Compete Skillfully in Poker

The more you play, the more you will enjoy the challenge of poker, and find that it’s the ‘skilled’ rather then the ‘lucky’ that are most often rewarded.

Talk to winners of championship tournaments and they will tell you that their skill played a major role in their winning, and that conversely, the lack of skills of their opponents made their winning that much easier.

From time to time, they will also tell you that luck played a role in their winning the tournament, but mostly poker is a game of skill.

Probably a good description of a skilled poker player is a person who has mastered the critical concepts of the game, and with that in mind, there are four skill concepts that a poker player must possess in order to become a master of the game.

Math skills

  • Good poker players know the poker percentages.
  • 1 in 8 chance of hitting a set when holding a pocket pair, and that you have about a 1 in 3 chance of completing a flush draw at the flop.
  • They know the importance of ‘outs.’ Outs are simply the number of cards that will improve your hand.
  • Count your outs, multiply them by two, and add one, and that’s roughly the percentage shot you have at hitting (Outs x 2 + 1 = % of filling your anticipated hand).
  • Math skills are the most basic knowledge of poker; it’s Poker 101. Anyone who doesn’t understand these concepts should not play real money poker games until they do.


  • Good poker players demand an advantage.
  • What separates a pro (winning poker player) from an rookie (average player) is that the typical player does not expect to win, while a strong player does.
  • Good poker players understand that different games require different disciplines.
  • A disciplined no limit player can be a foolish limit player and vice versa.
  • A disciplined limit player is always very tight preflop (remember this, and it will save you a lot of money later on).
  • He or she will not play too many hands, only the ones that have very good odds of winning.

Psychological Skills

  • A good player is not a self-centered, or a conceited player, and always tries to have an answer to these three questions:

What does my foe have?
What does my foe think I have?
What does my foe think I think he has?

  • Knowing the answer to these questions is the first step, manipulating the answers is the second and more important step.
  • A skilled poker player manipulates these questions by slow playing, fast playing, and bluffing in order to throw his opponent off.

Understanding Risk vs Reward

  • Pot odds and demanding an advantage fall into this category.
  • Skill poker players are willing to take a long shot risk if the reward is high enough, but only if the expected return is worth it.
  • More importantly, they understand the Risk vs Reward nature of the game outside of the actual poker room.
  • They know how much bankroll they need to play, and how much money they need in reserve to cover other expenses in life.
  • Good poker players are fundamentally slightly risk-averse.
  • If you cannot afford to lose the entire amount of money you bring to a poker game, you should not be playing with that much money.
  • In essence it’s much better to risk what you can afford to lose, not what you don’t have to lose; and that separates the winners from the losers when you play casino games.

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