deal, though. 

If you can’t beat bad, recreational players, you certainly can’t beat more skilled players who are making less mistakes. 

In poker, most of the money you’ll win won’t come from your genius plays, but from the mistakes of your opponents.

The math is simple: the more often your opponents make mistakes, the more money you’ll make.

A lot of players get the impression that they’re losing because of the ineptitudes of their opponents, but this is just an excuse to protect their ego.

Why would you be mad if your opponent makes a mistake? Worse yet, some players berate the other players when they make a mistake.

This kind of venting may make you feel better at the moment, but it makes zero sense from a strategic point of view.

If your opponent makes a blunder that causes you to lose a huge pot, take note of it, smile, say nice hand, and move on.

Bottom line: Climbing the stakes is a must if you want to make more money, but you shouldn’t just skip ahead to a higher limit if you’re not already beating the lower limit at a decent level.

It may seem like a good idea to play against players who aren’t totally unpredictable and actually “respect your raises”, but it’s a backwards logic if you think about it for more than two seconds.

Instead, leave your ego at the door and play the stakes you have a reasonable chance of beating. This usually involves moving down the stakes, not up.

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Poker Myth #6: You Can Read a Player’s Hand Based on a Tell

Another prevalent poker myth is the belief that you can read someone’s hand based on a physical tell, like the way they handle their chips or the way they scratch their nose.

Physical tells are an important part of poker, and paying attention to your opponent’s body language can give you clues about their hand strength.

However, physical tells are only a part of the story, and they aren’t as reliable as they’re cracked out to be.

What’s particularly problematic is relying on physical tells without taking in the whole context into account, or over relying on physical tells over other, more important information, like your opponent’s ranges, betting patterns, action sequences and so on.

In other words, physical tells are only a piece of the puzzle, not the solution to the puzzle itself.

Another problem with physical tells is that they’re unreliable at best. No two players are the same, so a similar physical tell can mean the exact opposite thing with two different players.

For example, a player becomes very chatty in the middle of the hand. What does this tell you? 

They could be relaxed because they have the stone cold nuts, or they could feign confidence because they are bluffing. Or they might just be naturally chatty.

Either way, you have no way of knowing for sure unless you take the whole context into account. 

There’s also the problem of reverse tells to consider. 

Good poker players are aware of the physical tells, so they will do their best to not give off any information with their body language. 

They may even go a step further and deliberately give off “false tells” in order to deceive their opponents.

For example, they may intentionally appear weak when they are strong and vice versa.

This means that relying on physical tells can be confusing at best, and lead you to totally wrong conclusions at worst.

In order for a tell to be reliable, a player needs to give it off unconsciously and routinely. 

And the fact is, most physical tells don’t fit these criteria to be reliable.

Also, physical tells will be more common in weak, inexperienced players who routinely make all sorts of fundamental strategy mistakes, anyway.

This means that you often don’t even need to bother with figuring out their tells. 

All you have to do is follow the tried and true tight and aggressive (TAG) poker strategy, and patiently wait for them to donate their money to you.

As with a lot of other pop culture myths, Hollywood is largely to blame for this one. 

While reading someone’s hand based on the way they eat their Oreos may make for a compelling cinema, it’s still mostly fiction.

This myth becomes detrimental to newer poker players who get the false impression they need to become a body language expert to excel at poker.

While this certainly makes for an interesting topic, it’s important to realize that winning poker strategy is much more math-based.

Figuring out how to calculate the expected value (EV for short) of your plays will be much more beneficial to your poker results than paying attention to your opponent’s blinking patterns or their level of fidgeting with their chips.

Check out Nathan's recent video for the simple formula to TRIPLE your poker winnings.

6 Dumb Poker Myths You Should Stop Believing - Summary

To sum up, here are 6 common poker misconceptions you should dispense with.

1. Online poker is rigged.

There are undoubtedly some scummy sites out there, but online poker is by and large heavily regulated and scrutinized, and reputable poker sites have very little to gain, and everything to lose by deliberately rigging the games for action.

2. Poker is all about luck.

While there is a short-term luck element involved, poker is a skill-based game, and better players win more in the long run. The problem is that the long run is far longer than most people realize.

3. Winning poker is all about GTO.

GTO is important when you’re playing against skilled and observant opponents, but the fact is that most players play far from perfectly for GTO to be an optimal strategy, especially at the lower stakes.

4. There are more bad beats online.

There are technically more bad beats online, but this simply has to do with the sheer speed of online poker compared to live poker. More hands played means more bad beats on average.

5. It’s easier to win at the higher stakes.

Higher stakes games may get raked less, they also have a more skilled player pool on average. If you want to jump stakes, first make sure you’re beating your current stake with a decent win rate over a reasonable sample size.

6. You can read your opponent’s hand based on a physical tell.

Physical tells are an integral part of live poker, but it’s important not to read too much into them. They can be unreliable at best, and totally misleading at worst.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $2000+ per month in small/mid stakes games, grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

6 Dumb Poker Myths You Should Stop Believing