Somewhere among the lewd jokes, angle shooting, bad beat stories and outrageous boasts, I've managed to come away from poker tables with some valuable words of wisdom.
With people from every walk of life converging at a single table, it's inevitable that you will be seated with players who are more knowledgeable than you are about one topic or another. No matter who you are, every person you meet has the ability to teach you at least one thing.
When it comes to poker, even some of the most inexperienced players can provide valuable insights to the most seasoned pros. Some of the most valuable words of poker wisdom I've received have come from the most unlikely sources.
The funny part is, most of these people don't even understand themselves the concept they managed to convey to me. Here are some of the valuable things I've learned at the table:
"Concentrate on losing the least, not winning the most"
I consider this concept so greatly valuable that I actually wrote an entire article based purely on the idea alone. In poker, Limit especially, the most valuable state of mind is that of losing the least. When you have the best hand, there is only so much you can do to take your opponents to value town.
You can maybe get a good check-raise in, but more often than not when you're making a bet on each street, your opponent is calling that bet. There is always room for maximizing value, but in Limit that idea is secondary to the concept of minimizing losses.
Basically, you have no control over what your opponent does at the table (or I should say you have very little control). You simply cannot force them to raise you. In a Limit game, where a single big bet won or lost has a direct impact on your final results, the greatest way you can have consistent success is to limit the amount of bets you call away.
Exercise pot control, dump your losing hands and conserve as many bets as you can. When you are losing the absolute least, you will leave your sessions having won the most.
Never Go Broke with One Pair
There's a good chance that the only reason I was talking to the person who said this was that she was a ridiculously sexy girl, but no matter the reason; I'm glad I did. The advice has stuck with me, and has served as the one of the fundamental building blocks of my No-Limit career.
This advice is what solidified the idea of playing for small pots with small hands. If you're getting your whole stack in the middle in a deep-stacked cash game with no more than one pair, chances are you're getting the worst of it.
Unless you have an absolute monster, you want to be playing for a small pot.
This concept is simple to understand, but until it was put into those words, it never really hit home for me. "Going broke" has always been a powerful phrase in my mind, as it is the last thing I ever want to do.
"You make money in this game by calling with overcards"
While early in my days of playing $4/$8 Limit Hold'em I came across a player who decided to bestow some poker knowledge upon me. His advice was somewhat cynical: the only way to make money at the game was to call on the flop with nothing but overcards, and catch something on a later street.
Although this advice is somewhat retarded, it's the primary reason for learning one of the other building blocks of poker. Obvious hands rarely get paid. If the board is A♥ A♣ 3♥ 3♣ 5♠ you're almost never getting paid when holding an ace for the full boat. Having the obvious hand doesn't get you paid.
When your hand is hidden, and your opponents cannot put you on it at all, you have the ability to get paid through the teeth. This is a lesson that all advanced poker players use as the foundation of their game. It's why suited connectors and suited one-gappers can be such profitable hands.
The player who told me the line about calling with overcards sort of understood the idea of playing a disguised hand, but wasn't capable of understanding or factoring in basic odds and probability. You want a disguised hand, but at the same time you don't want to be paying for backdoor draws.
Perhaps the most useful words of wisdom I've ever picked up, and by far the most repeated, has to be "Poker's tough." One of the better players I know confided this to me one day, and I just love the expression. Even among the best players I know, the one thing they all have in common is the mind-set that poker really is a tough game.
No matter how hard you work, and how good you get, there are times where you simply can't turn a profit. No matter how hard you work, you can't seem to pull out a win. There are stretches of sessions where it seems like you're always battling back from being four buy-ins deep.
No matter how you look at it, poker really is a tough game. But if it were easy, chances are none of us would have any real interest in it. The challenge, and the ability to outskill our opponents, is the one major reason we all play this game.
But when your chips are low and you can't find a hand to save your live, just remember: Poker's a tough game.