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Feature article - Poker
The peculiarities of winning poker, by Steve Larson

Contrary to popular belief, winning poker is not something glamorous at all. It's not about taking huge pots and beating your opponent's straight flush with a royal flush. Winning poker is a long and tedious process of applying and reapplying tiny edges time and again. The more hours a winning player puts in, the more money he makes. In that respect, winning poker is a lot like a job.

In order to be able to play such wining poker, you need to find yourself a few edges you can apply too. What's the simplest way of doing that? Since the vast majority of people are imitators and only a small percentage are innovators, it's obvious that just seeking some sort of inspiration is the quickest and easiest way here.

Find someone who continuously applies small edges and generates huge amounts of money by doing so, and copy him.

Do you know a player who does this? You don't? No problem. It sometimes happens to us all, that we don't see the woods from the trees. The entity that does the best ever job of continuously applying a small edge and generating money this way, is the poker room itself. They achieve this through the poker rake, which is a tiny percentage of every real money pot, won in their room. This edge is something that will seriously set your game back. You have to know one thing about this rake: no matter whether you win or lose a pot, you'll still end up paying part of it. So it's not taken from the winners of the pots but from pretty much everybody actively participating in a hand. This means that there's a small edge working against you all the time. The type of minute edge you'd like to be working for you.

What can you do about it? Well, not much if you play in a poker room without rakeback, but a whole lot if you play while signed up to a rakeback offer. Rakeback is an edge just like the rake, with the difference that it works for you and not for the poker room. It is definitely one of the small benefits you should make use of. After all, once signed up, you don't even need to move a finger in order to apply it to every single real money hand that you play. What rakeback means is that the edge the poker room has on you (via the rake) will be permanently diminished with around 30%.

For other such edges, you need to carefully observe other players (winning players if possible). What do these guys do differently compared to losing players? The first thing you'll notice is that they play especially well in relation with the blinds. Solid blinds play is something absolutely necessary in winning poker.

When you are in one of the blinds, try to profit from the positive EV they provide as often as possible. Do not end up foolishly chasing after blinds though. That is one sure bankroll killer. You have to be aware of the fact that everyone loses in the blinds, it's just that winning players lose less than others. If you manage to lose $20 on the blinds/hour while everyone else at the table loses $30, you're playing well.

The most important part of solid blinds play comes into action when you're not in the blinds. This is the part good players are very successful at. You have to constantly attack the blinds and you have to do it successfully. The blinds are very important in every poker game (whether it's a NL, PL or FL one) but they become the very essence of the game when playing Fixed Limit.

Remember, recognizing the opportunity where such an edge can be applied is not enough by itself. You need to actually apply it too, and you need to constantly figure out some way to apply your edges. This is a very dynamic game and the ability to adapt on the go is a basic requirement.

About the author:

Steve Larson is an online poker player from Canada. Visit his rakeback site for more useful tips.

[Article submitted June 2006]

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