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Winning at Texas Holdem is harder than it looks. New players can get confused by all the advice available. Today, Juicy Stakes Poker will talk about helpful poker insights that are useful in everyday life as well.

Poker Success Requires Both Skill and Luck

A lot of poker players, even experienced ones or perhaps especially experienced ones, seem to feel that if you know the math and science behind poker, you will win.  This is the skill side of poker.  There are two things to keep in mind when we talk about the skill side of poker.

One is that skill in poker is a lot more than knowing the math and science.  It involves knowing people.  Most of us know people superficially.  Good poker players know people at the same depth as accomplished novelists know them.

Sydney J. Harris, a great columnist in Chicago during the 1960s and 1970s once wrote that one of the things we need least, as a society, is another second-rate novel.  Here he was talking not only about average and uninspired writing.  He was also talking about average and uninspired insight into people.

Poker players cannot assume that they ever know enough about people.  True success at poker requires studying people all the time!

Luck as Much as Skill Can Affect the Outcome of a Hand or Session

The other major insight in the skill side of poker is that the luck side can dominate a game or a player’s performance.  If luck is causing you to lose, you can simply stop playing in that game on that day or you can admit that your skill level is not what you had thought it was.

This leads to another very important insight.

Don’t Overestimate Your Skill Level and Don’t Underestimate Your Skill Level

This is a lot harder to do than it might seem.  That’s why we are categorizing it as a major insight in poker.  If you overestimate your skill level, you will probably play in many games with more skilled players and for higher stakes than you should be playing for.

You will lose your bankroll very quickly if you overestimate your skill level.  On the other hand, if you underestimate your skill level, you will second guess many decisions during the play of a hand.  This might actually be a tell or it might just cause you to get less from a good hand than you need to win in order to cover all of the losses that inevitably come to even the best poker players.

True Self-evaluatiomn is Very hard to Do

Being able to honestly evaluate your true skill level is very difficult.  One of the main reasons people fail in poker or in real life is that they don’t know what their true skill level is in the activity they are pursuing or working on.  There is a cliché that men don’t like to ask for directions when they are driving.  The inability or unwillingness to ask for help is a surefire way to fail in many areas from driving, to business, to poker.

Additional Pitfalls of Overestimating or Underestimating One’s Skill Level

Poker players who think they know the game a lot better than they actually know it, become lazy about studying.  This same phenomenon occurs in many endeavors.  The university student who thinks that he or she can simply listen during lectures will often find themselves at a complete loss on a test.

The same happens in sports.  Athletes practice the basic plays and movements every day so that when they are called upon to perform them in a game they can do so.  One of the most telling truths about sports is in the way baseball players react when they have done something well.

In most cases, an onlooker can’t tell that the player made an excellent play, got an important hit, or did exceptionally well pitching the ball.  It is an unwritten rule in baseball that you stay on an even keel at all times.  You know when you have done well and your opponents also know when you have done well.  It isn’t necessary to telegraph the information to everyone else.

After all, in baseball perhaps more so than in other sports, the luck of the game evens out over time and players realize that.  So to act out a positive development in a game is almost an act of self-taunting as everyone knows that players look like fools at many points in their careers.

How Important is Strategy?

This is another side of the coin of fairly evaluating your skill at poker.  A great strategy, perfectly thought out and executed, may fall flat because the opponent didn’t understand any of the nuances of the hand!  Phil Hellmuth drives himself crazy when he correctly evaluates a hand but doesn’t correctly evaluate his opponent.

Hellmuth’s way of dealing with a bad beat at the hand of a clueless opponent is to berate the opponent as among other things a 'moron' and an 'imbecile'.

Strategy involves both the skill side of poker and the luck side of poker as well.  The best strategy also involves adopting a baseball player’s attitude to good wins or bad beats.  Staying calm is a major part of the poker skill set.

An English Lesson on the Meaning of the Term “Probably”

There are many highly ambiguous words in English.  What exactly does probably mean?  Some people would contend that when someone says a given outcome is probable, he or she is talking like a politician and that in reality there is zero chance that that specific outcome will happen.

Others take the opposite point of view.  They say that a person who talks about something probably happening is simply hedging their commitment to it happening.  In 2016, when all of the pollsters, media people, and even average citizens thought that Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in to win the Presidential election, the most anyone ever said was that she has a 95% chance of winning.  Everyone was wrong on that one!

Here are a few other words that are ambiguous in English.  They all refer to quantity.

  • A few
  • Many
  • A couple of
  • A lot of
  • Some
  • Sometimes
  • A while

How many is many?  Are many and a lot of the same?  Is sometimes the same as in a while?  How many are a couple.  Are a few more or less than many?  Are a few and some the same?

People have different definitions for these terms.  “A couple of” might be two or three, some is usually more than three but fewer than many, a lot of might be a lot more than many or exactly the same amount!

The point from the standpoint of this discussion is that probability not only doesn’t mean certainty, it also has many shades and nuances of meaning.  Studying poker, studying opponents, and studying probabilities are simply steps to improving your game.  They are no guarantees in poker!

We will continue this discussion soon.


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