Since its earliest days, people have made the mistake of considering online poker a gambling game. It seems to be a gambling game because it is usually played for money, and in fact it is not a good game if there are no stakes. Nevertheless, online poker game is farther from a gambling game than almost any other card game you can think of, even contract bridge. Despite the fact that there are innumerable forms of poker game and that the strategy differs in all of them, good players will almost always wind up winners, and poor players, losers. As these pages unfold we will give many bits of advice on how to be a skillful and winning player rather than a losing one, but we can sum up the whole principle with my first bit of advice, which is as follows:
If you aren't beating the game, you are being outplayed. There is a reason why you lose, even if you can't figure it out.
Mathematically, all things are possible. Out of a hundred thousand players, there will be two or three good poker players who consistently hold bad cards and lose when they should win, and there will be two or three poor players (to balance them) who consistently hold good cards and win when they should lose. It is a form of self-deceit, and flying in the face of probabilities, to think that you are one of the unlucky few if you are losing when you think you should be winning. For nearly all players, the cards even up in the long run. They do not come out exactly even that would be as unusual, over the course of a lifetime, as for a poker player always to have ten per cent the better of it but they come close to even.
When you are deciding whether to play and how to play, the other players in a given game are much more significant than the structure. Rarely will the structure deter good poker players from sitting down, but if they look around the table and see nothing but top players, relative to their own abilities, they should probably find another game. There is an old and true adage in poker: If you look around and don't see a sucker in the game, you're it.
At the same time, everybody in the game does not have to be worse than you. For a poker game to be potentially profitable, all you need are one or two bad players or five or six mediocre players. However, if everyone in the poker game is as good as you or nearly as good, you may not be taking the worst of it, but you cannot expect your hourly rate to be very high.
Most poker players will hold somewhere between 48 per cent and 52 per cent of all the good cards they are entitled to. That creates a range of four per cent. The minimum advantage of the good poker player over the poor player is ten per cent, and in a game where there is a wide disparity as when one very good player plays with palookas-the advantage can be 25 per cent or more. Therefore, a consistently bad card holder (who gets only 48 per cent of the good cards) will still have enough percentage to be a winner. If he is a poor card holder he may win a little less than he should, and if he is a good card-holder he may win a little more, but he will still win.
The conclusion is this: When you have read this guide, and put its precepts into practice, and when you are convinced that you are playing the poker game as well as possible, then, if you still lose, your only recourse is to find a different game to play in one in which the other players are not quite so good.