The secret to poker

Here’s something the online poker sites don’t want you to know. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=online+poker&iid=244401″ src=”0240/e1d25de0-6f59-4e1a-8321-15a51810d9b8.jpg?adImageId=11728151&imageId=244401″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]

I’ve been playing it quite a bit recently, keeping track of hands, and how people did in certain situations.

And the secret to online poker: It’s 90 per cent luck.

Now, I can’t speak for the big money games, and I know this isn’t the case in real-life poker. But for poker websites, the big thing is being lucky.

I played Pokerstars for several years before getting tired of the bad beats (I’m sure many of you have heard it called Jokerstars before). So I switched to Full Tilt poker. No difference.

The reason why? So much luck is involved, it’s unreal.

Part of the reason is because so many people play so many horrible hands. If you have a good hand, and four people call you with brutal cards, one of them is bound to hit something.

But what encourages so many people to play bad hands? I think it’s the play money system. On Full Tilt, for example, you can reload your play money chips (up to $1,000) every five minutes. So people go into the games, and just go all in with any two cards, especially on the first hand. If they lose, no big deal, because they can just reload all the time.

The other factor is that if you have a chip lead, and go all-in, you will win the pot most of the time, regardless of how weak or strong your hand may be.

For example, I recently played a tournament where I was third in chips at the table. I went all in with Ad and Ks. I was called by the second chip leader with Ah, Qc. At this point, I am favoured to win 72% of the time.

Flop comes 9c, 4c, and 4h. At this point, the odds of me winning decrease to about 67% because there’s a better chance of a tie. But it also decreased my opponent’s odds from 24% to 17%.

Now, without me saying anything else, what do you think the next two cards will be?

If you guessed runner-runner club, then you win the grand prize. The next two cards were the Tc (at which point I still held a 59% chance of winning to my opponent’s 27% chance) and the 6c, giving him a flush. At no point was I ever behind in this hand, except in chips.

Sure, any time you deal with odds means there’s always a chance that you will lose to a weaker hand, no matter how strong your hand is.

But if you’re not the chip leader, your odds go down drastically.

Here was another all-in hand I saw recently, to show it just doesn’t happen to me.

There were three people in the pot: The first person had Td, Ts (54% chance of winning); Ad, 3d (29%); and 5h, 7s (16%).

Time for another quiz. Without me saying anything, guess who was the chip leader and what the next few cards were.

Give up?

The chip leader had the 75 offsuit hand. The flop came 5d, 7d, 5s, followed by the 6c and the Qh.

The next time you play, pay attention to what people have when they move all-in and who the chip leader was.

I think that’s the other problem with why people play so loose. They realize if they get an early chip lead, they will then win the majority of their hands after that. If that’s the case, why not move all-in early? It’s one of the reasons why 2,000 people will be eliminated from a freeroll tournament 10 minutes in.

There would only be one true way to stop this. Stop letting people reload in the play money game every five minutes. Make it a maximum of twice a day, or something like that, and people won’t be as anxious to blow their money.

But sites won’t do this, because it makes it less likely poor players will get a false sense of confidence and start spending real money. If you take a bad poker player who gets lucky a lot, he’s going to want to start making real money (thinking the game is easy), which is how the sites make a profit.

It’s a shame, because these sites create more bad players than good ones.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The secret to poker

  1. Heh, play money tables are mostly for learning the rules and getting familiar with the site’s version of poker software, not necessarily for learning how to play poker.

    The most common theory I’ve heard is that poker sites intentionally favor the bad player, because the good players will come back because they can win, but the bad players need the encouragement. I doubt that the big sites would even consider risking something like this, but IPoker goes the other way and is limiting the number of winning cash game players that are allowed to play. The can still play tournies, but they’ve gotta be under the quota to play cash games.

    Anyway, beyond practicing the rules and practicing calculating pot odds and the like, play money is not the way or place to learn how to play properly.

    • Good points. But for those who don’t have a lot of money, or can’t even spare any cash for real money games, play money is the only option.

      • If you don’t have/want to deposit real money, I’d recommend freerolls. Every site has them.

        They’re a different animal again from play money, but I’m not the only one to have been successful starting a real money bankroll on a site without making a deposit.

        Another option is to build up a bankroll of over $1,000,000 in play money on PokerStars. People sell in quantities of $1,000,000 for real money.

        And, apparently I didn’t mention it above, but Sit and Goes with buyins from 10,000 play money and up start to play similar to $1 or $2 real money Sit and Goes. People at those levels start to value their play money and have done some playing.

        Just some additional thoughts. gl!

  2. Good points, but i still believe play money is the way to go

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