"Knowledge without discipline is wasted, and talent without knowledge is merely unrealized potential."

  Lou Krieger

The Quotable Lou Krieger

go to "On Poker"
go to "On Poker and the American Dream"
go to "On Poker and Gambling"
go to "On Commitment, Dedication and Self-Deception"
go to "On Bankrolls and Money"
go to "On Tips For Winning"

On Poker

If you're looking for a poetic quality to poker it might be this. A competition among finely tuned senses pursuing, gathering, and applying information that's honed into knowledge and comes to fruition as know-how at the poker table. And it's all accomplished in seconds.

Every poker writer worth his salt has made the observation that the lessons of poker are the lessons of life…The reverse is true too. The very skills that make some people so successful in life can be applied to poker just as easily. After all, the vast majority of players have a life away form the poker table, and if better poker skills make you a better performer in the real world, so much the better.

Although the basics are clear for all to see, poker excellence can be elusive, and much more an art than a science at it's highest levels.

Some pundits say that poker builds character. We’re not so sure of that but we’re absolutely certain of this:
Poker reveals character.Poker is a game of money played with cards; it is not a game of pots played with money. It is also a game of skill, not of chance, and players who go at it solely by the seat of their pants stand no more chance of winning at poker than they do at roulette.

In poker, good players win and poor players lose.

In poker, as in life, intuition can be a valuable attribute, but temper it with thought and logic. And don't follow it blindly. If you persist in doing so, magicians will fool you, con men will swindle you, and good poker players will take your money.

Most of the money you'll win at poker comes not from the brilliance of your own play, but from the ineptitude of your opponents.

 


On Poker and the American Dream

Poker is a microcosm of all we admire and disdain about capitalism and democracy. It can be rough-hewn or polished, warm or cold, charitable and caring, or hard and impersonal, fickle and elusive, but ultimately it is fair, and right, and just.

There's opportunity in poker…If Horace Greeley were alive today, his advice wouldn't be "Go West, young man, and grow up with the country." Instead, he'd point to that deck of cards on table and say, "Shuffle up and deal."

Not only is poker good for you, it's the American way - where winners play fair, have the right stuff, and nothing else matters - except, perhaps, a bit of luck every now and then.

I believe in poker the way I believe in the American Dream. Poker is good for you. It enriches the soul, sharpens the intellect, heals the spirit, and - when played well, nourishes the wallet.

Learning is a never-ending process, and it’s seldom that a single book will teach a reader all he or she needs to know to conquer any field of endeavor, including poker.

 

On Poker and Gambling

I'm a poker player. Some might call me a gambler, but I draw a distinction. A gambler plays when the odds are immutable and against him. I don't. That's why there is a large coterie of professional poker players, but not a single, solitary, professional roulette or craps player. In poker, good players win and poor players lose.

Anyone can win pots, but winning money is the aim of the game. Pots are only incidental. If your goal is to win the most pots, that’s easy. Just play every hand and call every bet until the bitter end, and you’ll win every pot you possibly can. But you’ll lose a ton of money in the process. The very best players engage in few hands, but when they get involved they’re usually aggressive – they maximize the amount they win when the odds favor them.

If you play long enough you will have protracted losing streaks, times when nothing you do goes right, and a crisis of confidence that’s almost sure to follow. This is the time to go back to basics. Play big hands and play them strongly; fold weak ones and get away from potentially big hands that are reduced to rubble by a bad flop. Play correctly, stay the course, and at the end of the day you’ll find that your results will approximate your expectation.

Winning is wonderful. Losing hurts. And although every credible expert tells you to just make good decisions and forget about the results – they’ll take care of themselves in the long run – every credible expert experiences the same elation and the same pain you do. We just don’t give into it. Or we try not to.

A professional poker player should realize that every dollar he wins will not be added to his bankroll. After all, he has to pay rent and buy groceries just like anyone else. Reducing one's bankroll converts capital into income - and the distinction is an important one. Change too much capital into income and you've eaten your seed corn.

Limit poker is like a job. As long as you're a winning player, the more hours you put in, the more money you'll earn.


On Commitment, Dedication and Self-Deception

Some 250 years ago, Jonathan Swift said, "Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own." The analogy also holds true for losing poker players. They see flaws in everyone's play but their own.

You will succumb to all your flaws as a poker player during the period you are struggling, growing, and reaching for a higher level of skill. Just because you've read all the books by all the experts, don't deceive yourself into believing that you're going to play as well as they do. The best poker books will teach you how to talk the talk. You'll have to learn to walk the walk on your own!

Knowledge without discipline is wasted, and talent without knowledge is merely unrealized potential.Learn from better players. Model their behavior.

Learn their secrets and determine how they keep from going on tilt. If the shoe fits, steal it!

The key to excellence is making a commitment. Wishing is not enough. Neither is mere involvement. There's a difference between involvement and commitment. It's like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the ham is committed!

You have it in your power to turn a bad-beat around simply by realizing this simple truth: The more bad beats you encounter, the luckier you are. It's a sign that you are playing against opponents who continually take the worst of it, and if you can't beat someone who always takes the worst of it, you can't beat anyone.

Whenever you make poker decisions on tilt, you’re in trouble. At that point you should take a break until you’re able to play your usual solid, disciplined game. In poker, as in life itself, you are the master of your fate.

You will succumb to all your flaws as a poker player during the period you are struggling, growing and reaching for a higher level of skill. Just because you've read all the books by all the experts, don't deceive yourself into believing that you're going to play as well as they do.The best poker books will teach you how to talk the talk. You'll have to learn to walk the walk on your own!

 

On Bankrolls and Money

Stop loss limits, and quitting once you've won a predetermined amount of money, will neither stop your losses if you are a losing player nor protect your profits if you're ahead.

If you are not a winning player, your bankroll will never be large enough. To completely eliminate the possibilities of ever going broke, losing players need a big enough bankroll to outlast their life expectancy.

A professional poker player should realize that every dollar he wins will not be added to his bankroll. After all, he has to pay rent and buy groceries just like anyone else. Reducing one's bankroll converts capital into income - and the distinction is an important one. Change too much capital into income and you've eaten your seed corn.

Limit poker is like a job. As long as you're a winning player, the more hours you put in, the more money you'll earn.

Forget about money management. Forget about quitting when you're ahead or quitting once you've lost some predetermined amount of money. If the game is good and you're ahead, why not keep playing? Chances are you'll win even more money. If you're losing, but haven't let your losses get the better of your emotions and you're still making good decisions at the table, there is absolutely no reason to quit. On the other hand, if the game is bad you should quit or look for a softer game regardless of whether you're winning or losing.

 

On Tips For Winning

Most of the money you'll win at poker comes not from the brilliance of your own play, but from the ineptitude of your opponents.

In poker, position means power. It is always advantageous to act after you've had the benefit of seeing what your opponents do.

I believe the single most important decision in any form of poker is game selection; determining which cards to enter a hand with runs a close second.

Whenever you're inclined to call a bet, ask yourself this: Instead of calling, is it better to raise, or would folding be the best decision? Many players look for reasons to call. While calling can be almost automatic in certain situations, raising or folding is frequently a better choice.

When the cards have evened out in the long run, the true measure of any player's skill is the quality of decisions he made. Make better decisions and you'll win money...It's that simple.

Hold'em - like life itself - has its defining moment. It's the flop. When you see the flop, you're looking a 71 percent of your hand, and the cost is only a single round of betting.

The first rule of analysis at the table is to gather as much information as you can when you're not involved in a hand. During the play of a hand you simply don't have time for complex analysis. But if you have a substantial amount of game experience you won't run into many situations that are entirely new. That's why there is no substitute for real game experience coupled with theoretical knowledge, and molded into practical know-how.

By avoiding marginal confrontations on the green felt battlefield that require you to put additional money into the pot when it's a close decision, you can play on a shorter bankroll. If you're a winning player, you'll eventually win just as much money. It will just take more hours of play to reach your goals.

You can bet on the end as long as you think you’ll have the best hand if you’re called. That’s important. If you bet and your opponent hasn’t improved his draw, he’ll fold. Your bet on the river won’t garner one additional cent. But if he calls, he’s got some sort of hand. So you shouldn’t bet unless you believe your hand will be the best most of the time it’s called.

In split pot games, like Omaha/8 and 7-stud/8, your goal is to win, or "scoop" the entire pot æ not just part of it. Seek hands offering an opportunity to make the best high hand and the best low. Don’t get trapped in situations where you can win just half the pot, and then only if you get lucky.

Selective and aggressive play separates winning players from consistent losers. There’s not a single consistent winner who fails to practice this principle.

Most of the time you are checkraised, your opponent has the better hand. And most of the time he exhibits this betting pattern you should do the smart thing. Throw your hand away. If you do, you will have saved two bets. And money saved is equal to money won.

You do not want to be the player who never calls with a losing hand on the river. If you win each and every time you call a bet on the river, you’re surely folding some hands that would have won the pot, and whenever you fold a hand that would have won the pot, that’s a major loss: the cost is the entire pot. On the other hand, you don’t want to be the guy who wins every bet he makes on the river either. If that’s the case, it probably means you are checking too many hands you might have bet for value. Obviously, in a game of incomplete information, it’s usually necessary to make an occasional error in judgment at both ends of the spectrum to avoid those catastrophic mistakes that occur far more frequently in the vast middle ground.

Forget about money management. Forget about quitting when you're ahead or quitting once you've lost some predetermined amount of money. If the game is good and you're ahead, why not keep playing? Chances are you'll win even more money. If you're losing, but haven't let your losses get the better of your emotions and you're still making good decisions at the table, there is absolutely no reason to quit. On the other hand, if the game is bad you should quit or look for a softer game regardless of whether you're winning or losing.

Return to Top

Raise your game with Lou Krieger, poker columnist for Card Player Magazine, host for Royal Vegas Poker and author of
Hold'em Excellence:From Beginner to Winner, More Hold'em Excellence: A Winner for Life, Poker for Dummies, Gambling for Dummies, Internet Poker: How To Play And Beat Online Poker Games and Winning Omaha/8 Poker.
 

© 2000-2001, Lou Krieger. All rights reserved.