20/06/2008

There's Always a Way

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

Have you ever sat down in a game and thought “these players are too tough for me?” Or maybe you thought this and didn’t bother sitting in the game at all. If you did then I admire your sense and players who do this and select games relative to their skills have a better chance of success.

But this doesn’t alter the fact that whatever game that you refused to sit down in, there will always be a way to beat it somewhere. If the game is populated by players who are light years ahead of you in terms of skill and bankroll then obviously the way to beat this game is to go away and get the necessary skills and experience along with the proper bankroll and then come back and do it if you aspire to beat it at all.

But there is always a way to get an edge in any poker game even if you have to wait several years to get it. Let’s face it, on the scale of human achievement then cracking a $300-$600 game hardly registers on the scale and it is certainly not an insurmountable problem. If you have a good level of intelligence then what makes these players superior to you? In most cases it is simply experience and money, two commodities that anyone in the world can get with enough hard work and perseverance.

The point that I am trying to make here is that any poker game in the world can be overcome, the only difference being that the very tough games would take considerably longer to crack. But it always makes me laugh when I hear certain people say that a certain type of game isn’t profitable. For instance I was once talking to a guy in a card room a few years back who had just come back from Las Vegas at World Series time.

He was telling me about the limit cash games over there (he wasn’t a limit player) and how in his own words “you can’t get the b******s out of the pot”. I suggested that he altered his approach and that multi-way pots were the norm in limit and understanding equity and maximising value were the necessary skills in loose games and not bluffing.

I may as well have been speaking Urdu to him because he just simply didn’t understand what I was saying and this guy was supposed to be a player. How in heaven’s name can someone be in a game for two weeks solid (which he had been) and still not at least make SOME bloody adjustment along the way? But why he was sitting in the limit games when he had never played limit in his life was another mystery.

But in his mind these games were unbeatable but yet what he was explaining to me seemed like paradise. I received a similar tale of woe from him some time later when he had just got back from playing the cash games in Vienna…..do some people never learn?

I have said in various articles both on here and in numerous magazines about how online poker is getting tougher and this is true. But when we break this down then what does the word “tougher” actually mean. If it means that the opposition are understanding hand values better, position, bluffing, identifying bluffing, using tracking software, re-stealing, understanding equity etc then yes they are getting tougher.

But at the end of the day, poker players can be likened to a species of animal and like animals they have to cope with an environment that is forever changing. There are species of animals and insects that have survived on Earth for millions of years despite cataclysmic changes in their environment. I think that it is safe to assume that the sheer weight of these changes far outweigh anything that has ever happened in the world of poker or ever will.

But yet as supposed intelligent human beings, it doesn’t take much for people to start crying about changes to their environment not just in poker but in life. Like the people who whinge about the low stakes limit games being “unbeatable” because the average pot sizes have dropped alarmingly over the past couple of years.

Er….come again, when I see a $1-$2 limit game with an average pot size of 4BB then I don’t think, “here is a game that cannot be beat”. To me this looks like a game where everyone is playing tightly, the big blinds are getting far more walks and the value from hands that play well multi-way has dropped substantially. But this just means that there are far more pots to be stolen which under normal circumstances in years gone by would not have been possible in this form of poker.

You can still extract the money, but you just do it in a different way to how you did before. To me poker games are like a pendulum that swing between two extreme points. On one side we have games that are really loose and wild and on the other side we have games that are really tight and screwed down. These are the two extremes but to suggest that a poker player cannot survive in either environment is sheer folly. But most players tend to know that if you can get your head around the swings then loose wild games are profitable.

But yet these same players think that games that are really screwed down cannot be beat in limit play. The fact is that they either can or they can’t depending on certain factors. They can if they make the proper adjustments and get a good rakeback deal. But they can’t if they fail to properly adjust and insist on being immersed in the one and only environment that they have always flourished in….. and if that’s the case then their chances are slim.

About the Author