If you regularly play poker in venues like new casinos UK, you are doing quite well if you’re a net winner in over 50 percent of your sessions. That’s because heading into battle at the felt you have a rather steep “poker hill” to surmount in addition to besting the other players at your table. The cost-to-play is a huge obstacle.
In a low-limit game like $4-$8 hold’em, the rake figures to be about $25 per hour on average. The total amount is even higher at short-handed tables and in higher-stakes games. Play for eight hours, and your cost adds up to $150. That may well be more than you win on a good night; even the experts have trouble overcoming a cost that high. That’s a big mountain to climb even before you factor in tipping the dealers.
So, in the aforementioned example of an eight-hour session, you need to be winning at least $150-$180 to show a profit at the end of the day. And, of course, your opponents aren’t just going to lay down and let you steamroll them. After all, their cost-to-play is just as high as yours.
What can you do about it?
Well, for one thing, you can quit while you are ahead, which is easier said than done. Who wants to quit while they’re doing well?
Poker has lots of ups and downs; call it “variance.” Disregarding the cost-to-play, usually the skilled player will come out ahead in the long run, but the cost-to-play still remains. Can you reduce or overcome those costs? And, can you minimize the cost of those hands you are bound to lose?
Here are some tips for ensuring that you don’t lose (or that you lose as little and as infrequently as possible):
- A smart player can reduce his/her share of the cost-to-play by playing fewer hands from the start. Be more selective in choosing starting hands. If you are using the Hold’em Algorithm (see ad for my book below), you might add one point to the starting-hand criteria.
- When you’re scouting out tables to sit at, make it a rule not to play in short-handed games. When you do, your share of the cost-to-play is higher than when you’re sitting at a full table.
- In the small blind, many players will complete the half-bet to see the flop. The smart player will muck his/her cards unless it’s a multi-way pot with no raises. (That’s the “Hold’em Caveat.”)
- If possible, try to avoid tables where there is lots of raising pre-flop – unless you substantially increase your starting-hands criteria. Likewise, avoid being seated to the right of a very aggressive player (a “maniac”). In such games, play only starting hands that can readily “stand” a raise after your pre-flop call. Don’t be afraid to request a seat change!
- Study your opponents as the session progresses. Learn their playing traits and take copious, detailed notes. When a tight player comes out raising on the river, believe him. He is usually quite unlikely to be bluffing or betting with a weak hand. Saving those chips during the session can add up; it could end up making the difference between a winning and losing session.
- Become an expert on bluffing. Deception (bluffing) is an essential part of the game. Players who “never bluff” most likely are losers. So it’s important to develop the skills needed to bluff successfully. (My book, The Art of bluffing, can help.)
- Don’t get bluffed out. (It’s fine if you do it to your opponents.) Knowing your opponents’ traits can help. Some players are more deceptive than others; be prepared.
- Don’t chase. With a drawing hand, count your outs and estimate your card odds; compare this with the pot odds. You must have a Positive Expectation – pot odds significantly higher than your card odds – to warrant further investing in that hand. There are charts to which you can refer.
I hope that all of the aforementioned doesn’t dissuade you from heading out to play poker in the first place. Indeed, the obstacles are many, but arriving to the tables prepared and keeping the above tips in mind will certainly ensure you hold on to as many of your chips as possible and have the best chance of not losing at poker.