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The Most Important Poker Concept For Winning
by Timmor L. White

Losers abound. I have heard it said that 90 percent of people who play the game of poker end up losing. That means a measly 10 percent of players come out ahead. Pretty dismal, huh? Why do so many players lose?

The obvious answer is that most players have no idea what they are doing. They watch some television, read some books, and they figure they're ready for the big-time. That is, until they drop half their life savings.

A more informative answer is that the vast majority of players do not grasp the most important underlying concept of the game. I see signs of this everywhere. Online, in cardrooms, at tournaments -- players of all skill levels make the same mistakes based on a failure to comprehend this single principle.

That's not surprising, since I have not read this principle in books. I've read the current crop of books from today's hottest authors. What I am about to tell you is absent from those books. But that is good news for you, because you are reading this article. If you learn this concept and integrate it into your play, you will be a step ahead of other players who study those books.

Listen up, I am now going to reveal to you the most important poker concept you will ever learn. It is a critical concept that most players never understand, or even know. Here it is: Your goal in playing poker is to WIN MONEY, NOT HANDS. That's it. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Laughable, almost. Yes, this is an extremely simple concept, but almost no one gets it.

The majority of people who play poker are constantly trying to win the most hands. If you doubt what I say, observe a poker table sometime with this in mind. Players try desperately to take down those tiny pots, and they beam with pride when they scrape a few chips in their direction. Then along comes a big pot. They put lots of money into it, and they lose.

Most players these days, while engaged in a hand, are counting their outs and calculating their pot odds, just like they see on television. They are considering their relative stack size and psychoanalyzing their opponents. Their minds are working overtime to think like the commentators on television. That's all well and good, but it is not what should guide their ultimate motivations. Such players lack a basic understanding of their underlying goal. And no matter how many times they sit there getting smacked around, they never figure out what is wrong. The sad fact is that they do not understand the most basic concept of all: that they are there to win money, not hands.

There is no prize for winning the most hands. The objective in poker is to win the most money. A good player might pass on several small pots, but he is waiting for his moment. Then he wins a monster. Maybe he wins fewer total pots than other players, but he goes home with the most money. That is the player you want to be.

Forget about what you see on television. Televised poker tends to focus on high-drama hands at the expense of the vast majority of ordinary hands. This gives a distorted view of poker overall. Don't buy into the way television portrays the game. Television focuses on hands; you should focus on money.

Let's say you are seated at a table of six players. According to the law of averages, you should win approximately 16% of all hands dealt, right? Now, consider these two scenarios: a) you take down 25% of the hands dealt, more than your statistical expectation. Everyone thinks you played well. However, you actually lose a small amount over the course of the game. Or b) You win only 10% of the hands dealt, less than would be expected. It feels like you were folding all the time. But at the end of the game, you came out with a modest profit. Which of these two outcomes would you prefer? If your answer is choice 'a', then stop reading this article immediately; you have no business ever sitting at a poker table.

When playing, don't compute whether you are winning more or less than your share of hands. What should matter to you is how much money you are winning or losing. The percentage of hands you win is totally unimportant. Notice I did not say the percentage of hands you win is only "slightly" important. No, I said the percentage of hands you win has absolutely ZERO importance. None whatsoever. The number of hands you win should not occupy your conscious thinking for even an instant.

Of course, the application of this principle depends on the style of play at the particular table where you are playing. If the game is loose, then let go of most blinds and small pots. Concentrate on the big pots. Win fewer hands than the average player, but get the big ones. If the game is tight, then go after those blinds and small pots nobody seems to want. But whatever style you employ at your particular table, let this principle be your guide. The size of the pot and your sense of profit/loss are the types of considerations that should motivate your play. Remember, you are going after money, regardless of the number of hands you take down.

Keep your focus on money. Do not get into ego-matches with other players. Do not concern yourself with your frequency of calling, folding or raising. Only one thing should guide your every action. And it's not winning hands. It's winning money.

Underneath all other factors -- your number of outs, your pot odds, your relative stack strength -- should lie this most fundamental concept. The probabilities are important, and you should take them into account, but beneath it all, keep this one idea front-and-center in your consciousness. Always be aware that you are there to win money.

Play in accordance with this principle at every moment you sit at a poker table. Integrate this concept into your being. If you do that, you'll be miles ahead of other players seated at your table. Chances are good that you'll take their cash and leave them muttering to themselves, wondering what happened.

Timmor L. White is the founder and president of Online Poker Systems. He is active in the study and reporting of online-poker playing strategies. He has also developed a system to Cheat at Online Poker.

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