Can You Win Consistently In Poker?
Can You Win Consistently In Poker?
Many often ask whether consistently winning in poker is a possibility, the answers to that can be somewhat tough to explain. This is why.
While it is possible to consistently win at poker in the lower stakes, even the best players are not immune from losing streaks or days at certain periods. At much higher limits however it might be closer to a 60/40 split for a top-level player when you compare their winning versus losing days.
There is more than meets the eye, however, which is where we will break it down into the finer details across the length of this article and find out once and for all if it is even possible to consistently win at poker.
There are a few levels of poker, in ascending order; micro, small, mid, and finally high stakes poker. The best players can be tabling games and posting win rates of 20bb/100 or 30bb/100 on a really good day. It is almost mythical to be playing 365 days a year where you might break even for five or ten days—this is virtually unheard of in the poker world.
Poker is an easy game when you virtually never lose!
However, trying to make RM500 a day playing poker is not a very realistic goal for many poker players to achieve. Most players expect to have more losing days than winning, even at the lowest of stakes, partly because poker games have become harder to beat these days.
At best, the best players can expect to have up to 5-8 losing days assuming they play every single day of the year. Despite this, this is still a desirable outcome and goes to show that an 80/20 split winning to losing days is a sign of consistent winning in poker.
Now that you are confident with playing at a beginner level, you can begin to look past that and start with no-limit games of RM50, RM100, RM250, or RM500 online.
However, if there is one cardinal rule in poker, it is this—you have to move up the stakes to be a better player. Your win rate will see a decline, and you will also experience greater variance and more losing days. And the best possible run a player can have while playing games with a big volume is also approximately 8-12 losing days a month out of 365 days.
Volume is crucial in achieving consistent wins because anyone who plays 600 hands a day will have a greater chance of having a losing day than someone who plays between 2,000 or 4,000 hands. With the help of various poker tools and software, playing multiple hands across different tables is what allows them to put in long sessions.
By increasing the sample size of the number of hands you play, the variance will have significantly less influence over your win rate. Thus, if you are a winning poker player, then the amount of winning days in your bag will be greater.
In other words, the more hands you play, the greater your chances of achieving consistent wins across the board.
When it comes to mid-stakes poker, this is where all of the good news ends. Winning consistently becomes harder than ever due to the significantly higher levels of skill involved—unless you are a God at selecting the table that will give you a win every time.
Many mid-stakes players are professional players who study GTO solvers for several hours a day. And even with all this skill and expertise, not even the big winners are immune from experiencing around 12-15 losing days a month; in reality, it is always possible that they lose more days than they win.
Essentially, the edges in mid-stakes poker are extremely fine in these games, which makes the variance even more unpredictable than usual. Highly skilled players in online mid-stakes poker can expect to achieve a win at most at a 0.5 or 0.6 probability of winning every time they sit down to play.
It does not look great, but there is hope.
There is still a way around this, and that is by heavily selecting tables.
Rather than pushing yourself to the limit and consuming much of your precious time—say 6 hours a day—trying to study GTO solvers to get the upper hand, you can consider taking the path of least resistance and spend time finding much softer games filled with easy fish to play in.
Although these games are often found at lower limits, the action is oftentimes much greater than higher limits poker, and you can easily increase the volume of your hands by using multi-table software to increase your winnings. The icing on the cake? If you want more guaranteed results, then head to live casino poker.
Now that we have looked through the fact that it is possible to win consistently in poker, let us explore five of the most important techniques in making sure that your poker strategy is the one that will pay you dividends.
The five techniques include:
- Knowing the cards you will play
- Concealing your holdings
- Choosing the right game to play in
- Adapting to your opponent’s gameplay
- Keeping major decisions simple
Know the Cards You Will Play
Poker at its simplest is essentially a game whereby you play your cards against those of your opponent. There are also more variables involved during a round but successfully choosing the correct hands to play is what makes the difference between a skilled and unskilled player.
While the concept is common knowledge to any poker player, the premise of this technique is to understand in greater detail what hands you should play, and from what position? The general rule of thumb here is that more hands should be played the closer a player is to the button.
For aggressive players, this sounds like common sense, but even so, they tend to commit many errors because they either do not map out the hands they want to play before the session or, they get cold feet and back out from implementing this strategy against other players. You can easily avoid this problem by studying poker positions on which hands should be played depending on your position.
This strategy will bring you massive improvements to your game when you discover some of the hands you should be playing, and some of the hands you should not be playing; you would be surprised. To those who think this is a waste of time, such as weak players, this will be the reason that they remain weak players forever; letting the games take their money again and again.
Also, be sure not to fall into the trap of believing it is unnecessary to understand hand selection. This is because having a proper strategy in place will allow you to eliminate all doubt and thus become a far stronger and more confident player on the preflop game—making you a winning machine.
Conceal Your Holdings
Now that you have mastered the understanding of hand selection, it is now time to make sure that the hands you have selected are played correctly.
Take player A, for example, his game is tight and he raises pre-flop once an hour. On the showdown, his cards are devilish. Now, whenever he raises the preflop you are convinced his hands are solid.
In the short term, this style of play can work, but experienced players will be able to sniff through the fluff and exploit his weaknesses to defeat him easily.
It is all about unpredictability. Preferably you would not want your opponents to see through you, and would rather give them a hard time putting you to a hand. Four rules should be followed if you wish to put yourself ahead and scramble your opponents:
1. Raise to the same amount with all hands you play
When you keep your bet sizes the same, it becomes almost impossible for your rivals to put you on a hand. Thus, when your opponents think you are raising with poor hands, just sit back and reap the rewards of the pot once they pay you off because they think you have a monster.
2. Play many hands post-flop with the same actions
The benefit of playing many hands post-flop is that the many same actions help to disguise your holdings, making it hard for your opponents to figure out exactly what your plan is. It also helps to maintain your pre-flop secrecy as mentioned earlier.
3. A mix of playing weak and strong hands in the same way
Mixing between weak and strong hands adds another layer and depth to your game by stopping opponents from putting you to a hand. They will often hold you in resentment but at the same time not want to risk their stack just to find out what you have.
4. Do not show your opponents your cards at any point if you do not need to
You never have to show your cards to your opponents at any point unless you have to. Take for example pro poker player, Phil Ivey; you would be hard-pressed to find a time where he reveals his hands to his opponents. Since you do not want to give any more information to your opponents than you have to, concealing your cards will surely add more mystery to your game.
Many players often overlook the simple process of choosing the correct game that suits them, one of the most critical processes you can overlook.
And even if things have changed quite a bit with the rise of the internet, you can never run away from the fundamentals of poker before you jump right into a game, physical or virtual.
These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself before you even think about joining a poker table:
- How high is the house edge?
- Are the players weak, average, or good?
- How the players are playing – are they playing lots of hands, or is the table being somewhat conservative?
- Is the environment safe to play in a live situation?
- Are these players that you previously had an encounter with? As matchup knowledge can give you an advantage.
As poker is a game for people; players talk, play on the same table together, and win and lose together, you will always have the choice to choose the type of game that you wish to play. Let us look at the different positive aspects that you should swear by.
There are many different aspects to finding the right game to play. Let’s look at the list of good places to play:
- A game with no rake taken by the house
- A game played by many recreational players who play for fun
- A game where a lot of alcohol is being consumed
- A game with a lot of loose action from various players at the table
- A game that you know is safe
Some of these factors are more realistic than others, but sometimes these factors will not always be in your control. The most important thing however is that you are conscious of them and keep them in the back of your mind.
Given the nature of a poker game, the banter and trash talk can escalate to a point where it becomes an all-out ego war. Many players will talk the talk but even more, can walk the walk, the key here is to always remember what your priorities are—which is to make a profit. Although it can be tempting to try a shot in a big game, it is always more worth it to maximize profits by playing against weaker, less skilled players.
Making adjustments and adapting to your opponent’s game is what distinguishes a truly skilled player from the rest of the average players, letting them shine through and showing their edge. Determining what kind of tendencies their opponents might have, finding a way to exploit them, and continue beating them at the game.
Once more, Phil Ivey is a brilliant example of how good players make adjustments. He does this by studying his opponents very closely and trying to look out for any new information that he can glean from them. You seldom see him talk or laugh during the duration of a game, but rather, he will just have an intent to stare at his outward appearance as he diligently analyses his opponent’s every move trying to determine how he can best attack them.
This approach may work for some, but it is up to you to find an approach that works for you.
If you do not already have your strategy, then you can focus on looking for actual tendencies that you can take advantage of and manipulate. Some tendencies you might be able to notice are:
- How aggressively your opponents are playing
- What hands they are turning over at the showdown
- When they appear agitated, or they are getting fed up with having to wait around for hands
- When they play hands that just do not make any sense
These techniques are just some of the few that can help you build a spoiled mental image of your opponent’s playstyle, allowing you to use this information to the fullest advantage to make the best possible decision.
Of course, there is no way to know for sure whether a player is bluffing or has the nuts in an actual poker game, but using these techniques can allow you to read your opponents; see things you never knew were there before, and ultimately gain information on other players that they do not have. For example, if an aggressive player looks worn out, bored or annoyed, you are far more likely to check your strong hands first than to be betting on them, which induces them to make bets even when they have absolutely nothing in hand.
It is not to say that you should check your hands all the time, but depending on the context and situation, you can analyse it and then begin to build your trap.
Remember to try and keep it focused at the table at all times by noticing what hands players are showing down, then deciphering whether their pre-flop raise was correct or wrong. If their pre-flop raise was wrong, then that is indicative of future mistakes that they are likely to make across the duration of the game, giving you an excellent opportunity to capitalise and make a profit from them.
Whenever you are playing in any poker game, whether it is a cash game, sit and go, or in a tournament, it is extremely important to keep a level head and not to stress yourself out. While the information that you need to process can be overwhelming at times, it is always better to mentally slow down and analyse the situation before going further.
You never have to be conscious or afraid of annoying other players, of getting the clock called on you, etc. Just take all the time you need to logically process and think through the hand that is in progress. Think about what hands you have, and also what hands your opponent might have in these kinds of situations, then use this information to determine the next profitable move you should make.
Whenever you are experiencing some mental block, just think about all the hands you would play in the same way and never feel obliged to do a three-barrel bluff just because you have no showdown value.
Oftentimes it is infinitely better to cut your losses and wait for better opportunities to recuperate than to risk your stack on marginal decisions. It largely boils down to knowing what hands you should open the pot with, and how best to play them.
Now back to the burning question of whether you can consistently win in poker, the answer is…yes and no. For starters, it depends on what kind of stakes you are playing; if you are playing lower stakes poker, then achieving consistent wins is more likely at the expense of profit margin, at higher stakes, however, your winning edge becomes even thinner due to the skill level, variance, and the level of financial commitment you have to put in just to play a game.
You can win consistently by selecting tables and putting in big volumes at super low stake tables, even if you use just a very fundamental strategy. However, if you decide to go up a few levels—mid to high—then you will have a highly unpredictable variance to contend with; there is no way you can win consistently even by playing constantly every day.
There is no doubt that you can come out a winner in these games over the long run, but it will take a tremendous amount of work to get your skill set up to the level where it needs to be for you to be contending against the heavyweights, and not to mention that the higher you go, the harder the swings hit.
The first thing we need to do is dispel the myth that poker is gambling. It’s not. Gambling is defined as “staking something on a contingency”. In other words, you are risking something of value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the hope of winning something of more value. Read “The Poker Myth: Why Poker is not Gambling” for a more in-depth look at this topic.