Concentrate on Skill,Not Luck ; Superior and Inferior in Poker

Concentrate more on poker skill than luck
by George Epstein
Luck is nothing more than random chance. Good luck favors you; bad luck does not. You have absolutely no control over it.Luck is nothing more than random chance. Good luck favors you; bad luck does not. You have absolutely no control over it.

Our model

Try to picture this: On a two-dimensional plot, we can represent luck as a sine wave on a zero horizontal axis. Above the line, it’s positive and good – in your favor. Below the line,
bad and negative. In the long run, it evens out; the pluses are balanced by the minuses.

Of course, at the poker table we always “pray” for good luck. But there are no favorites, though it may sometimes seem that way when you are getting rivered over and over. In the eyes of the “poker gods,” we are all alike and equally deserving.

Poker skill is a measure of your ability or expertise; it’s a gauge of your proficiency in playing the game. In the long run, it determines whether you are a winner or a loser. On the
same plot with luck, skill is on the horizontal line when it’s zero, and climbs above it as you gain greater skill.

It is never below the line. The greater your skill level, the more good fortune you will enjoy – in the long run. The sum of the luck and skill points determines your results.

How to do it

Skill can be achieved and improved by studying the game, thinking about the various strategies and tactics, learning new concepts, reading poker books and magazines, attending poker classes and seminars (such as those offered at local senior centers), discussions with poker buddies, and paying attention while playing or observing the game.

As time passes and you gain greater skill, expect to win more often and enjoy bigger payoffs. It takes effort; you cannot just sit there and gain skill by osmosis. You must work at it.
We have absolutely no control over luck; it’s just a matter of chance. You don’t know what cards the dealer will put out on the board and couldn’t even make a halfway intelligent
guess. On the other hand, we can, in fact, influence luck – in our favor. Skill is the magic ingredient.

Key skills

Being skilled you will make fewer mistakes. When a hand goes against you, think about it. Did I make a mistake? Should I have played that hand differently? Learn from your mistakes. We are only human and are bound to err on occasion. Try to minimize those errors; skill will dominate the luck factor.

Most important is skill in starting-hand selection. Use the Hold’em Algorithm. Then luck will be less critical. By avoiding probable losers, luck no longer is a major factor.

With a drawing hand on the flop, count your outs and estimate card odds using the 4-2 Rule; compare this to your pot odds. If the pot odds are higher than the card odds, you have a better chance (luck) of succeeding at the showdown. There are more opportunities for luck to help you win.

“Knowing” your opponents – tight, loose, aggressive, passive, calling-station, etc. – can help you “read” their hands more accurately. Then, you can make better decisions; so luck is
more likely to help you.

Knowing which opponents are easier to bluff out. Using the Esther Bluff tactic, will make your bluffs much more effective. Rely less on good luck. Semi-bluffing gives you two ways to win the pot, so you are much less dependent on the luck factor.

Using the Hold’em Caveat preflop helps you decide whether to pay to see the flop with a marginal drawing hand. Lose less when you miss; win more when you connect. Probability is with you. Luck is still involved, but less of a dominant factor.

It is best to be lucky and good (skilled)!

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at

Challenging Griffin’s no inferiors view on poker
by Irene Edith
Last December in another gaming publication, poker pro Gavin Griffin offered an intriguing column in which he tried to identify the way we might label players.

To start, he referred to poker sharks as the good players and fish as the bad. I prefer to call them PokerSharks and PokerPigeons. No big deal. A loser is a loser no matter how you
choose to label him.

But, Griffin went one giant step further: He frowned on the idea of labeling players as inferior vs. superior. It’s “damaging to your game,” he warned. Then, he suggested different
players be identified based on their goals or motives for playing.

“Winning players play poker to make money,” he said. “Other players seek social interaction, gambling, challenging (their) brain(s), getting out of the house, seeing friends…letting
off steam from a bad day.”

The idea is that using this different-goals model, good players would be less disturbed when an inferior player beats them out.

There are many reasons why a poor player might beat out a much better player. For one thing, even the best players make mistakes. I have seen WPT “pros” on TV give tells when bluffing.How many of these “pros” have developed the skill to use the Esther Bluff? How many of them know how to use the Hold’em Algorithm? And, then too, even the best (Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu) cannot control what we call luck. It’s only natural to be disturbed when you get “rivered.”

But then Griffin referred to the “poor players” as “recreational players.” With that, I take umbrage.

On behalf of the millions of recreational poker players, I resent his inference that all recreational players are poor players; and, therefore, bound to lose. He puts them into the
category of those he calls “fun players,” as if they only played for the fun of it, and really didn’t care whether they win or lose.

Griffin is dead wrong!

Watching their faces when they lose or win a big hand puts that proposition into the garbage heap. Recreational poker players do play poker for many of the reasons Griffin lists – but I challenge him to prove they don’t care whether or not they win or lose.

For the most part, they play in low- and middle-limit games, and lower stake no-limit games. Some participate in low buy-in tournaments – because they see it as an opportunity to win a big cash prize.

I have attended some of the poker games and classes offered by George “The Engineer” Epstein for his Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group. Whether playing for donated prizes or playing for cash in B&M casinos or home games, each of these “recreational” players is shooting to go home a winner.

And, the more they win, the more fun it is!

Years ago, when I was much younger, I belonged to a bowling league. I practiced to improve my bowling skills – and played to score the most points I could. I went out there to win! Just like every recreational poker player I know.

Realize that being a recreational poker player is no different than a high-school or college student playing football in the uniform representing his school. Sure, there may be many
reasons he chooses to take the time away from his studies to practice and play that sport – but he is playing to win.

In any case, Gavin Griffin did make me think.

Encore: Now in his early 30s, Griffin started playing poker while attending TCU, eventually becoming a full-time poker pro. Though cash games are his main source of income, he has done well in major tournaments, including winning a WSOP bracelet. In 2004, he became the youngest player at the time to hold a WSOP title. He gained fame when, in 2007, he won the tournament at the European Poker Tour Grand Final in Monte Carlo.

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