Poker is a game of skill and chance. Whether chance or skill has a more important role in it is debatable, however, one thing is certain: you will never be able to influence chance, so in order to improve your results you can only tamper with one side of that equation, and that’s poker strategy.
If you are at all interested in the game, you probably know that while Lady Luck will definitely stick her nose into the outcome of a poker hand or another, some players do win more than others, and that can only be written off to skill.
Poker Strategy consists of a series of basic concepts, the understanding of which will prompt you to take certain decisions in certain circumstances, by means of which you’ll improve your chances to win.
Poker strategy begins with the fundamental theorem of poker. According to this theory, whenever you play a hand the same way you would if you could see your opponents’ hole cards, you play correctly. Whenever you play a hand differently, you give up value and thus your approach is less than optimal.
While it is quite impossible to play correctly according to the above said theorem, it is possible to approximate correct play to a degree which actually makes a significant difference.
The way to play as close as possible to the fundamental theorem of poker is to make use of the EV in your decision-making process. The expected value is the driving force behind successful play. Whenever a player makes a call with the positive expected value on his side, he will always win a little money. No, he won’t always take down the pot, but in the long-run he will win money, which – when divided with the number of times he acted on positive EV – will give him a “per bet” revenue which will always be there regardless of whether or not he wins the given hand. Winning or losing streaks will have no effect on his winnings.
Likewise, if you play negative EV hands, you will lose a given amount of money (or chips) on each hand.
This is the nature of poker. Poker strategy is meant either to bring the positive EV about, or to gauge the amount of money involved in pots. This is what every savvy poker player does all the time: he chases the EV. Whether one calls it starting hand selection, rakeback deals, bonus whoring, position play, attack on the blinds, pot committing opponents or whatever else, it’s still a wild chase aimed at obtaining the EV and hammering it home time and time again.
This chase requires discipline. Learning the theory itself is not an outstandingly great achievement since everyone interested can and will do it. Studying will only give you an edge over those who ignore the learning aspect. In order to secure an edge over skilled and educated opposition, you need to be disciplined enough to allow your edges obtained through hard study to do their work. Few people have the ability to achieve this and this is where talent comes into the picture.