Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2009) in Poker Player newspaper.
If you’ve followed this column over the past year, you know that I usually do a self-interview, during which I ask my own questions and then answer them. Today, you get to ask the questions.
Just raise your hands, and I’ll begin taking questions from the audience. First question please…
Question 1: Will you sign a national health care plan if it doesn’t include a government-run insurance option?
You’re in the wrong press conference. Go back to the hallway. Obama is speaking 26 doors to the left.
I’ll take the next question from the lady in the back row wearing a bathrobe and a shower cap.
Question 2: My husband is against gambling. How do I convince him that anyone can win at poker?
I meant the lady in the blue shower cap, but I’ll answer your question anyway.
If you’re already playing, then convincing him should be easy. Just win, if you’re capable of doing that. The results will soon speak for themselves. Unfortunately, many players who make logical arguments about why they can beat poker, don’t actually accomplish that feat.
It isn’t easy to win. In a casino environment where dealers, cards, tables, comfortable chairs, protection, and a broad choice of games are provided, you pay for the opportunity to win.
The cost is reasonable, but you can’t just be a little better than your opponents to come out on top in the long run. You need to be a whole lot better. You don’t merely need to beat your opponents; you need to beat them by enough to pay expenses and still show a profit. That means you need a great deal of skill.
Most players who actually beat their opponents for modest amounts don’t show a profit. The small amounts they extract from other players through slightly superior play are overwhelmed by travel expenses, rakes or hourly fees, tips, and food. You’re actually beating your opponents, but you’re not making money.
Fortunately, thousands of players are good enough to overcome these costs and make their livings playing poker. That’s because you’re not playing casino games where it’s you against the house and the odds are fixed against you.
In poker it’s player against player, you make your own odds, and superior players eventually win. You could tell your husband that, if you haven’t begun playing yet and are trying to convince him that you should.
In any case, make sure you’re good enough to win right now. Otherwise, keep fine-tuning your game. Discipline is the key. Play your best game all the time. And, I repeat, the best way to prevail in this argument is simply to go out and win.
Now I’ll take the question from the other lady.
Question 3: How can I convince my husband to quit playing poker? He never wins.
If your husband loves poker and isn’t losing uncomfortable amounts, you might have to live with it. Most players choose poker for the challenge and entertainment. They have no expectation of long-term profit. And that’s okay, because for most, it’s less expensive than many other hobbies, like skiing, golf, or rebuilding World War II aircraft.
However, if your husband is regularly losing serious money and playing poorly, that’s a very tough issue to deal with. You could coax him into attending many of the support groups.
I’ve had my public quibbles with Gamblers Anonymous, mostly because they circulated a pamphlet that suggested you can’t win gambling and that if you ever had a problem gambling, you could never even play penny-ante poker again. They equated this to a recovering alcoholic having a sip of liquor, which would trigger a relapse. I think that’s true for alcohol, but not for gambling, from which GA’s “twelve steps” is modeled.
Despite that, I think GA’s support groups might afford a solution. They could help, but not entirely for the right theoretical reasons.
The second solution, a longer shot, is to motivate your husband to play better poker. I’ve known problem gamblers who reformed and became winning poker players, using their urge to take risks constructively by abandoning games where they were at a disadvantage and honing their poker skills. That’s not possible for players without discipline, but it’s a vague hope.
I’ll take one last question from the gentleman front row center in the tuxedo.
Question 4: You teach a lot of trickery in poker. You say that against opponents that are too lively, you should just keep calling — rather than betting or raising — and let them hang themselves. For me, this only works once or twice and then they wise up. What do you recommend?
I recommend you don’t use any deceptive plays too often. The longer players have seen you go without using a particular deceptive tactic, the more equity you’ve built up for that tactic, and the more it is likely to succeed.
You can’t keep trapping loose opponents by just checking and calling. You’ve got to change pace and sometimes bet, assuming they’re aware of your actions and will make corrections. So, bet and raise a few times, disguising your main overall strategy against those players.
As another example, if you’re perceived as having played fairly conservatively in a no-limit hold ’em game, you’ve built up equity for making a small raise on the button with 10-9 offsuit against a late position caller. If nobody raises, the flop gives you two ways to win: You can connect with a deceptive 10 or 9 (or something better) or big cards can flop.
In the first case, you have potential power and can bet the probable best opposing hand (depending on the other flopped cards). And in the second case, you can often steal the pot, because the big flop following your raise has made opponents fear that you connected.
Plays like that are profitable if attempted sparingly. They lose a great deal of money if overused. It’s the same with all poker deception. Build up equity, then proceed. Never use one tactic too often.
Thanks for attending. — MC
Next self-interview: Mike Caro poker word is Keys