10 pieces of poker advice you shouldn’t ignore Part 2

This two-part series will take a light-hearted look at some poker axioms, quotes, and simply amusing anecdotes I have come across in my many years in the poker world. While the ideas themselves may be a bit cynical and satirical in nature, the advice is actually spot on, and capable of improving your poker game (as well as your thinking about poker). So with that in mind, I hope you can gain something from these two articles, as well as enjoy it and possibly get small chuckle at the same time!

Before I get started on Part 2, here is a look at the five topics covered in Part 1 of this series:

  • #1 — Don’t get creative when two (or more) other players start pushing back
  • #2 — If you’ve gotten to the point that you think a certain dealer is bad luck it’s time to call it a night
  • #3 — Know the rules
  • #4 — When it comes to sizing up a new player it’s the little things that matter
  • #5 — Against casual players a raise means a good hand a call means he has kicker problems

#6 — Trust everyone, but always cut the cards

This little nugget of wisdom is attributed to Benny Binion, and it’s as true today as the day he spoke it decades ago. In a game like poker, where it’s every man for him or herself, you have to understand that protecting yourself from cheaters, scammers, and angle-shooters is YOUR responsibility alone, and should be as high on your priority list as the basic strategies of the game.

As the late great Stu Ungar put it: “It’s hard work. Gambling. Playing poker. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Think about what it’s like sitting at a poker table with people whose only goal is to cut your throat, take your money, and leave you out back talking to yourself about what went wrong inside.” Truer words have never been spoken by a poker player.

As much as the old man in the #2seat may seem like a great guy (and he probably is) there is always the chance that he is peaking at your cards if given the opportunity or may pretend to misread his hand when he is really attempting an angle-shot… Trust everyone BUT ALWAYS CUT THE CARDS!

#7 — The difference between involvement and commitment is like a ham and eggs breakfast; the chicken was involved and the pig was committed

This quote is often attributed to my favorite philosopher, the great “Anonymous”, and it applies perfectly to poker. So often I hear poker players talk about being committed to a hand, and while there are numerous situations where it is just wrong to fold after a certain point, there are also plenty of situations where players think they are pot-committed when they are really not.

A perfect example of this is in Limit poker games where the pots can get so big that a call on the river can often lay you 20-1 odds. Still, there are plenty of instances where making this 20-1 call is simply bad for business.

Make sure when you make a crying call getting 20-1 pot odds that you actually believe that you will win the pot more than 1 in 20 times! Often times in these situations you are 100-1 to win, so you are just throwing that final bet in the trash, despite your excellent pot odds.

#8 — Every hand has its own problems

If you think you can master the game of poker by following orders, and learning strategies through rote memorization you are sadly mistaken. Winning poker players definitely share many traits, and foremost among them is their ability to be a leader, to march to their own drummer.

Good poker players are able to look at all the variables on each hand and for each decision along the way during the hand, to make the correct decision. That said, good poker players are not reactionary, they push the action and force their opponents to guess as much as possible.

Like a good general, winning poker players form a plan of attack during the hand, but alternative plans are also formed at the same time as well. Like any good strategist a winning poker player is quick to react to new information and make use of any mistakes by their opposition.

#9 — Poker is a hard way to make an easy living

If you think playing professional poker involves nothing more than playing a few hours at the tables, reading a few books, maybe watching some training videos, and discussing strategies with your friends at dinner you are sorely mistaken.

In addition to all of the above, most professional poker players spend hours poring over notes and hand histories, researching the latest theories and strategies that are constantly being discussed on poker forums, and running sims in order to keep improving.

Winning a poker tournament with a $1 million first-prize is definitely glamorous, but there are countless hours of work away from the tables that have gone into that win. Like any other job, if you want to truly excel at poker you MUST work tirelessly on your game, both when you are playing as well as setting aside time away from the tables where you can study and continue to learn.

#10 — A person should gamble every day, because think of how bad it would be to walk around being lucky and not know it. 

This gem of a quote is attributed to Robert Turner, and while it seems like just a whimsical comment, it actually provides a very deep understanding of what drives casual poker players to take the wild risks they do in some hands.

For winning players it is often hard to understand how players can make such poor decisions, but as Turner’s quote shows, a good deal of the population is relying on luck to carry them through. They may even be very aware of the skill level involved in playing poker, but since they don’t play day-in and day-out they feel it’s just as well to rely on luck the few times they do play poker.

This is also a good reason not too “tap the glass” since these players who understand there is skill involved may suddenly try to show you that they can also play skillfully! Many times I have seen a player ridiculed for their poor play, only to turn into a complete shark within minutes; the difference is fun is no longer their #1 priority, instead PROVING they can play poker has become their priority –along with shutting up their naysayers.


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