The Poker Lab Rat

January 29, 2008

Quotes from poker professionals

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 4:46 am

Jennifer Tilly - professional poker playerJennifer Tilly
Poker is an extreme sport. You can’t sit out and say, “Oh well, this is good enough.” You have to be always swinging through trees. You are never safe.

 

 

Paul Wasicka poker proPaul Wasicka
I can’t tell you what it’s like to win a WSOP event. People who aren’t big time wear bling (WSOP bracelets) to “prove” they are. The WSOP gives out scores of those bracelets every year. Me? I’m just here to bring home the bacon.

 

Annie Duke professional poker playerAnnie Duke
All-in is an easy choice. It is the choice that takes the least thought. It is, in fact, an abdication of choice. It’s like abandoning responsibility: if you are bluffing, the skill comes in determining the smallest bet that will still matter to your opponent, the smallest bet that will tell a good story about the strength of your hand and will get your opponent to fold….and determining that bet amount is hard – certainly much harder than just making the choice to go all-in.

Mike Caro poker professionalMike Caro
In poker and real life, you’re sometimes seeing an illusion of success. Don’t; let it discourage you. Keep plodding. Keep making correct decisions. If you do that, you’ll leave most of the weak players far behind – and keep gaining on the lucky ones as they begin to falter.

 

Mike Matusow poker professionalMike Matusow
I’m considered the best Omaha Hi-Lo player in the world. And I believe I am! But as good as I am at Omaha, most people say that’s not my best game; they say I’m better at No Limit Hold’em. So I’ve got real good at a couple of games and, when I’m on my game, there’s not many better than me. My biggest problem is – what makes Ivey so good is that his concentration is so good – whereas I mentally slip a lot.

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January 26, 2008

Phil Ivey on disrespecting money, golf and tournament poker

Filed under: Phil Ivey,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 11:40 pm

You can’t be afraid when you play in the cash games. You have to have a certain disrespect for money. If you have, say, $500,000 in front of you, you can’t think, “Oh man. I can buy a house”. You have to think about making the right decisions and seeing what’s in front of you as chips instead of money. Many people can’t be successful as cash players because they think, “If I lose this in a half-hour it would be devastating.” You have to be able to go on with your life. All my gambling experience has made me better equipped for being able to deal with losing money.

I’ve been doing a lot better in tournaments. Before I would play cash games all night – 14, 15 hours – and go right into the poker tournament. I would end up not playing my best. I’m going to prepare better for the poker tournaments I play in. I’m going to try the best I can. In a lot of poker tournaments, if there’s a good cash game going on the side, I wouldn’t try too hard because I would want to go get into that game.

It was hard for the top players in tournaments because there were cash games going on where you could go and make more money. It’s tough to gear down for a poker tournament when the most you can win is $500,000 or $600,000. You play for that every day in big cash games. I would feel I had wasted all that time and could have been playing in a cash game. I love cash games and making real money, but I just decided I wasn’t going to waste my time or money by not giving my best at tournaments. That’s why I’ve been doing a lot better in poker tournaments.

So why do I play in tournaments? I like them; they’re very competitive – very intense down to the end. It’s much more intense than a cash game when you get to the final table.

I’m pretty stoic at the poker table. It comes naturally. It’s just concentration and paying attention to what’s going on. When I lose a tough hand, it doesn’t bother me that much. Not that I’m not emotional or concerned with what’s going on. It’s just another poker hand, it’s not that big a deal. I’ll get lucky and win hands I shouldn’t and lose hands I shouldn’t lose. I try not to put too much into any one hand of poker.

Poker is about living in the moment. Just like golf, it’s one shot at a time. You don’t want to get too ahead of yourself. On the golf course, you don’t think five shots ahead. You think only about your next shot. And of you have a bad shot, you don’t want to think about that. You forget it and move on. That’s why poker and golf are so similar when you’re playing at a competitive level.

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January 24, 2008

Pro Tips: Tilt Control

Filed under: Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 10:24 pm

I wrote On Cavemen and Poker Players, a while back, and talked about the importance of learning to control your emotions at the poker table. Since then, I’ve had time to further refine my views on this topic, especially when it comes to the concept of tilt.

Ben Roberts UKs most successful cash game playerTo begin, let me state the obvious: tilt happens to everyone. In fact, it’s safe to say that tilt is one of the most feared words – and concepts – in poker. So, what causes tilt? Well, that’s different for everyone. For some, it’s a bad run of cards or continuously getting unlucky when you’re opponents hit their miracle two and three-outers on the river. For others, it’s just playing poorly for an extended period of time.

No matter the cause, however, the fact remains that once most players do finally go on tilt, all bets are off and their games suffer. They end up playing the wrong cards in the wrong situations or at the wrong times and losing a lot of chips. For some players, this can be the beginning of a vicious cycle that feeds upon itself and, eventually, destroys their confidence along with their bankrolls.

Knowing what causes tilt is one thing, but the bigger question is, what is tilt? Personally, I believe it’s a chemical reaction that takes place in your brain. It’s similar to the primal emotion of being in danger, coded into our DNA just as if we’re in the forest being hunted so many thousands or years ago. Instead of being chased by some wild animal, we’re being hunted by other players looking to gun us down with another bad beat.

The effect of this primal emotion is enormous – your whole chemistry changes and you go into a different frame of mind that will completely change the way you play the game. The key to stopping this from happening and going on tilt is the ability to separate yourself from that emotion. Rather than playing based on that primal instinct, you should continue to play smart, thoughtful poker without worrying about your short-term results.

In order to achieve this, you must train yourself to believe that winning and losing at the poker table, at least over a short period of time, both have the same meaning. This might seem counterintuitive at first, because the object of the game is always to win. But you have to accept the fact that you can’t win every hand and that losing is a part of the game.

Look at how you approach a coin flip situation. If you’re winning at the time you’re faced with a coin flip, you’re going to be more hesitant to take that chance because you don’t want to risk losing what you’ve already won (and possibly more). If, on the other hand, you’re presented with the same situation when you’re losing, then you’re probably going to be more willing to take the risk and go for the coin flip because you want to win your money back. Either way, I think both cases are detrimental to your game because in either situation, you’re more worried about the short-term outcome rather than about playing solid poker over the long term, which is what being a winning player is really all about.

When you become indifferent to winning or losing over the short term, you won’t have to worry about going on tilt because you’re focusing simply on playing good poker. That’s all that matters at the end of the day – playing well. As poker players, we can do nothing more than to play our best game and let the cards fall as they may. When you adopt this attitude, your long-term results will take a turn for the better, no matter what kind of variance you face over the short term.

Ben Roberts

Nicknamed “Gentleman Ben”, Ben Roberts is the UK’s most successful cash game player. He was born in Persia, but moved to London when he was a teenager.

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January 19, 2008

Pro Talk

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views — Mike @ 10:18 pm

Dan Harrington - style and substanceDan Harrington former lawyer turned poker pro on what he wanted to be growing up:
It’s really simple, I always knew I wanted a job where I could draw a big fat paycheck and would get paid for doing absolutely nothing.
(Dan’s won $5.5 million to date in tournament winnings)

 

Jennifer Tilly demonstrating why many poker players dislike AmericansJennifer Tilly on the sportsmanship of the English poker pros:
The English have a thing they do when they leave the table. They stand up and shake everybody’s hand, and say “Well played” to the person who knocked them out. In America, they say “I can’t believe you sucked out on me!” or “What a donkey call”, or, (contemptuously) “Nice river!”

Jennifer again, commenting on the realization that her card handling technique was making her fairly transparent at the table: I can’t believe he saw my cards, and even more astonishing, I can’t believe he told me! How many players would give up that kind of edge? …After that, I am very careful to slide the cards off the glass completely flat.

Phil Gordon quintessential poker professionalPhil Gordon when asked to name the player he just can’t get a read on:
John Juanda. For some reason he is the toughest player I play against on a regular basis. He’s capable of changing speeds at any moment. He just has my telephone number. I just don’t understand it. Every time we’re in a pot and I call him, he turns over the nuts. And every time we’re in a pot and I fold, he turns over a complete bluff.

Joe Haschem Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi OiJoe Hachem when asked if he’d describe himself as a gambler:
Oh, no. I don’t play any table games. I don’t sports bet. It just doesn’t interest me. Poker is my passion, it’s my only gambling. I don’t understand how people can stay from not being broke if they’re gonna gamble.

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January 16, 2008

Gone Fishing: Short Handed SNGs

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 10:03 pm

Most people are familiar with the differences between one-table Sit & Go tournaments (SNGs) and other forms of poker. Because these tournaments only pay the top three finishers at a nine-handed table, the standard strategy is to play conservatively until the tournament becomes short-handed and then become more aggressive during short-handed play.

Many newer SNG players favor these nine-handed tournaments because the blinds only increase every six minutes, providing a good amount of play. While these are great tournaments, I also encourage people to try other types of SNGs, including turbos where the blinds increase every three minutes, and six-handed games where you start off playing short-handed and only the top-two finishers are paid.

For really fast-paced excitement, however, I play six-handed turbo SNGs where I’m facing both short tables and quick blinds. The structure of these SNGs forces me to play each hand more carefully as the combination of fast blinds and short-handed play means one mistake can be crippling or even fatal. They also let me finish in time for dinner.

Succeeding in these tournaments requires making some adjustments to your standard SNG strategy. As with any short-handed table, one of the most important things you need to do is open up your starting hand requirements – but not too much. You shouldn’t be playing trash, especially in early position, but you should be willing to see more flops in hopes of hitting a big hand. That said, you shouldn’t play with the intention of stealing blinds – especially in the early going – as there’s just not enough value in that play to make it worthwhile.

This leads me to the biggest mistake I see many people make in these kinds of games, which is playing too loose. For some reason, people think they have to go crazy at short-handed tables in an effort to pick up chips early on. Generally, one or two players go broke right away and, all of a sudden, you have four people left at the table with only two spots getting paid.

Once you’ve lost a couple players, there’s usually one person who’s built up a big chip stack and plays too aggressively in an effort to bully the rest of the table. You have to hang tough in this situation, even if you’re sitting on just around 1,000 chips. The bully wants to double you up, so you might as well let him.

If you are lucky enough to double up or accumulate chips early on, don’t give them up easily. Instead of siphoning off your chips by calling raises out of position or trying to steal too much, pick your spots carefully and continue to play tight, aggressive poker.

Because these short-handed tournaments only pay out two places, you should begin applying more pressure on your competition as you approach the bubble. Your goal should be to finish first, as you’ll earn three times your buy-in as opposed to just doubling your buy-in for second place. Look for the player who is just seeking to squeeze their way into the money and attack their stack as much as possible in order to force their hand and hopefully, induce a mistake. At this point, the quickly rising blinds should force the bubble boy to push all-in with a less than stellar hand.

Overall, it’s a simple but effective strategy. Play relatively tight and put yourself in a position to double up through the table bully in the early to middle stages, and then attack when you reach the bubble. This will put you in position to make the money and play heads-up for the win.
Scott Fischman – is an American professional poker player based in Las Vegas, Nevada. At the 2004 World Series of Poker (WSOP) he became the youngest person ever to win two WSOP bracelets. At the age of 23 he won one at no limit hold’em and the other at H.O.R.S.E..

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January 14, 2008

Mike Caro: Two Main Profit Concepts for Texas Hold’em Poker

Filed under: Mike Caro,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 3:35 am

Profit concepts for Texas Holdem Poker

Those two concepts aren’t trivial. They combine to form a key to a meadow where money grows! The key unlocks the 20-ton gateway to your success at Texas Hold’em poker.

Your most important decisions involve your first two cards

You need to be more selective about which hands you play. No matter how good you are, if you play every Hold’em hand, you will lose. So, you’ve got to discipline yourself not to play most hands. You need to realise – and remind yourself frequently – that every time you fold a starting hand correctly, you’ve earned money. You grow richer as you fold.

That’s an easier concept to grasp intellectually than it is emotionally. They money you earn is the same money you didn’t lose by pursuing a pot when it wasn’t profitable. Sure, you’re abandoning all chance of winning the pot by folding, but you must learn never to think in terms of winning pots. Your eventual profit doesn’t come from winning pots; it comes from making good decisions.

The Truth

If you imagine how mush you’d win or lose if you played all similar pots to their conclusion, you can see the truth. The truth is that even if you win the pot you’ve actually lost money if all those similar pots averaged together would have resulted in a loss. Over time, you will win or lose approximately what you mathematically expect on each hand, regardless of the immediate outcome. Over the years, all those savings will add up. That money remains in your pocket, and you can spend it.

Of course in determining which hands to play and which to fold, you need to remember that the earlier your position, the more selective you need to be. That’s because the earlier you enter a pot, the more apt you are to act first on subsequent betting rounds. And acting first is a distinct disadvantage, because opponents get to see what you do before making their decisions.

In the earliest positions, in a full-handed game (9 or 10 players), you might even be so selective that you only play pairs of Aces, Kings or Queens, plus Ace-King (suited or unsuited). Depending on the playing styles and abilities of your opponents, you might liberalize that, but not greatly. In later positions, after opponents fold, you can become much more relaxed about the hands you select. For instance, in the dealer position, you can raise with King-Jack and show a reasonable profit.

But this item is not about starting hands. I just want you to understand the concept that selectivity is vital and you can play more freely in later positions. The weaker your opponents, the more starting hands you can play, because you can gain ground by outplaying them on future betting rounds.

If you don’t fold, the flop will usually disappoint you.

If you do not grasp this, you’ll go through your whole Hold’em life feeling cheated by fate. Unless you hold a pair of Aces or Kings, most of the time the flop will leave you vulnerable. Usually you won’t connect in ways that will help your hand. If you hold 7-7, then any flopped card higher than a seven means opponents might have made a higher pair. If you begin with Ace-King and don’t pair or make an unlikely straight on the flop, you’re in trouble. Most of the time, you’re going to be in trouble when you see the flop!

The Key

Remember the two parts that form the key. First, the most important decisions you make involve how you play on the first round of betting, and you need to fold most of the time. By folding, you actually earn money. Second, when you decide to play, the flop will usually make you unhappy and if you could you’d have the dealer reshuffle and deal the flop again.

To maximise poker profit, raise less frequently before the flop than most aggressive players do. This isn’t because you’re a wimp. I teach an aggressive, but selective style of poker. But before the flop in Hold’em isn’t always the best place to display this style.

Yes, there are times when you can dominate opponents by pre-flop aggressive play, sometimes chasing them away; but pre-flop raises are vastly over rated. Even if you have an advantage, it may not be enough to justify a raise. Poker theory tells us that you often need a substantial advantage to raise, because you can face re-raises from opponents who, unexpectedly, have even bigger advantages. But the fact that the flop will usually disappoint us diminishes the perceived advantage of most Hold’em starting hands.

If Texas Hold’em poker were played by dealing one communal card at a time, followed by separate betting rounds, it would make more sense to raise aggressively with quality starting hands. But with three cards at once in the flop, the prospects for both you and your opponents are defined by the flop. You’ll usually be disappointed, and so will they. We really don’t know what’s what until the flop.

Often the value is in waiting and seeing what develops on the flop. Then if you have a great advantage, you can pursue it. The most profitable Texas Hold’em poker style is to play more aggressively after seeing the flop than before it. Not always, but usually.

Skillful players often give weaker opponents too much of a chance by building a big pot before the flop. Often, they would have better control of inferior opponents by waiting. Against an opponent of equal ability, it would be perfectly fine to move all in with 10-10 against K-J. You’d have a slight advantage. But against a weak opponent, you really want to see the flop. Then, if the flop is A-K-6, you can cheaply abandon your hand. And if the flop is A-10-4 or 6-4-2, you can become the aggressor.

If you are aware that Texas Hold’em Poker is a game where the flop defines your hand and will usually disappoint you, you won’t be frustrated by “bad” flops. And you can tailor your game in accordance with this great truth. Use the key.

Mike Caro

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January 11, 2008

Poker Pro: Bluffing in PLO

Filed under: Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 9:41 pm

Brandon Adams is a member of team Full TiltBluffing can be one of the most profitable plays in poker. However, its success is often blunted by the fact that it’s also one of the most misunderstood and over-used plays in the game.In Omaha, players may find even more reasons to bluff – and to get themselves into trouble – than they do in Hold ’em because four starting cards can lead to huge draws and present almost irresistible opportunities to try and steal pots from opponents. The key to bluffing successfully in this game comes from knowing when to make the play and who to make it against.

One of the best bluffing opportunities in Omaha comes on paired boards, but to pull this off, you have to know what kinds of paired boards to look for. Let’s say you’re involved in a hand with two other players. You’re in late position and have called a pre-flop raise only to completely miss on a flop of K-K-8 rainbow. The flop is checked around to you, and you consider bluffing to see if you can steal the pot. My advice – don’t do it.

If your opponents are experienced and knowledgeable players who generally play premium starting hands, one of them probably connected with the board and is likely slow-playing a monster. Bluffing here gives him a chance to come over the top or just flat call and let you keep throwing chips into his made hand.

Now, let’s take the same scenario and change the flop to something like 3-3-7 rainbow. Bluffing on this board makes much more sense because it’s likely that opponents who are playing strong starting hands failed to connect on this board. Experienced players may read your bet here as being credible because you could have very easily called a pre-flop raise with a small hand and hit the board hard.

If you happen to connect with trips or a full house on a board like 3-3-7, you should bet your monster in hope of getting called by someone with a worse hand or to induce a bluff re-steal into your made hand. Conversely, you should be wary about betting this kind of board if you have a mediocre hand like T-T-9-9, as your bet will give your opponent the chance to play perfectly against you; he’ll call or raise when ahead, fold when behind, and occasionally bluff you with a worse hand. My advice is to check this type of hand and reassess on the turn.

As a rule of thumb in Omaha (and in Hold ’em, for that matter), I find that low and messy flops are easier to bluff at than bigger boards because most players are looking to play more premium hands that are more likely to connect with higher cards. Sure, you may get called by over-pairs or big draws on occasion, but you’ll also win the hand often enough to make this play worthwhile.

While paired boards provide some of the best bluffing opportunities, flush boards can also offer some interesting opportunities. For example, let’s say you’re just holding the Ah and the flop comes with three other hearts. You can’t make your heart flush to win the pot outright, but you can still steal it away from an opponent who has a lower flush since they’ll be wary about betting or calling into the possible nuts.

This play takes some courage as you may have to bet each street in order to win the pot, but it can also be very profitable against solid opponents because it’s unlikely that they’ll call on the river if you’ve represented the Ace-high flush throughout the entire hand. Be careful about betting your naked Ace too often though as seasoned opponents will eventually read your bluffs and counter-play by calling more often. Of course, this also means that you’ll likely get paid off when you make the same kind of bets and really are holding the nut flush.

Picking the right boards and situations is just one part of successfully bluffing in Omaha and in other games. Equally important is picking the right players to bluff against. If you’re in a hand with a calling station who’s unlikely to ever lay down a hand, your chances of bluffing them off a pot are pretty slim. On the other hand, if you’re facing a solid opponent who may reasonably believe he’s behind in a hand, your bluff is much more likely earn you some valuable chips.

Bluffing is an important part of any player’s arsenal and keeping these thoughts in mind the next time you sit down for a game of PLO can help you out-gun the competition.

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January 7, 2008

Quad Tens Cracked by Queen High Straight Flush. Bummer.

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views — Mike @ 4:26 am

Visit PokerLabRat.com for poker room reviews, news and viewsWe’re sick of hearing poker bad beat stories – and so should you be! This is mainly because so few are really (statistically) bad beats and most players just want to have a good whinge. It happens, get over yourself…

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January 4, 2008

Pro Tip: Chris Ferguson’s first for 2008

Filed under: Chris Ferguson,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 11:43 pm

Chris Ferguson plays poker online exclusively at FullTiltPoker.com

In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart tried to define what may or may not be considered obscene under US law. In the end, he determined that no definition existed, but that when it comes to obscenity, “I know it when I see it.”

The same holds true when you’re talking about running badly at the poker table. You may not be able to identify what’s going wrong, but you know its happening. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no single definition or criteria for “running bad” because it means something different to everyone. For some players, it’s posting 10 or 12 losing sessions in a row. For others, it’s losing a dozen coin-flips during a single session. “Running badly” depends on the individual and on the metrics they’re using to judge their performance.

Whatever the definition is, the fact remains that everyone runs bad at one time or another. What separates successful players from those who go bust is how they handle themselves and their bankrolls when their cards go dead. For me, running bad doesn’t mean having a few losing nights or taking a few bad beats over the course of a session. That’s variance and it’s an inevitable part of the game. In my mind, running bad is something bigger that happens over the long term.

If you’re not sure whether you’re really running bad or not, start by stepping back and analyzing your results over a statistically significant timeframe. If you see a consistent pattern of losing sessions over a matter of weeks or months, then it’s likely that you’re having some real problems with your game. The key to getting back on track is figure out what’s actually going wrong.

For many players, running badly is a vicious circle; they suffer a few losing sessions and begin to tilt, which leads them to alter their playing styles in order to change things up. Soon, they do actually start playing badly, which leads to more losing sessions, and a continuation of their downward spiral. They lose because they’re running badly and they’re running badly because they’re losing.

If you look at your game and believe that you’re actually playing well but are just getting unlucky, then maybe you are. Aces get cracked by lower pairs. Sets get beaten by flushes, and hands get drowned on the river more often than you might think. My advice in these situations is to walk away from the game for a while. Take a break, regroup, and come back when you’re mentally refreshed and are ready to start playing again. Don’t, however, begin changing your game to compensate for bad luck. Focus on the fundamentals, look for good starting hands, and try to play the most solid poker you can. In time, your luck will change.

Whatever you do, however, don’t try to step up in levels in order to try and recoup your losses. I’ve seen many players go bust at times like these because they’re too focused on trying to rebuild their bankrolls by gambling rather than by playing smart poker and moving down to play at a lower level. Think about it; if you’ve been losing, chances are that you’re playing on a smaller bankroll than normal, which means that you’ll be risking a higher percentage of your remaining funds by playing at higher stakes. With a smaller cushion behind you and more of your bankroll at risk, it doesn’t take long for things to go from bad to worse and for you to lose everything you had left.

On the other hand, by moving down a level or two, you’ll be risking less in the short term while you try to rebuild your bankroll. Sure, the pots you win may not be as big as those you win at higher levels, but weighed against the odds of going broke, it’s a trade-off I’m willing to make. What’s more, by moving down, I may only have to play at a lower level for a month or two to recover my losses whereas if I go broke after moving up, it could take me a year or more until I’ve recovered. That’s a pretty persuasive argument if you really value your time.

While I can’t tell you whether you’re really running badly or not, I can tell you that your mental state does impact your game. If you’re feeling good, chances are you’ll play well and, if you’re not, chances are you won’t. Rough patches are part of the game and learning how to handle short-term adversity without losing your confidence or your bankroll will make you a better player in the long run.

Chris Ferguson

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January 1, 2008

Mike Caro on Poker and Life Strategy

Filed under: Doyle Brunson,Mike Caro,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 10:50 pm

Mike Caro only endorses online poker at Doyles Room

In gambling you can’t beat many games, because the odds are fixed against you. So, you need to stick to the ones for which your skill is sufficient to win – such as poker, private wagers, gin rummy, and sometimes blackjack. Avoid roulette and craps. These are games with odds that are permanently on the casino’s side. There is no way you can overcome this disadvantage, so you shouldn’t play. But life’s different. You’re in that game, even if you sometimes wish you weren’t – and your decisions always matter.

Gambling games are merely formalized, simplified ways of experiencing exactly the same risks we experience in everyday life. Formally or informally, you gamble.

Not surprisingly, many of the same strategies I’ve lectured about and analyzed with computers apply just as powerfully to everyday life as they do to formalized gambling. Here are some useful examples of gambling tips and philosophies I hope you’ll successfully be able to adapt to the world around you.

1. The cards probably won’t break even–not in gin rummy, not in poker, and not in real life. There’s a common misconception that if you play poker long enough the cards will break even. Fat chance! Maybe, if you could play forever, never stopping, never sleeping, eventually you’d break even on luck. But not in just one lifetime! Early on you’d probably break even on, say, the number of full houses you were dealt, but it would take much longer to break even on circumstances surrounding those full houses.

You might lose more hands than you should lose on average. On the other hand, sometimes opponents might have nothing to oppose you with, and you’ll win nothing. You might get many full houses when you’re sitting in big-limit games, or you may receive most in smaller games. You might be against weak opponents, you might not. On and on. And the more factors you consider, the broader the range of luck, and the longer it will take for you to break even.

Does this mean some people are luckier than others for their lifetimes? You bet! But there’s good news. You can still win, year after year, in gambling games requiring skill, even if you’re not lucky. How? Simply by making the best decisions again and again without fail. Then, instead of being a break-even big-money player who may win $100,000 one year and lose $100,000 the next, you might win $250,000 in a lucky year and win $50,000 in an unlucky year. In this over-simplified example, the $200,000 swing from lucky year to unlucky year isn’t enough to cause you to lose. At seminars, I teach that you should go to the poker table day after day on a simple mission. That mission is to make the best decisions always, and never worry about whether you’re lucky or unlucky. You can’t control your luck, but you can control your decisions.

Same in life. Some people spend half their lives in hospitals. Others are healthy. All your belongings might be swept up in a tornado. You might discover a million dollar painting in you attic. Stop expecting life to be equal for everyone. It won’t be. Your mission is simply to make the best decisions with the “hands” you’re dealt.

2. If you’re a winner–in formal gambling or in life–you should never try to get even “for the night.” By doing this, you’re perverting your practice of making meaningful decisions while pursuing a meaningless goal. The mistake is in looking at each gambling session, or each financial venture, as a game to be won or lost. Don’t! In poker, it’s better to win $10,000, lose $2000, and lose $500 than to win $4,000, win $998 and win $2. In the first case, you won $7,500, but you only had one win and two losses. In the second case, you won only $5,000, but you won all three times. Oddly, most gamblers and most people in real life unconsciously feel better about the second scenario than the first. Such feelings are natural, but they’re also dangerous.

If you agree with me that $7,500 is better than $5,000, then you should clearly see that it doesn’t matter where the profits come from. The next two points are closely related, and they demonstrate how most people diminish their overall success.

3. Never make anything worse. Sure, it sounds obvious? But guess what? I’ve never met anyone who didn’t make things worse sometimes, including myself. People get angry, and they make things worse. They lose at business or at romance, and they make things worse. It’s because they’re feeling so miserable that those extra losses don’t seem to register. In gambling, I call this dangerous practice crossing the threshold of misery. Here’s how it works.

A player sits down at blackjack thinking that the worst that can happen is he’ll lose $500. Everything goes wrong and suddenly he’s losing $1,000. He has now crossed the threshold of misery and maximized his ability to register pain. Losing $1,114 doesn’t feel any worse than losing $1,000. That extra $114 doesn’t matter, and so he concentrates less and plays worse. It happens all the time in life. Romance does this to you. Unexpected misfortune does this to you. Decisions that would normally matter (like that extra $114 in blackjack) don’t seem to matter by comparison. But these decisions all add up. In life people who are heartbroken sometimes make the worst business decisions imaginable. Those decisions don’t seem to matter much compared to the heartbreak. And those decisions all add up, and eventually they will matter.

In poker, many lifelong losing players would actually be lifelong winners if they simply never made things worse. Worse out of anger, worse out of exasperation, worse out of apathy, worse out of self-pity, worse out of temper. If it doesn’t matter now, it will matter tomorrow. So from now on, promise yourself you will never make things worse. You will never make things worse.

4. What you’ve already invested doesn’t matter. Too many poker players damage their bankrolls by calculating how much they personally “invested” in the pot before making their decision about whether to bet or fold. Don’t do that. The pot, all that money you’re competing for, is simply there. It doesn’t matter where it came from or how much of it you invested. It wouldn’t matter whether it had originally been all yours or whether the players just happened to find it forgotten on the table. The pot belongs to no one right now.

Same in life. It doesn’t matter how much money, how much time, how much effort you have invested in a project. Say you purchased land for $50,000. One morning you wake up and it’s only worth $25,000. That same day, someone offers you $40,000. You should accept this offer, because you’re not losing $10,000, you’re gaining $15,000. That’s because what the land used to be worth doesn’t matter, and what you’ve invested doesn’t matter. You don’t need to win on this investment. The trick is to make winning decisions again and again and let lifelong success take care of itself. Ignoring taxes, write-offs or anything else that will complicate this example, the land is worth $25,000 now. You can get $40,000 by selling. Selling is the right decision, and it has value–in this case, $15,000.

5. Never seek sympathy. I teach gamblers never to complain about bad luck. First of all, nobody really cares. Their own exaggerated memories of personal bad luck dwarf whatever you’re complaining about. And if you complain to opponents–such as in a poker game–they’re inspired because you’re unlucky. They’ll think you’re not a force to be reckoned with, they’ll play better, and they’ll cost you money.

It’s the same in life. There’s absolutely no reason to tell tales of misfortune. You’ll inspire life’s opponents, and you’ll lose esteem among life’s allies. So, if your luck is bad, keep it to yourself.

6. Keep your hand secret. If you habitually exposed your poker hand before the showdown, opponents would know what you had, and they’d know for certain whether to play against you, whether to raise you, whether to pass. It would be stupid to play poker that way, but people do that everyday in real life. How? They don’t keep secrets. Listen: Never volunteer personal information to anyone who isn’t a friend, unless you know specifically that you have something to gain by volunteering the information. Sound heartless? Well, OK, it’s all right to volunteer useful information if it can’t harm you. It’s also all right to give information sometimes if you’re getting information in return.

But think back. I’ll bet for every time you regretted keeping secrets, there are many more times you regretted telling secrets. People simply give away too much information, and it eventually haunts them. Secrets can seem insignificant at the time they’re shared, but later the sharing turns out to be an important mistake.

Like it or not, successful people keep secrets much better than unsuccessful people, just as successful poker players conceal their hands better than unsuccessful players. Repeating: It’s a fact that people who succeed keep secrets. Never reveal important information about yourself unless you have a specific reason for doing so. Starting now, practice telling yourself mentally why you’re giving information before you give information.

People talk about their lives and their opinions, giving information that may later be damaging. They do this because they want to seem friendly. But, there’s a special way you can be just as friendly and, instead of putting yourself in jeopardy, gain an advantage. How? Instead of giving information about yourself, use the same time to ask other people about themselves. If you’re talking to a potential competitor, don’t volunteer information; ask for opinions. I do this at the poker table. After a hand, I ask an opponent how he would have played. Usually, the player is flattered and offers a sincere answer, such as he would have bluffed. I remember that answer, and weeks later–long after the opponent has forgotten our conversation–I call and win the pot. It’s the same in real life. You remember the information, and you use it later.

By the way, when I consult with businesses, there seems to be one recurring problem that comes up again and again. How can supervisors best smooth up relationships between themselves and employees who don’t like them. The answer is simple. Ask the employees for their opinions. In life, you can patch up most relationships simply by softly asking a person: “What do you think?”, “What would you do in this situation?”, “How would you handle this?” People are universally flattered when you ask for opinions. It works with enemies, it works with employees, it works with children. Trust me, and try it. And it’s consistent with the powerful poker technique of concealing your own hand while learning as much as you can about your opponents.

One of life’s most important goals is to gain as much useful information from others as possible, while guarding your own secrets wisely.

7. Don’t humiliate your opponents. Always allow opponents to save face, no matter how tempting it is to gloat. When you make it painful for opponents to lose, they play better, but you want opponents to play worse . Additionally, life is complicated enough without motivating people to get even with you. So, always give those you conquer a chance to save face–unless you’ll never have to confront them again.

In poker, it’s the same–unless your opponent is permanently broke after losing this pot, don’t humiliate him. Angry players often return to harm you. Don’t gloat; win graciously.

8. Don’t even the score. This one’s hard on your ego, but listen anyway. In life you don’t need to get even with the person who did you wrong. Similarly, you don’t need to get even with the person who bluffed you in poker. You shouldn’t care where your next opportunity to gain comes from. You don’t have to get even or break even with anyone. Play the opportunities as they arise. Success stacks up the same, no matter where it comes from. Some people are so busy getting even, they never have time to get ahead.

In gambling and in life, a few people are going to get the better of you. So what? If you won a bet on a basketball game, would you be upset that the other team’s center scored more points than your team’s center? Of course not! You won the bet, so what do you care? Same in life. If you win overall, don’t fret over a few lost skirmishes, and never waste energy trying to get even with those who beat you.

9. Act last. Almost no one realizes the importance of acting last. At my poker seminars, I teach how important it is to understand your position at the table. Players must act in turn, and those who act after you have an advantage because they get to see what you do before they make their decisions. So, I teach that you should use psychology and make friends with players who act after you. They’ll then be less motivated to exploit their advantages. This works in life, too. Befriend those who have an advantage, so they will be less motivated to make it difficult on you. That’s important, and I’ll repeat it: In life, make friends with those who could do you the most damage.

And there’s more. You should usually strive to gain advantage by acting last. If you’re sure that everyone will have an equal chance to act, it’s better–with few exceptions–to wait to see what your opponents do, then adapt your strategy accordingly. In poker, we call it a positional advantage. Let’s call it the same thing in real life.

10. Save your fancy moves for when you’re running good. In skillful gambling, when your luck is running bad, opponents often become inspired and play better. You’re no longer a force to be reckoned with in their minds. Most of your fancy plays won’t work because you’ve lost the intimidation factor, which is fundamental to many aggressive strategies. At these times, you should become a more timid player. In life, do the same thing. Sometimes in conversations or in business, things aren’t really clicking and you’re losing ground. You can feel it happening. Play defensively. Your image is wrong for asserting yourself, so–if possible–just lurk and don’t take a stand yet. Many people desperately try to prove themselves when they are at a disadvantage, but they ought to just sit silently. As a bonus, this silence often seems like strength to others. Repeating: When you’re at a disadvantage, or you’re just not in sync, don’t try to prove yourself immediately. Wait it out. Sooner or later an opportunity will come, and then you can be profound or assertive.

11. Cheer for your friends. I want to warn you about envy. Many people don’t want their friends to succeed. In gambling, I never feel envious of friends who are winning more than I am. I want my friends to succeed so they can share their secrets, so they can tip me off to better games in the future, so they introduce me to rich novices looking for a game–all sorts of benefits. If your enemies win, you don’t get any of these advantages. It’s the same in life. You should want your friends to succeed always. The more friends you have succeeding, the more opportunities you’ll have. It’s just plain crazy, but common, to be jealous of your friends’ successes.

12. Don’t fret over each injustice. In gambling and in life, there’s always injustice. Bet on it! Poker’s worst starting hands often win. And bad players sometimes get lucky. In life, the same. In fact, there’s so much injustice that we couldn’t possibly devote ourselves to setting things right.

Next year there will probably be 246 unbelievably unjust things that will happen to you personally. Cashiers will hand you too little change. People will spread falsehoods about you. Someone will misunderstand what you say. Crooks will scam you. On and on. And we’re guessing that this will happen 246 times next year. If it only happens 230 times, you’re having a good year! So, you can either just going on to the next thing, or you can damage you chances of success by dwelling on each injustice, talking about it, fuming over it. All that fusing, all that fuming, all that waste of mental energy really doesn’t make sense. Why should you get aggravated, especially if you’re having a good year? So, simply, learn to overlook injustices unless you’re prepared to act on them. Yes, It’s noble to act against injustice, but it’s wasteful to dwell on personal injustices you’re not willing to act on.

USOK_1If you’re USA-based, play and chat with top professionals online (or just hang out at a table or two like me) at Bookmaker Poker or BetOnline Poker.

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