Poker is perhaps one of the most misunderstood games in the world. Even those that play the game on a regular basis can develop a series of beliefs about the game that are based on either misinformation or mere superstition.
Today we will take a look at 9 common misconceptions about poker and the realities of each.
Poker is Just Like BlackJack
You will hear many non-players refer to poker as just another game to play at the casino. They believe that the game is mostly luck and no different from playing BlackJack, Slots or Baccarat.
The reality is that Poker is unique in that it is the only game in a casino where you are not playing against the house. You’re playing against other players. Your winnings are dependent on your overall skill in the game and not how much you can minimize the house edge.
The Best Players Win Consistently
While it is true that the best poker players will win more money over the long term, poker is a very streaky game. There are times where you will win with great consistency and other times where you cannot buy a win for days, weeks or even months at a time.
A great example is that of Poker Hall of Famer Erik Seidel. Three months after finishing runner-up to Johnny Chan at the 1988 WSOP Main Event, he defeated Phil Hellmuth in a preliminary event of the Diamond Jim Dandy.
This earned Seidel $424,000 in the course of three months. After those impressive scores, he went for 16 months without cashing in a live poker tournament. That was the longest dry spell of his tournament career. Great players may be great over the long term, but they will still have periods where they lose.
Online Poker Player Have No Tells
A common belief is that you cannot pick up tells on online poker players because you cannot physically see them. Those that believe this are not paying enough attention in their games.
Poker players give off information during every hand they play. The difference with online poker is that you have to pay more attention to player betting patterns, the timing of their bets and their ranges relative to their position at the table. There are some players that give away information based on how they chat during the game.
Online poker players have tells but you have to pay closer attention to the action at the table instead of the physical actions of your opponent.
Texas Hold’em is a Game for the Young
In the years following the Poker Boom, we were fed the line that Texas Hold’em was a young man’s game because of the stamina that it required. However, in recent years the face of the game has begun to age as the game has evolved to include more players. The Seniors Event at the World Series of Poker set records over multiple years for the largest single start day event in history.
This year’s November Nine is a prime example of how poker is beginning to age. Neil Blumenfield is 61 and Pierre Neuville is 72. Neuville could set the record for the oldest player to win the Main Event should he take the bracelet. Both are prime examples of how you’re never too old to play this game.
I’m a Consistent Winner in My Home Game – I’m Ready to Go Pro
Don’t laugh – there are indeed people out there that think they can turn pro because they can beat their buddies or a random group of locals in a weekly home poker game. You may be the biggest winner among your circle of friends but that does not mean that you have the skills to play against players that regularly play this game for a living.
Often, these people get a cold dose of reality on their first real poker excursion to Las Vegas or another poker rich town. They either come back humbled and ready to accept their place in the poker world, or determined to actually improve their game and take another shot.
All You Need to Move Up in Stakes is a Healthy Bankroll
Some players believe that all you need to move up in stakes is a healthy bankroll. Their skills may only allow them to win at $1-$2 or $2-$4 NL but they have the bankroll to play higher. Instead of developing their play to give themselves a realistic shot at winning, they jump in with both feet and come out minus their bankroll.
As you move up stakes, you will encounter better players with a different skill set from those you played before. It is important that you work on your game in order to prepare yourself for the change in environment.
There’s nothing wrong with taking the occasional shot at higher limit if you feel you have the ability to do so, but playing higher just because you have the money to do so is a recipe for disaster.
Bluffing is Not Necessary in Poker
Ever run across a player that claims that they never bluff or they don’t believe you need to bluff to win? Either this player is bluffing or they are a losing player. The reality of many poker games is that you have to be able to bluff some in order to stay competitive in the game.
The frequency with which you bluff will depend on what type of game and the lineup you face. For example, you will bluff with a much greater frequency in a tournament or against a table of rocks than you would against a table of lagtards.
Think about how frequently you bluff. If you can say that the majority of your bluffs work, then you’re not bluffing enough. The ability to run a bluff when needed is the difference between average poker players and great poker players.
The Same Strategies that Won 20 Years Ago Will Win Today
Poker is an ever-evolving game and players are constantly developing new strategies. Furthermore, what was considered to be a solid winning strategy 20 years ago is primarily considered basic to low-level intermediate strategy today.
Unless you’re playing low stakes poker or home game poker, many of the older strategies will not be enough to win long-term. With the vast amount of information on the internet regarding poker strategy, players can take the old strategies and modify them with new school thinking to create a system that helps them win in today’s game.
Texas Hold’em Takes Five Minutes to Learn but a Lifetime to Master
Lastly, we’d like to address the common phrase that Texas Hold’em is a game that takes five minutes to learn but a lifetime to master. While it is true that you can learn the basic rules of the game in just a few minutes, it takes many players months or even years to learn many of the finer points of playing the game.
And as far as taking a lifetime to master, this would be true if poker was a static game. It is not. There are always new strategies and better players that come along to challenge the “old guard” of the game.
At some point, the strategies that once were winners either win less or become obsolete. Furthermore, most poker players reach a point where the game simply passes them by. This is either because of the evolution of the game or the effects of time on a person’s mind. The truth is that we never master the game because time catches up with us all.