“Poker is 100% skill and 50% luck!” So goes the famous quote from WSOP legend Phil Hellmuth, but for anyone who has played the game sometimes it feels like the reverse – or worse! Getting all your chips into the middle only to see your opponent escape with a single ‘lucky’ card to scoop the pot, it often seems like only the poker gods control what happens on the table – but is that really how the game is? A random game of chance?
Well, of course not. The truth lies somewhere between Hellmuth’s outlandish statement and that feeling of outrage when your aces get cracked or the flush hits.
So what affects poker luck?
Variance: This is the mathematical ‘model’ which says that in poker, the short-term results do not reflect your level of play. It’s what many people call ‘luck’, but in truth it is just an innate part of the game.
If you play 100 hands per week, you won’t see an accurate reflection of your skill level. If you play 250,000 hands per year, your results will be more genuine – and the ‘luck’ of opponents will have evened out.
A game of incomplete information: Because poker isn’t the same as, for example, chess (where everything you really need to know is there in front of you) there will always be an element of the unknown at the poker table.
You can try to reduce this as much as possible – by learning, training, paying closer attention and using modern software to help eliminate many of the doubts, but there will always be a surprise or two lurking around the corner.
-Technology For many online players, using HeadsUp Displays (HUD’s) and other programs has been a great way to keep track of the playing styles, strengths and possibilities of your opponents.
Without such technology, let’s say you make what ought to be a great bluff on the river given the play– and for some inexplicable reason your opponent calls it! He shouldn’t really call it, but he did. Is that bad luck?
Let’s consider the same situation – but this time your software program tells you that he always calls bets on the river – always, 100%! So now, your bluff would be simply a bad move on this guy at this time. You have reduced your ‘bad luck’.
-Live poker If you spend half your time during a tournament watching the boxing on the big screen, or chatting up the waitresses, then you are actually increasing the ‘luck’ factor – information is passing you by every minute that you don’t pay attention!
If an opponent has re-raised pre-flop 5 times in a row unchallenged, but you were too busy to notice, then don’t complain about bad luck when your pair of queens (perhaps your best hand in ages, hence your interest in other things going on around you) gets re-raised and you decide to fold.
Pay attention, and you’ll know that you’re probably way ahead. It’s not ‘bad luck’ at all! And that waitress and boxing? It will still be there once you’re finished your game. 🙂