These days, you hear a lot of negativity from certain jaded poker players.
‘The games are unbeatable!’
‘Software is ruining the game!’
‘Poker will be solved!’
‘There’s too much cheap training content!’
Let’s debunk the cries of the naysayers. In this article we shine a light on the future of poker and see that is alive and well.
‘The Games are Unbeatable!’
‘Sure, maybe for you’ Is my response to such a claim. The players who normally go around making such negative assumptions are those who have failed to meet their poker goals. Funnily enough, not one successful professional has ever said this. What leads people to this absurd conclusion?
One reason is ego. Many players find it easier to believe that poker is the problem, not themselves. This is a classic example of blaming external circumstances for your problems.
‘If poker would only not be unbeatable, I would be able to use my great skills to make money.’
When you show these players examples of people who play professionally and make a living from the game, their response is usually that these players are very rare crushers, but this too is false. I have taken many students through the stakes to become winners as high as 100NL Zoom. These successful students are not poker geniuses – they just have a few things in common. If you want to beat the games and prove the bitter doomsayer wrong, then here are some of the traits you’ll need.
- Determination – The journey is a long one. You need to be committed every step of the way.
- Resilience – Poker will throw some rough stretches at you. There will be times when you want to quit. These are the moments that separate the successful players from the jaded whiners.
- Humbleness – If you already think you know it all how can you possibly get better?
- Direction – You need to know what to work on and when. How much should you play vs. study? Where are your biggest leaks? Coaching is the best way to get the clarity on how to move forward.
- Logical Capacity – If you cannot break down a spot rationally and try to think about the most relevant factors, you will really struggle to make progress. This is s skill that can be worked on.
‘Software is Ruing the Games!’
First off, hand tracking software is a valuable tool for working on your own game. Imagine a top soccer team who never recorded any of their games or analysed their opponents. They would be placing themselves at a huge disadvantage for no reason.
Secondly, range building software and equity calculators are a great out-of-game tool, which help you gain a feel for how well certain ranges and hands do against others. By gaining this awareness off the tables, you will become a better decisionmaker. A great poker player is not someone who can compute the exact equity of their hand against their opponent’s range – no one can do that due to imperfect information and complexity in the game. It’s all about feel and estimation. Equity calculators just speed up the feel gaining side of poker learning. They give us information we could gain for ourselves through much mental labour, much like a calculator can speed up a mathematician’s role by finding the square root of 664 much more quickly than the human brain can. Running this part of a complicated equation through a calculator in no way devalues a mathematical discovery.
‘Poker will Be Solved!’
So what? As long as the solution to poker is far too complicated for a human to ever absorb and apply, it doesn’t matter. Chess is solved. Two insanely strong chess engines will draw, yet there are still world championships held between the strongest human players in the world and these contain many decisive games, where there is a winner and a loser. Poker is like chess in that it is a very complex and deep game with a solution that is so intricate and complicated that no human will ever come anywhere near to applying it. The fascinating part of poker is that when one player deviates from this optimal solution which is pretty much every hand that is ever played, his opponent is also incentivised to deviate.
Even if a solver can produce a game theory solution to a hand and design a range full of exact frequencies with each hand that constitutes a solution, this will never be a usable tool in the hands of humans.
Fearing solvers in poker is a bit like giving a cat a pair of scissors and worrying that it will cut everything in your house into little pieces.
‘There’s too Much Cheap Training Content!’
It is true that we play poker in an age of information. There are training sites, books, videos, courses, and streams everywhere; some of which actually contain good material! This wealth of information raises the overall standard of play in the games but not by much.
Imagine for every good nugget of information the average player learns, there is an application factor of between 0% and 100%. This number represents how well the player absorbs, understands, and finally, uses this material at the tables. As a coach, I can promise you that the average student’s application factor for a piece of information is between 5% and 10%. And we’re talking about a seriously motivated player who pays for tuition. How high do you think the average recreational player’s application factor is. That’s right, about 1%!
Cheap training content gives people the tools to get better, but it does not show them how to use them. We are a very long way away from poker players being as good as the material they watch.
Whether the bitter losing player is willing to accept it, poker is alive and well. So, what are you waiting for? Get to the tables and start achieving your goals.
February 2-16, the PokerStars Bounty Builder Series returns, find out how if you have a chance to win a ticket.
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