Sunday, September 30, 2007


It's unfortunate that several bloggers had to leave PokerWorks for various reasons, including the UIGEA and problems with Google. It sounds like it was a difficult business decision.

I liked having all these engaging writers and poker players together at one site. But at least they will keep writing at their original homes, where they may feel more comfortable and able to write with a stronger voice.

I wrote a dumb post questioning what was going on with PokerWorks yesterday, but I deleted it shortly afterward when I saw Linda had posted an explanation.

I look forward to reading Change100, Amy, Maudie and Joe Speaker at their original blogs. And I'll still enjoy reading CC and Grubby on PokerWorks. Keep it up!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A failed bluff at an AAX flop

I got a bit bluff-happy with this hand. It's similar to the one I posted the other day, but this time I may not have left myself enough of a stack on the turn for the bluff to be big enough. Or maybe my opponent just made a good read.

I don't know...this is another situation where I felt strongly that he didn't have the Ace, and I didn't believe he would be able to call a river bet without it. This time, it didn't work out.

3/6 6-max
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to smizmiatch [Qs Td]
1 fold
smizmiatch raises to $21
2 folds
gmauction calls $15 from BB
*** FLOP *** [Ac 6h Ah]
gmauction bets $30
smizmiatch calls $30 (Maybe this was the biggest mistake of the hand. I wanted to look like I was slowplaying, but a raise may have given myself more credibility. However, I wouldn't have had enough chips left to make a move on the river if I had raised here.)
*** TURN *** [Ac 6h Ah] [Jd]
gmauction bets $102
smizmiatch raises to $250 (Too small?)
gmauction calls $148
*** RIVER *** [Ac 6h Ah Jd] [3s]
gmauction checks
smizmiatch bets $343, and is all in
gmauction calls $343 (I'm surprised he called with just a J ... what can he beat except a bluff?)
*** SHOW DOWN ***
smizmiatch shows [Qs Td] a pair of Aces
gmauction shows [Qc Js] two pair, Aces and Jacks
gmauction wins the pot ($1,288) with two pair, Aces and Jacks

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I won a tourney!

I took down the monthly WPBT event today. It was a pretty solid field. I only really got lucky on the last hand, when I hit a set of Queens on the flop against AA. The rest of the tourney I just tried to play my game and take all the chips I could. I guess tourneys don't have to always be donkfests.

I enjoyed playing with Mattazuma, Schaubs, stevenwe, Patchmaster, StatikKling, Kameelah, bdidde and columbo. (Screenshot linked from Mattazuma's site -- please let me know if you that's uncool.)


I got an interesting comment from Ryan to a post I wrote about Casino Arizona recently:
I need help. I play daily at Casino AZ. I recently left medical school and a 100K per year job so i could move out west to be with my sick father. I am readig/studying/playing poker non stop when i am not with my mom and dad so that i can spend more time with them later as opposed to the rigid schedule of a 9 to 5 job( or Dr.) I'm doing well... but could be doing alot better. I havent been able to find any postings or books on the particularly unique type of poker they play there. 5/150 is a semi spread limit/no limit game. I have a good undertstanding of it but i would really like some help/tips from all of you pros on how I could improve my game at this level. I could go to vagas and play true no limit but that would defeat the fact that i need to be close to my family right now in this very tuff time. I work hard and dont quit, and really feel poker is my calling. SO any tips would be greatly apprecated. Thanks for you help in advance.
The Casino Arizona 5/150 games come in two varieties -- one with a $350 buy-in and another with a $1,000 buy-in. The $350 buy-in game has 3/5 blinds and a $150 maximum per betting
action. The $1,000 buy-in game has 5/10 blinds and the same betting maximum.

The cap doesn't isn't very relevant in the $350 buy-in game because one max bet and another max raise will get players essentially all in unless they've built up a deep stack. I didn't play the $1,000 buy-in game while I was there, but I imagine the cap plays a bigger role, making me think the game would need to be played with more of a pot limit-type strategy. That means players will more often have pot odds to call with their draws and there will be more suckouts. But the cap also minimizes losses when those suckouts occur, so it goes both ways.

The real difficulty in trying to play this game full time will be making significant money off of it. Yes, it plays loose, on par with almost every live game I've ever sat in. That's a good thing, and I believe these games are beatable.

But the problem is the slow rate of play, the rake and the jackpot drop. I'm not sure what the rake is (probably 10 percent of the pot with a $5 max per hand -- please correct me in comments if I'm wrong). The $1 jackpot drop is taken out of the blinds, so even if everyone folds around and the blinds chop, they still lose $1 from a pot that no one even played. That's pretty ridiculous.

So if you anticipate playing 30 hands an hour and winning three of them, you'll probably pay somewhere between $12 and $18 an hour in rake and jackpot drop. If you're beating the $350 buy-in game for 10 bets an hour, that's up to $18 taken out of your $50 winrate, which is significant. The rake wouldn't appear to be as damaging in the $1,000 buy-in game if you're a solid winning player -- $18 or so out of a $100/hour rate. Even these figures are optimistic however; I'm not sure how feasible a 10 bet per hour winrate is. Five bets per hour may be more realistic, which means the rake's cut of your winnings would be much more damaging to your profitability.

Ed Miller wrote about this topic in a recent post.

My primary advice would be to supplement live poker with online poker. Live poker is a tough grind, and you can play so many more hands online, thus improving your hourly earnings. I wouldn't want to try to make a living at live tables at the stakes Casino Arizona spreads.

I'm sure Ryan would appreciate any other advice commenters could contribute.


Here's a fun hand I (mis)played at 2/4 today where I won a nice 400-bet pot with a mere pair of 5s. I put my opponent on an overpair, so I gave myself up to 18 outs -- nine for the flush, two for trips, three for two pair and three for the gutshot.

The problem is that I miscalculated the pot odds. The pot was $604, and I had to call $480 on the turn, which means that even 18 outs weren't enough. I should have folded, given my read.

Fortunately, I'm a lucksack. My flush outs were no good, but my little pair of 5s held up!

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to smizmiatch [4c 5c]
3 folds
smizmiatch raises to $14 from the button
1 fold
JustCuts raises to $46 from the big blind
smizmiatch calls $32
*** FLOP *** [6c 9c 2d]
JustCuts bets $65
smizmiatch calls $65
*** TURN *** [6c 9c 2d] [5s]
JustCuts checks
smizmiatch bets $190
JustCuts raises to $743, and is all in
smizmiatch has 15 seconds left to act
smizmiatch has requested TIME
smizmiatch calls $480.90, and is all in
JustCuts shows [Ac Kc]
smizmiatch shows [4c 5c]
Uncalled bet of $72.10 returned to JustCuts
*** RIVER *** [6c 9c 2d 5s] [Td]
JustCuts shows Ace King high
smizmiatch shows a pair of Fives
smizmiatch wins the pot ($1,562.80) with a pair of Fives

Friday, September 21, 2007


Sometimes it takes a three-street bluff to take down a pot.

I liked this hand because it was so easy for me to represent a monster, and I felt confident my opponent couldn't call without the nuts. He was in the big blind, and he seemed weak.

I wonder what he had?

Dealt to smizmiatch [6h 6d]
smizmiatch raises to $35
BB calls $25
*** FLOP *** [4c Kd Ad]
BB checks
smizmiatch bets $60
BB calls $60
*** TURN *** [4c Kd Ad] [9c]
BB bets $110
smizmiatch raises to $330
BB calls $220
*** RIVER *** [4c Kd Ad 9c] [Qh]
BB checks
smizmiatch bets $602, and is all in
Gensuru folds
smizmiatch wins the pot ($852)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Status report

"I don't believe in luck. It's all mathematics. Everybody runs the same. I believe in taking personal responsibility for my play. I see too many posts in which people say they run bad or are unlucky, and so on. I believe that you make your own results, and that everything comes down to your decisions. No one else is in control but yourself. People think that the cards have a role in the results, and they do in the short run, but in the long run, it'll all even out. If your results aren't good, it's most likely because you're not playing well."
--Brian Townsend, CardPlayer Magazine

I've been playing and running well for the last couple of months. I'm learning more and my reads are steadily getting better. This game is all incremental -- the path to victory comes one step at a time.

My career winnings are approaching $100,000, although it will take a bit longer before my bankroll gets to that point, probably not until next year. That's OK. I'll get my vacation before too long.

I'm closing in on being able to take another shot at the 10/20 games. I'll move up when I near 30 buy-ins for that game, which is tougher than 5/10.

There are so many people who are terrible at 5/10, and only a few who I respect. Those are the regulars who are very aggressive and still pull down a profit. Anyone can be a maniac, but that doesn't mean they'll make money.

I fell short of my goal of reaching a $100K bankroll by March, but that's just a small setback. In the big picture, I'm still on track toward the broader goal of moving up as high as my ability and bankroll allows. Even if I don't immediately succeed at 10/20 this time, I will next time. And then I'll repeat the process for the next limit.

Or perhaps I'll find a ceiling to my abilities and will have to be at peace with whatever limit I can beat.

That would be OK too, because I'm not going anywhere. I'll never let myself go busto. I might whine about bad beats sometimes, but those are temporary. I'll still be playing.


Here's a hand of the day. The table chat got pretty lively afterward. My opponent said I made a "donkey call," and I told him it was easy to call such a donkey bluff. My read was that this opponent would fire two bullets at any large pot, and I figured I was ahead as long as a scare card didn't fall. Both the turn and river were safe cards, so I had to call down.

4 calls
Hero raises to $70 from the button with Kc Td
Two calls
Pot is $245
*** Dealing Flop *** [ 9s, 8d, Ts ]
3 checks
*** Dealing Turn *** [ 9d ]
MP checks.
Villain bets $170
Hero calls $170
MP folds.
*** Dealing River *** [ 5c ]
Villain bets $380
Hero calls $380
Villain shows Js, Ad for a pair of Nines.
Hero shows Kc, Td for two pair, Tens and Nines.
Hero wins $1,342

Monday, September 17, 2007

One more time

I was really bored and couldn't sleep on the flight back from Phoenix to Honolulu, so I ended up doing some lengthy poker math.

Here's what I wanted to find out: When you hold QQ in the big blind against a late position raiser and a small blind re-raiser in a 5/10 shorthanded game, is it better to call or push?

I addressed the first part of this question in a few previous posts, where I estimated the EV of calling with QQ and pushing any flop without an Ace or King. The number I came up with was $180.12, which is a high estimate because it doesn't consider the ~7:1 chance of my opponent flopping a set. But I think it's safe to say that making this play is well in positive figures.

So on the plane, I figured the EV of pushing with QQ in that same situation. The results were much worse: -$40.90.

Pushing with QQ preflop against two raisers is a donkey move. Call and push any undercard flop in this specific situation.


The Math:

(Chance that both LP and SB will fold * winnings) + (Chance that LP will fold and SB will call with QQ * winnings) + (Chance that LP will fold and SB will call and be ahead * losses) + (Chance of LP or SB calling when ahead but QQ sucking out * winnings) + (Chance of both LP and SB calling when ahead but QQ sucking out * winnings) + (Chance of both LP and SB calling when ahead and QQ losing * losses) + (Chance that SB will fold and LP will call when behind * winnings) + (Chance that SB will fold and LP will call with QQ * equity * winnings) + (Chance that SB will fold and LP will call when ahead * equity * losses) =

(.75 * $145) + (.016 * $17) + (.16175 * -$1,000) + (.03325 * $1,035) + (.0075 * .15 * $2,000) + (.0075 * .85 * -$1,000) + (.0315 * .15 * $1,110) + (.0315 * .04 * $55) + (.0315 * -$1,000 * .81) =


Thursday, September 13, 2007

We are not fish

Many losing poker players can choose not to be fish. They could decide to win, if they had the motivation to work at it. There's an incredible amount of dead money in the poker world, and I have several friends who could get a piece of it if they would listen and learn.

Poker is a game of skill in the long run, and good players will always win over a significant enough stretch of hands. There are many simple ways to become a winner. The problem most players have is that they're unwilling to take the steps necessary to guarantee victory. Of course, some people just don't "get it," but I believe most people with average or better intelligence have the capability to do what it takes.

I know a few players who simply refuse to do what it takes to win. Here are their biggest failings:

They won't learn how to play a tight-aggressive style, which I've found to be profitable even in shorthanded games. Sure, a loose-aggressive style may be more profitable for strong players, but TAG players make money because they don't put their money in without a quality hand, and they don't call bets unless they think they're going to win.

Perhaps the biggest leak losers have is that they won't play limits appropriate to their bankroll. If they would follow Chris Ferguson's bankroll requirements, they would have a much better chance of minimizing losses while slowly building up their savings.

The third common failing of bad players is that they lack discipline. They won't read books, blogs and magazines. They won't watch videos. They won't read 2+2. They won't learn from their losing hands. They won't use PokerTracker and PokerAce. They won't stop playing when they're tired or take a break during a losing streak. They can't stop chasing losses when behind or be satisfied with a small win when ahead.

This is pretty straightforward stuff, and I'm sure most people reading this know these basics already. But the vast majority of poker players are career losers, and I hope one or two of them will wake up and realize it doesn't have to be this way.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Casino Arizona


I got in to Phoenix late Monday night, hopeful that I would have enough time to check out the games at Casino Arizona. Fortunately, I found out I had no obligations until dinnertime Tuesday, so that gave me all day to gamble it up.

When I got in the cab, I quickly learned that there were two casinos called Casino Arizona, each about equidistant from my hotel. It's so stupid to name your casinos the same thing, especially when they're only about four miles from each other. I also didn't like that at Holland Casino. Come on guys, show some originality.

Anyway, I told the taxi driver to take me to the larger of the two. Unfortunately, there was no poker (except 3-card poker) at the McKellips location. I sat at a blackjack table for about 15 minutes, lost $7 and decided to get the hell out of that money hole.

I promptly found a cab to the other Casino Arizona at Indian Bend, and I was really happy I did.

It had 46 tables spreading limits from 3/6 to 80/160. Betting in no limit games was capped at $150 at a time, so the no limit tables were either 5/150 (with 3/5 blinds and a $350 max buy-in), or 10/150 (with 5/10 blinds and a $1,000 max buy-in). I got on the list for 10/150 but sat down at an open 5/150 table.

I'm convinced that no matter what casino I go to in life, no matter what the stakes, that at least half of the players at every table will be complete idiots. I looked up at the TVs on the wall and saw a commercial for DeVry Institute, and their slogan was, "People are smart." No they're not. They're dumbasses who think it's a good idea to come to a casino and lose their money, hopefully to me.

Even in four hours of play, I saw some crazy things. I was a woman raise and reraise her $1,000 stack all-in, $150 at a time, with only AJ for top pair, shitty kicker on an A35 board. The other guy had A5, which held up. I got all in three ways preflop with KK against J9 and another hand that mucked. Of course, the J9 hand flopped top pair, turned two pair and rivered a full house.

In one hand, I posted from the cutoff after taking a bathroom break and got to see a free flop with 43o. The flop came 52x, giving me the open-ended straight draw. A middle position player bet pot, about $25, and I called. The turn and river were both checked down, and I didn't improve.

"I think you can beat a 4 high," I said, as I tossed my hand into the middle.

"Wait, that's what I have," said the other guy in the hand.

I quickly snatched my hand back before it touched the muck or the dealer's hand. My opponent also had 43, and we chopped the pot with both of us holding the nut low. That had never happened to me before. Of course, I could have bet and taken down the pot, but then I wouldn't have the story.

There were only two other hands of note. In one, I raised preflop with AK and got a caller from the button. The flop brought an Ace, and I bet my hand the whole way until my opponent was all in. Amazingly, my AK held up in an all-in confrontation. That doesn't usually happen.

In another hand, I saw a free flop from the big blind with J4o against a bunch of limpers. The flop was AJJ, and I bet it out. I got two callers. I bet the turn again, and this time only the utg limper called. Before the river, the utg player asked, "How big is your kicker?"

That gave me a pretty sick feeling, so I checked and called his $100 river bet. He flipped over AJo for the flopped full house after limping with that crap utg. If I were playing better, I could have folded, but I was thinking that he was so loose that his range included a ton of hands I could beat. Also, with the A and a 9 out there, I thought we might chop the pot even after his comment.

Overall, I lost about $250, which isn't too bad. On another day, I might have been up $1,000. I bet the mid-stakes limit games are also good, although I don't know whether I'll have time to go back to the casino.

I'm easily annoyed by kids who won't shut up about their bad beats and old farts throwing away their retirement checks, but I'm consoled that much of the time that money winds up in my pockets.

Monday, September 10, 2007

AA no good

Pot-limit Omaha remains fun on Full Tilt, where I've been playing PLO and limit hold em as I rebuild my bankroll there. 5/10 no limit hold em is still my main game on other sites, but it's educational to diversify.

One thing I know: all of these games are very profitable right now. I haven't seen the tables so loose in at least a year. I think it must be because of football season and WSOP Europe.

In PLO, it's taking me time to understand when wrap-around straight draws are valuable, and how shitty AAxx hands are.

Here's one AAxx hand that went right, followed by another than went wrong:

1) Limp-folding Aces is the only way to go. I'm starting to get used to it.

2) I flopped top set of Aces against a short stack who also flopped a straight with a redraw to a higher straight. I guess I misplayed this hand by raising the flop, but I wanted to get it all in against the short stack. I would have folded against a deeper stack, and I also would have likely folded after that 7 on the turn.
pokenum -o 8h 6c 4c 2d - ad ac 6s 3s -- as 5d 3d
Omaha Hi: 820 enumerated boards containing As 5d 3d
cards win %win lose %lose tie %tie EV
6c 4c 2d 8h 505 61.59 307 37.44 8 0.98 0.621
6s 3s Ac Ad 307 37.44 505 61.59 8 0.98 0.379

This hand isn't a good example, but it got me thinking about big wrap straight draws. I think it will take some time before I can instinctively count all those potential outs. Lyle Berman wrote in his "Super System 2" chapter that "in order to be 50-50 against a set, you really need seventeen outs twice. This is significant for Omaha, because most people think it’s thirteen or fourteen, as it is in hold’em."

Even if my opponent had held the five-way wrap straight draw 2467 on a board like K35, he would have still been a slight dog against my AA63 hand with 14 outs (Two Aces and three each of 2467) twice.
pokenum -o 2d 4c 6c 7h - ad ac 6s 3s -- 5d 3d ks
Omaha Hi: 820 enumerated boards containing Ks 5d 3d
cards win %win lose %lose tie %tie EV
6c 4c 2d 7h 398 48.54 414 50.49 8 0.98 0.490
6s 3s Ac Ad 414 50.49 398 48.54 8 0.98 0.510

Friday, September 07, 2007

More know you love it

Picking up from yesterday, it would appear that making an all-in move on any undercard flop with JJ in that situation was a break-even play at best.

Dustin, a commenter, pointed out that I failed to account for times when JJ will suck out on the turn or river in this situation, which will happen about 8 percent of the time. To fix this:

(.55 * -$140) + [.12 * (.92 * -$1,000)] + (.33 * $580) = -$77 - $110.40 + $191.40 = $4.

But even though we get a positive number, this equation still doesn't account for the times the LP player hits his hand and busts the JJ. So I still don't think this play is +EV.

It's interesting to note that this play becomes more favorable for the JJ player if he's playing a smaller stack, and worse when playing a bigger stack.

After all these calculations, I'm thinking that it might make more sense to make this play with QQ from the big blind against two raises. Personally, I don't like pushing all-in or 4-betting preflop with QQ unless I have a strong read, but I also hate folding what may be the best hand in this situation.

So let's run the same scenario with QQ, assuming that the QQ player in the big blind will cold call the reraise preflop, fold if an Ace or King flops, and push all in on any undercard board.

Six combinations of AA and KK will call and be way ahead, one combination of QQ will call and be tied for a $70 profit, while 44 combinations of AK (16), AQ (8), KQs (2), JJ (6), TT (6) and 99 (6) will fold. An Ace or King will flop about 40 percent of the time.

(.40 * -$140) + {[.60 * (6/51)] * -$920} + {[.60 * (1/51)] * $70} + {[.60 * (44/51)] * $580}= -$56 - $64.94 + $0.82 + $300.24 = $180.12

Again, this equation is flawed because it ignores the chance that the LP player will flop a big hand. But it's pretty amazing that QQ seems to do so well under these circumstances.

Based on this math, I believe that when there's a late position raiser and a small blind reraiser, calling with QQ and pushing any undercard flop is often the best play.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

More on Hand Combos

Every poker player has been in this spot before: A late position player raises, and you get dealt a monster like KK and raise it up from the small blind. The big blind and late position player both call. When rags flop, you continuation bet, and the big blind pushes all in. The late position player folds, and you need to decide what to do.

Sure the big blind could have flopped a set, but you can't always fold because you're afraid of a hidden set on a somewhat uncoordinated board. It's more likely that the big blind is pushing an overpair like JJ, and you call and take his stack. A set would usually smooth call or put in a smaller raise.

So if I'm holding KK, I'm going to call most of the time unless I have a read or a feeling that someone is overbetting their set for value.

But what about from the big blind's perspective? Sure he'll lose when I have AA, KK or QQ, but he'll win any time I was raising preflop and continuation betting with AK, AQ, KQs, JJ, TT or 99, which is a pretty accurate list of my 3-betting range from the small blind (except for times when I'm making a play, but let's not delve into that).

I want to find out if it's possible that the big blind is right to push with a hand like JJ, knowing that he'll lose to a higher overpair but also knowing I'll fold lots of hands that he beats. Using hand ranges and EV calculations, I'm going to dissect this kind of hand.

Here's the hand:

Hero posts small blind $5
Villain posts big blind $10
Villain has $1,000, Hero has him covered
*** Dealing down cards ***
Hero is dealt Ks Kc
Villain is dealt Js, Jd
LP raises $45
Hero raises $140
BB calls $135
LP calls $100
Pot: $420
*** Dealing Flop *** [ 2s, 6h, 7c ]
Hero bets $300
Villain is all-in for $860.
LP folds.
Hero calls all-in for $560.
*** Dealing Turn *** [ 6d ]
*** Dealing River *** [ Qs ]
Hero wins $2,140 with two pairs, Kings and Sixes.

Let's assume that the big blind will push all in on any undercard flop and I will call 100 percent of the time with AA, KK and QQ. Let's also assume that I'll fold AK, AQ, KQs, JJ, TT and 99 100 percent of the time. Up until the point the Villain goes all in, there are many times when I would have played that range identically, as well as had a strong read on him that he had a hand like JJ.

AA, KK and QQ add up to 18 possible combinations that have my opponent slaughtered (6 combinations of each).

AK, AQ, KQs, JJ, TT and 99 add up to 16+16+4+1+6+6 combinations, which equals 49 hand combinations that I'll fold.

If my math is right (and it may be totally wrong, in which case I would appreciate being corrected):

There's a 27 percent chance (18/67) that my opponent will lose his stack by making this play, and a 73 percent chance (49/67) that he'll win what's already in the pot.

.27 * -$1,000 = -$-270
.73 * $580 ($140+$140+$300)= $423.40
EV = $153.40

This initial calculation makes it look like this is a profitable play to make with JJ.

But wait. What about those times that an A, K or Q flops, and the JJ has to fold to a continuation bet? I did the math for this once before, and the odds of any one of any three cards flopping is 55.3 percent. That means there's a 55 percent chance that my opponent will lose what's already invested in this pot, if we assume he folds 100 percent of the time an overcard flops:

.55 * -$140 = -$77

And he'll push the other 45 percent of the time (12 percent of the which he gets busted [.45 * .27], and 33 percent on the time he'll win what's already in the pot [.45 * .73]):

.12 * -$1,000 = -$120
.33 * $580 = $191.40

Grand Total:

-$77 - $120 + $191.40 = -$5.60.

So it would appear that given this range, calling from the big blind with JJ and the intent of making this play will lose you money in the long run, but not much -- only $5.60 on average -- as long as the LP player folds (which may be a big "if").

I'm not going to do the math all over again right now, but I would think widening the SB's hand range and changing the BB's holding to QQ would be enough to put this play into +EV territory.


For a different hand combo example, here's an old 2+2 hand that I referred to in the last post's comments: 3/6 Set Kings turn play.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Would you like interest with that bonus and rakeback?

I haven't played at Absolute Poker in nearly three years, when I was trying to bonus whore and move up to 3/6 limit games. I lost money, I hated the software and I haven't played there since.

That said, I'm thinking about going back to Absolute because of this cool-sounding new promo that gives 9 percent interest on poker accounts, which I first read about through Kick Ass Poker Blog. It appears that you must be an "Elite" level player and keep $1,000 in your account, but other than that I don't see many restrictions.

It sounds like a fantastic deal. Combined with constant bonus offers and rakeback, Absolute seems to be giving away a ton of money -- perhaps enough to even make me play there again. All I need to do now is grow my bankroll to $500,000 and live off the $45,000 a year in interest while continuing to beat the games.

Check out this 2+2 thread for more info.


I was saddened to hear that Kuro, the original poker cat, died last week from liver complications from lymphoma and chemotherapy. He was a fantastic kitty, and I'll think of him any time I play the Kuro (6-3).

Thanks for this pot, Kuro:

FullTiltPoker (6 max) - $2/$4 - $160 Cap Pot Limit Omaha Hi
smizmiatch posts the small blind of $2
benba posts the big blind of $4
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to smizmiatch [6h 3d As Ah]
BotOFallBOTS calls $4
Ronasty calls $4
smizmiatch calls $2
benba raises to $20
BotOFallBOTS calls $16
Ronasty calls $16
smizmiatch raises to $100
benba raises to $160, and is capped
BotOFallBOTS folds
Ronasty folds
smizmiatch calls $60, and is capped
benba shows [Jd Ad Ac Js]
smizmiatch shows [6h 3d As Ah]
*** FLOP *** [8h 4h 6c]
*** TURN *** [8h 4h 6c] [8c]
*** RIVER *** [8h 4h 6c 8c] [9h]
benba shows two pair, Aces and Eights
smizmiatch wins the pot ($357) with a flush, Ace high

Monday, September 03, 2007

Poker is Good for You

This essay was originally published in the September, 2007 issue of The Two Plus Two Internet Magazine at View the original copy by clicking here.


by David Sklansky & Alan N. Schoonmaker, Ph.D.

Many people have argued that poker should be considered differently from gambling in general. This argument has been made in discussions of legalization and related topics. Their argument is usually that poker is a skill game, while other gambling games are much less dependent upon skill.

We agree, but believe that they have not gone far enough in explaining many of poker's unique attributes. Poker does not just require skill. It demands and develops many skills and personal qualities which are essential for making all types of decisions, such as choosing a career, investing money, performing a job, and buying a house.1


Research clearly proves that people tend to repeat rewarded actions and to discontinue punished ones. Poker teaches by rewarding desirable actions such as thinking logically and understanding other people and by punishing undesirable ones such as ignoring the odds and acting impulsively.2 Other learning principles also apply to poker.

Learning Depends Upon Feedback.

Rewards and punishments are valuable feedback. The faster and clearer the feedback is, the more rapidly you will learn. Unfortunately, for learning many desirable qualities the feedback cycle is slow or unclear. For example, if you make a mistake with an important customer, you may never know why you lost his business. At the poker table you often get much quicker feedback.

Until fairly recently, most people learned how to play poker primarily from trial and error. Over the past few decades a rapidly expanding body of books, videotapes, DVDs, classes, and coaches has helped millions of players to speed up the learning curve, but there is no substitute for experience. You have to make good and bad plays and get rewarded and punished to learn poker's most important lessons.

The More Frequently You Get Feedback, The Faster You Will Learn.

Most important real life decisions are made infrequently, and some of them - such as choosing a career - may be made only once. Poker players make and get feedback on hundreds of decisions every session, which greatly accelerates the learning process.

Lessons Learned In One Situation Often Generalize To Other Situations.

If poker's lessons applied only to how to play games, we would not have written this article. But its lessons apply to virtually every aspect of life. For example, if you are impatient or illogical or can't analyze risks and rewards, you will lose at poker, and you will make many mistakes in business and personal relationships. If poker teaches you how to control your emotions, you will be much more effective almost everywhere.

Young People Generally Learn More Quickly Than Older Ones.

Poker's enemies often insist that they are protecting young people from developing bad habits, but they are really preventing them from learning good ones. Young people love to gamble, sometimes for money, often for much more "things" such as grades, pregnancy, and even their lives.

They get a kick from taking chances, and some of their gambles are just, plain stupid. They risk dying or becoming crippled by crazy stunts on roller skates, bicycles, and snowboards. They get pregnant or AIDS by taking easily avoided sexual risks. It is as impossible to prevent young people from "gambling" (in its broadest sense) as it is to prevent them from experimenting sexually.

Life is intrinsically risky, and learning how to handle those risks is an important part of growing up. Poker teaches you to think of risks and rewards before acting. If it taught nothing else, poker would prevent some young people from making terrible mistakes. More generally, most of poker's lessons will help young people to make critically important decisions.


Because you want to be respected, you and nearly everyone else naturally develop high status qualities and neglect low status ones. Unfortunately, status among Americans - especially young ones - is based primarily on physical attractiveness and athletic ability. The highest status people, the ones others envy and want to date, are physically attractive and good at games such as football, basketball, and soccer. Of course, the good looking, athletic children will probably end up working for the more studious ones, but they may not learn that lesson until it is too late.

American students score abysmally on tests of math, science, and verbal skills partly because so many of them think that study is unimportant. They are not stupider than Europeans, Asians, and South Americans, but they are taught from birth that they will be rewarded for looking good and playing athletic games well.

Worse yet, they learn that being studious is often punished. Their parents may be delighted when they get good grades, but young people care immensely about their peers' opinions. Good students are called "nerds" and "geeks."

This anti-intellectualism continues indefinitely. Americans reward good looks and athletic ability far more than studiousness. Models, actors, and athletes get paid several times as much and have much higher status than scientists, teachers, and scholars.

Young people resist studying math, psychology, logic, risk-reward analysis, probability theory, and many other subjects they will need as adults because these subjects seem unrelated to their lives. They don't see how learning them matters in the competitions they care about, the ones for status, popularity, and dates. Since people rarely study these subjects after graduation, many Americans never learn them.

Poker quickly teaches them the value of these subjects. The "nerds" who study poker and subjects such as math, logic, and psychology crush their more attractive and athletic opponents. They even beat smarter people who are too lazy or complacent to study. Winning increases their status and confidence and makes them much more likely to get dates and influence their peers. Poker doesn't just develop study habits and other important qualities; it also increases the value people place on them.


Americans are terrible at math. Our students get abysmal scores on math tests, and most people don't even try to learn math after leaving school. Their weaknesses remain uncorrected forever.

Many people are not just bad at math; they don't even want to get better. They essentially say, "Who needs it?" When they play poker, they quickly learn that they need it. The winners understand and apply it, while the losers either don't try or can't perform the necessary calculations. After their children started playing poker, many parents have exclaimed, "I'm amazed. He actually wants to study math."


Many authorities are appalled by Americans' contempt for logic. Instead of thinking logically, too many of us make poor assumptions, rely on intuition, or jump to emotionally-based conclusions.

Poker teaches you to respect and apply logic because it is a series of puzzles. Since you don't know the other players' cards, you need logic to help you to figure out what they have, and then more logic to decide how to use that information well. The same general approach that works in poker will help you to make much more important decisions.


The first step toward solving poker or real life problems is acquiring the right information. Without it you will certainly make costly mistakes. Poker develops information-gathering qualities, especially concentration. Every poker player has missed signals, including quite obvious ones, made mistakes, and then berated himself, "How could I be so stupid?" We can't think of a more effective way to develop concentration.


Americans are notoriously impatient, which damages many aspects of our lives. We owe trillions of dollars because we buy things on credit instead of waiting until we can pay for them. Our businesses overemphasize short-term results and lose market share to more patient foreign competitors.

Poker develops patience in the most powerful possible way. If you wait patiently for the right situation, you will certainly beat the impatient people who play too many hands. In fact, for most players poker's first lesson is "Be Patient."


Many people lack discipline. They yield to their impulses, including quite destructive ones. Poker develops discipline by rewarding it highly. Virtually all winning players are extremely disciplined.

Their discipline affects everything they do. They fold hands they are tempted to play. They resist the urge to challenge tough players. They avoid distractions, even pleasant ones like chatting with friends or sexually attractive strangers. They don't criticize bad players whose mistakes cost them money. They control their emotions. They have the self-control to do the necessary, but unpleasant things that most people won't do.

Television has created a ridiculously inaccurate image of poker. After seeing famous players screaming and trash-talking, viewers naturally assume that such antics are normal. They are utterly mistaken. Television directors show these outbursts for "dramatic value," and a few players act stupidly to get on TV. You will see more outbursts in a half hour of television than in a month in a card room. Please remember that controlled people are often called "poker faced."


Impatience is not the only cause for short-sightedness. Learning research proves that immediate rewards have much greater impact on people than delayed ones. For example, most American adults are overweight because the immediate pleasure of overeating is more powerful than its disastrous long-term effects such as heart attacks.

Poker players quickly learn that a bad play can have good results and vice versa, but that making decisions with positive, long-term expectation (EV) is the key to success. If you make enough negative EV plays, you must lose. If you make enough positive EV plays, you must win. It is just that simple.

If people thought more of the long term, some of our most serious problems would be solved or become less troublesome. Because of short-sightedness, millions of children drop out of school or get pregnant, and millions of adults neglect their health and finances.


Economists call lost profits "opportunity costs" and they have written extensively about them. Unfortunately, most people haven't read their works, and, if they did, they probably wouldn't agree. They would much rather pass up a chance to make a dollar than risk losing one. They therefore miss many profitable opportunities.

Poker teaches you that lost profits are objectively the same as losses. For example, if the pot offers you 8-to1, and the odds against you are 5-to-1, you should call the bet. Not calling is the same as throwing away money by making a bad call when the odds are against you.


You and everyone else deny unpleasant realities about yourself, other people, and many other subjects. You believe what you want to believe. Poker develops realism in the cruelest, but most effective way. If you deny reality about yourself, the opposition, the cards, the odds, or almost anything else, you quickly pay for it.

Hundreds of times a night you must assess a complicated situation: your own and the other players' cards, what the others are going to do, the probability that various cards will come on later rounds, your position, and many other factors, especially your own and the other players' skill and playing style. If you are realistic, you win. If you deny reality, you lose.


Most people don't ask themselves, "How is this situation different?" They just do whatever they have always done. Poker demands adjustments because the situation is always changing. One card can convert a worthless hand such as a four flush into an unbeatable one. The player holding the flush and all the opponents should adjust immediately. The player with the winning hand should do whatever will produce the most profit, and the others should cut their losses.

Other things are changing as well. One hand after being in the small blind, the worst position, you have the button, the best position. Every time someone quits and is replaced by a different type of player, the game changes. Every time someone surprises you by folding, checking, betting, or raising you should re-evaluate the situation and adjust to the new information.

Adjusting to real life changes has always been necessary, but it is has become much more important because the pace of change has accelerated enormously. We now experience more changes every year than our ancestors encountered in decades. Technology, the economy, social and moral attitudes, and a host of other factors change so dramatically that Alvin Toffler: "coined the term 'future shock' to describe the shattering disorientation we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time."3 He argued, "Change is avalanching upon our heads, and most people are grotesquely unprepared to cope with it."4 Poker can help you to cope with our constantly changing world.


Most people - especially younger ones - have little experience with diverse people. They live in relatively homogenous towns and neighborhoods and usually relate to people who are fairly similar to themselves.

In online and casino poker games, you have to play with whoever sits down. You must compete against very different kinds of people: aggressive and passive, friendly and nasty, educated and uneducated, quiet and talkative, intelligent and stupid, emotionally controlled and uncontrolled, and so on.

You therefore learn how to understand and adjust to people who think and act very differently from you. The faster you and better you do it, the better results you will get. Since you will certainly meet diverse people in more important situations, learning how to relate to them is extremely valuable.5


Prejudice is always wrong, but it is especially destructive at the poker table. It causes you to underestimate your opposition and make expensive errors. To play well, you should be "gender-blind, color-blind, and just-about-everything else-blind, because in the end, winning is based on merit."6

Poker provides an extremely "level playing field." In no other popular competition is everyone treated so equally. You can't play golf against Tiger Woods, but you can sit down at any poker table. You can play against anyone from a novice to a world class player, and you will all be treated as equals. If you get the cards and play them well, you will win, no matter who you are.


Many people can't cope with losses. A lost job, argument, or - God forbid -romantic relationship is a massive tragedy. They can't accept the loss and may even obsess over it. It takes over their lives, making them look backward rather than forward.

Poker teaches you how to cope with losses because they occur so frequently. You lose far more hands than you win, and losing sessions and losing streaks are just normal parts of the game. You also learn that trying to get even quickly is a prescription for disaster. You have to accept short-term losses and continue to play a solid, patient game. You can't be a winner - in poker or life - if you don't learn how to get over losses and move on.


Many people take conflicts too personally. They may want to beat someone so badly that they "win the battle, but lose the war." Worse yet, if they lose, they may take it as a personal defeat and ache for revenge. Anyone who has seriously played games with painful physical contact (such as football, boxing, and soccer) is less likely to take conflict too personally. Getting hurt teaches some athletes that conflict is just part of the game and life. Alas, many people never learn that lesson.

Poker teaches you to depersonalize conflicts because it is based on impersonal conflict. The objective is to win each other's money, and everyone's money is the same. It doesn't matter whether you win or lose to Harry, Susan, or Bob. Everybody's chips have the same value, and everybody's money spends the same.

Poker quickly teaches you that being bluffed, sandbagged, outdrawn, and just plain outplayed are not personal challenges or insults. They are just parts of the game. Poker also teaches you that taking conflicts personally can be extremely expensive.

If you ache for revenge, you may act foolishly and lose a lot of money. Beating "your enemy" can become so important that you play cards you should fold, try hopeless bluffs, and take many other stupid, self-destructive actions. The Chinese have a wonderful saying, "If you set out for revenge, dig two graves: one for him, and one for you." Poker teaches that principle to every open-minded player.


Many people don't plan well. Instead of setting objectives and planning the steps to reach them, they react impulsively or habitually. Poker develops your planning ability for an extremely wide range of time periods:

  • This betting round
  • This entire hand
  • This session
  • This tournament
  • This year
  • Your entire poker career

Planning for all of these periods requires setting objectives and anticipating what others will do. For example, pocket aces are the best possible hand, and you hope to build a big pot with them. In early position in a loose-passive game, you should raise because your opponents will probably call. In a wildly aggressive game you should just call, expecting someone to raise, others to call, so that you can reraise.

Poker also teaches you to plan for the entire hand. You use chess-type thinking ("I'll do this, they will do that, and then I'll …"). You may sacrifice some profit on an early betting round to increase your profits for the entire hand.

You can also sacrifice immediate profits for longer-term gains. For example, you may overplay the first few hands to create a "Wild Gambler" image that will get you more action on later hands. Or you may be extremely tight at first to set up later bluffs. Poker teaches you to set clear goals, think of what others will do, plan the actions that will move you toward your goals, and always know why you are doing something.

Good planning requires thinking of multiple contingencies. You should do many "what, if?" analyses. If the next card is a spade, you will bet. If it pairs the board, and Joe bets, you will fold. If it seems innocuous and Harriet bets, you will raise. Most people don't consider nearly enough possibilities. When something unexpected happens, they have no idea what to do.

Planning in real life is so obviously valuable and so rarely done well that we don't need to give any examples. You know that you should do these "what if" analyses and plan your work, finances, and life in general, but that you probably don't plan well.


Many people are easily deceived. Just look at those late night infomercials that promise you'll quickly get rich, become thin, or relieve all your aches and pains. The promoters wouldn't pay for them if naïve people didn't buy them, and they are only the tip of the iceberg. As Barnum put it, "There's a sucker born every minute."

Because poker players constantly try to bluff, sandbag, and generally deceive each other, you learn how to recognize when someone has a good hand, is on a draw to a good hand, or is flat out bluffing Those skills can help you to spot and react effectively to deceptive people everywhere. A lot of people want to deceive you, and you should learn how to protect yourself.


"Game" selection is critically important in both poker and life. Poker teaches you how to evaluate yourself, the competition, and the overall situation, and then pick the "games" that are best for you.

Serious poker players recognize that the main reason they win or lose is the difference between their abilities and those of the competition. If they are better than the competition, they win. If they are weaker, they lose.

A secondary consideration is the fit between their style and the game. Let's say that two poker players have equal abilities. Player A will beat a conservative game, but lose in an aggressive one, while Player B will have the opposite results. Obviously, they should choose different games.

Both factors affect your real life results. If you are less talented or have weaker credentials than your competitors, you should switch to a softer game. You should also select a game that fits your style. For example, you and a friend may have similar abilities and credentials, but different temperaments. Perhaps you should work in a large organization, but he should join a small company or start his own business.

Most people don't know how to evaluate themselves and how well they fit into various "games." So they make huge mistakes that they may not realize for many years. Just think of how many people have changed "games" in their thirties and forties. They finally realized, "I don't belong here."


If you act last, you have a huge edge. You know what your opponents have done before acting, but they acted without knowing what you will do. Position is so important that any good player would raise with some cards in last position that he would fold in early position.

Poker is an information-management game, and there are many similar games such as selling and negotiating. The primary rules of all these games are:

  • Get as much information as possible.
  • Give as little information as possible.

For example, when negotiating, you want the other person to go first to learn his position before expressing yours. Let's say you have to sell an unusual house quickly. A licensed appraiser has said that it is worth approximately $250,000, but that it is so unique that he can't put a precise value on it.

Before offering a price, you want to know how this potential buyer feels. He may love, hate, or be indifferent to its unique features. If he makes the first offer, you get some inkling of his feelings. He may even offer $275,000! Since he seems to love its uniqueness, try for an even higher price.

Job interviewers know the value of acting last. Most employment applications contain a question such as: "Approximate starting salary expected." If you answer, you have given the interviewer your position without knowing what he is willing to pay. Since you are unlikely to get more than you ask for, try to avoid making that first offer.


Focusing on unimportant subjects causes expensive mistakes at the poker table and in real life. Serious poker players know that all mistakes are not created equal. Trying too hard to avoid small mistakes can cause much bigger ones.

Overreacting to any opponent's small mistakes can cause the deadly mistake of underestimating him. For example, you may see that an opponent overplays a mediocre hand such as queen-jack offsuit. It's a mistake, but a relatively harmless one, especially because he will get that hand only a few times a night. If he plays the other hands well, don't conclude that he is a weak player.

Your own mistakes should also be analyzed, and some of them can be quite subtle, but very important. For example, you may be so intent on playing "properly" that you seem too serious for the weaker opponents who just want to have a good time. So they avoid you, which reduces your share of the money they give away.

Another error is taking a "by the book" approach that can cause strategic mistakes. For example, you could play your cards in a technically correct way, but almost never bluff. You would lose the profit you could gain from good bluffs, and your opponents will not give you much action on your good hands. The same principle applies to always playing hands the same way. The predictability costs you more than you gain by always being technically correct.

A business analogy would be running your organization so rigidly that all the ordinary decisions are made well, but:

  • Your employees are not motivated to be creative when the usual routines won't work. In fact, they may fear being punished for violating procedures.
  • Your organization can't respond effectively to the inevitable surprises.
  • Your good employees quit.
  • Your organization becomes a typical bureaucracy, filled with deadwood and unable to achieve its goals.


If you are like most people, you don't think in terms of probabilities, or you do so very crudely. You think something:

  • will happen
  • won't happen
  • probably will happen
  • probably won't happen

You are unlikely to make finer distinctions such as between 30%, 20%, and 10% probabilities.

Poker teaches that these distinctions are important and develops your ability to calculate them. You learn that you should sometimes call a bet if you have a 30% probability of winning, but fold with a 20% probability. You also learn how to estimate probabilities quickly and accurately.

This neglected skill can be applied to many real life decisions. For example, if you have to fly to Los Angeles for a sales call or job interview, it may be worth the time and expense if the probability of success is 30%, but not if it's 20%. Hardly anyone thinks that way which causes many poor decisions.


These analyses are a more formal way to use probability theory. Since life is intrinsically risky, you probably can't win at poker or life without accurately assessing risks and rewards.

Risk-reward analysis is a form of cost-benefit analysis which also includes the probabilities of each possible result. Let's say that the pot is $100. You have a flush draw that you expect to win if you make it, but lose if you miss. It will cost you $20 to call the bet. The odds against making your flush are exactly 4-to-1. If you make it, you will win another $20 because you are sure your opponent will call one last bet. You are sure you cannot bluff. Should you call the $20 bet?

You will certainly lose more often than you will win, but the potential gains may outweigh the potential losses. Because we are concerned only with the long term, let's do it 100 times:

You will win $120 twenty times for a total win of$2,400
You will lose $20 eighty times for a total loss of-1,600
Your net gain for 100 times will be$800
Your expected value for each call is$8
You should obviously call the bet.

Poker players constantly do risk-reward analyses, and these analyses are often much more complicated. For example, in deciding whether to semi-bluff7, you should estimate the probabilities, gains and losses of:

  • winning the pot immediately because your opponent(s) fold
  • winning because you bet again on the next round and your opponent(s) fold
  • winning because you catch the card you need to make the best hand
  • losing because you get called and don't catch your card.

The math can get difficult, but advanced players learn how to make these analyses quickly and accurately.

The same sort of analysis should be done whenever you have a real life risky situation. Unfortunately, most people don't do it. They buy stocks or real estate, take a job, open a business, or take personal risks without identifying all the outcomes and estimating the probabilities that each will occur. So they make many bad decisions.

Poker is such an excellent teacher for risky decisions that Peter Lynch, former manager of The Magellan Fund and Vice Chairman of Fidelity, once said that a good way to become a better investor was to "Learn how to play poker."8


People often ask poker experts, "How should I play this hand?" They are usually frustrated by the standard answer, "It depends on the situation." The expert then asks them about the other players, their own position, the size of the pot, the action on previous hands and betting rounds, and many other subjects. Most people don't want to hear, "It depends on the situation," and they definitely don't want to answer questions.

In fact, they usually can't answer them because they have not counted the pot, thought about the other players, and done all the other things that experts do. They want to know the two or three simple rules for playing a pair of aces, or a full house, or a flush draw, and the experts won't tell them because there aren't any simple rules.

If you play seriously, you will learn that the KISS formula (Keep It Short and Simple) does not apply to poker. More importantly, it does not apply to most significant real life decisions. It has become popular because people want to believe that life is much simpler than it really is. Poker teaches you to ask the same sorts of questions about investment, career, and other decisions that you ask at the poker table so that you make much better decisions.


Poker teaches you to understand and apply psychology because understanding others is absolutely essential. In fact, poker has often been called "a people game played with cards." If you don't understand the other players, you can't win.

We have already discussed psychological subjects such as avoiding prejudice and selecting the right games. We will end this long essay by briefly discussing poker's most important psychological lesson: teaching you what other people perceive, think, and want.

The first step is shifting your focus from yourself to them, and poker forces you to make that shift. If you focus on your own cards, you can't win because poker hands have only relative value. The important issue is not how good your cards are; it is how they compare to the other players' cards. A flush is a very good hand, but it loses to a bigger flush or any full house or better. So poker quickly teaches you to think of what other people have. It also teaches you to think about what they think you have. And even what they think you think they think.9

We and others have written extensively about these subjects, but space limitations allow us to give only a few examples. Good players always consider the other player when making any decision. With the same cards and situation, they would fold if Charley, a very conservative player, bets, but raise if Mary, a very aggressive player, bets.

Good players would also think about how their opponents think about each other. For example, if a perceptive opponent bets into someone whom he believes is very likely to call, he is probably not bluffing. If a good player reraises a maniac, he probably has a much weaker hand than if he reraised a tight opponent. Understanding his perceptions of these other players greatly improves your decisions when you are contesting a pot.

Understanding other people is vital in virtually every area of life. You can't have good personal relationships or succeed in business without being perceptive about people. Since its value in personal relationships is so obvious, we will discuss only two subjects, negotiating and investing.

"The absolutely essential step toward negotiating effectively is to shift your focus from your own position to their position. Unfortunately, most people focus on their own position. Their actions say, in effect, 'If I could just get them to understand MY facts and MY logic and MY needs, they would make the concessions I need.' The other side is saying exactly the same thing.

"They therefore have parallel monologues instead of a genuine dialogue. Both sides repeat themselves again and again, hoping to convince the other to accept their position. But eloquence is no substitute for understanding, and you cannot gain that understanding without shifting your focus and sincerely wanting to understand the other side."10

All good poker players know and apply David Sklansky's "Fundamental Theorem of Poker."11 Less well known is his "Fundamental Theorem of Investing:"

"Before making any investment ... you must be able to explain why the other party is willing to take the other side of the deal... if you cannot come up with a good explanation, your buy, sell or bet is almost certainly not as good as you think."12

Unfortunately, most people don't seriously analyze the other party's reasons. Their attention is focused primarily on themselves, their economics, their analysis, and their reasons for buying or selling. If they thought about the other party's motives and perceptions, they might realize that they are making a disastrous mistake.

The principle is very clear. You should always determine as accurately as you can why the other party is willing to sell, buy, or do other business with you. If you don't understand his reasons, "all the statistics, income statements, balance sheet data, or analysts' recommendations mean little. There is still some reason they are taking your bet - and, if you don't know it, you don't like it."13

We could quote many other authorities on the value of understanding other people, but there is no need to do so. Instead, we will close with a quotation from one of the best selling books of all time: How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie: "If there is one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as your own."14

Since you can't win at poker without seeing things from other people's angle, you will learn this valuable lesson. You will then become much better at winning friends, influencing people, and making decisions about virtually everything.


We have described many - but certainly not all - of the skills and personal qualities that poker develops. Most of poker's lessons are variations on one theme: Think carefully before you act. That principle applies everywhere, and far too many people ignore it.

The government's attempts to outlaw poker are based upon a misconception of its nature and value. It is not "just gambling," and it should not be subject to the same rules and penalties as other gambling games. Instead, the government should allow you to play poker in regulated and taxed places because poker is good for you and good for America.


Because this essay is so long, you may not want to reprint all of it. We believe that a good summary is simply a list of the headings. Please feel free to reprint as much or as little as you wish.

  1. Poker Is A Great Teacher.
  2. Poker Improves Your Study Habits.
  3. Poker Develops Your Math Skills.
  4. Poker Develops Your Logical Thinking.
  5. Poker Develops Your Concentration.
  6. Poker Develops Your Patience.
  7. Poker Develops Your Discipline.
  8. Poker Teaches You To Focus On The Long Term.
  9. Poker Teaches You That Forgoing A Profit Equals Taking A Loss (And Vice Versa).
  10. Poker Develops Your Realism.
  11. Poker Teaches You To Adjust To Changing Situations.
  12. Poker Teaches You To Adjust To Diverse People.
  13. Poker Teaches You To Avoid Racial, Sexual And Other Prejudices.
  14. Poker Teaches You How To Handle Losses.
  15. Poker Teaches You To Depersonalize Conflict.
  16. Poker Teaches You How To Plan.
  17. Poker Teaches You How To Handle Deceptive People.
  18. Poker Teaches You How To Choose The Best "Game."
  19. Poker Teaches You The Benefits Of Acting Last.
  20. Poker Teaches You To Focus On The Important Subjects.
  21. Poker Teaches You How To Apply Probability Theory.
  22. Poker Teaches You How To Conduct Risk-Reward Analyses.
  23. Poker Teaches You To Put Things In Context And Evaluate All Variables.
  24. Poker Teaches You How To "Get Into People's Heads."

1 We assume, of course, that you will not become obsessed with poker or play for higher stakes than you can afford.

2 These rewards and punishments may not be instantaneous. It may take a while for things to average out.

3 Future Shock, New York, Random House, 1970, Page 4

4ibid, page 14

5 Adjusting to varied players was the primary theme of Alan Schoonmaker's book, The Psychology of Poker, Henderson, NV, Two Plus Two Publishing, 2000.

6 Barbara Connors, "Poker Play" in Maryann Morrison's Women's Poker Night, New York, Kensington Publishing, 2007, p. 26.

7 "A semi-bluff is a bet with a hand which, if called, does not figure to be the best hand at the moment, but has a reasonable chance of outdrawing those hands that initially called it." David Sklansky, The Theory of Poker, p. 91.

8 "Ten lessons poker teaches great investors," by Christopher Graja, Bloomberg's Personal Finance, June, 2001, p. 56

9 See "Multiple level thinking" in David Sklansky and Ed Miller, No Limit Hold 'em: Theory And Practice, Henderson, NV, Two Plus Two Publishing, 2006, pp. 168-175.

10 Alan N. Schoonmaker, Negotiate to win. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall, 1989, p. 76

11 "The Fundamental Theorem of Poker" is explained on pages 17-26 of The Theory of Poker.

12 David Sklansky, "The Fundamental Theorem of Investing," Card Player, August 16, 2002, pp. 34-36

13 ibid.

14 Dale Carnegie How To Win Friends and Influence People, NY, Simon and Schuster, 1936, copyright renewed 1964, P. 37. The italics were in the book.