Doctor, what do I do wrong? Or why some players can’t win money from online poker

Doctor, what do I do wrong? Or why some players can’t win money from online poker

We would like to bring to your attention a great post on the psychology of poker (and psychology of personality at the same time) of a great poker player OlegK.

This post is inspired by analysis of hand history of one of my students, who got my 'cup of endurance' level shattered about a certain things I face at this course. Nowadays (almost at every bend) there are many insane people screaming of the death of poker and micro stakes being unbeaten (with three exclamation marks). Any facts that this stakes can easily be crushed are met with the following response: “It has been much easier in 2005”, “I get 3-bets too often” and “everybody learned how to play poker”.

In fact, only insane people can say this, as in most cases the reason why a person can’t beat NL10 (against all the odds) and NL25 is not in the fact he gets a lot of 3-bets or he is on a downswing.

Why can't I win money from online poker

You don’t give enough effort to studying of the game

This is true for 99% of the people applying to me or trying to beat micro stakes. How many hours a day do you dedicate to studying the game in which you risk your own money? How much information you’ve received last week are you able to reproduce now? What exactly have you learned this month? How often and systematic are your studies? Do you have a certain goal? For example, to know something new about turn play, 3-bet calls and so on.

You would prefer 'grinding' to studying the game. Here is the question - why play poker if you don’t know how?

The funny thing is that even if some efforts are made, they are done in a completely chaotic manner. One watches videos, but tracks a red herring across the path etc. After viewing these instructional videos there are no notes or any marks made, no reviews of difficult hands or new ideas. This is as ineffective as doing nothing at all. I would even say that it is much worse as you start thinking that you’ve learned something new and try to crush your opponents with the help of this 'new knowledge'. WOW. Good for you.

Here is the example - when I started to seriously study poker I had 50-60-pages of A4 where I was written the explanations of difficult hands and situations I’ve read on forums or saw in videos. I could quote this file by heart. I still remember some hands from there. For instance, MYNAMEIZGREG explains calls on the river or donk-bet against two opponents with KQо at 972r board in multi-way pot with deep stacks in the analysis of four tables of Probability at NL400 on Full Tilt Poker. I even remember the position (SB) of the Hero (right down corner seat). You won’t probably remember re-steal explanation you’ve heard the day before yesterday.

Another great example - I give some materials in groups, that can be summed up in one sentence. Very easy to remember. And even easier to implement. For instance, it’s the statement that you have to fold 100% of your hands in some situation. It is written in bold capital letters. And underlined. Yes, it is written in an ultimate manner but for a reason. Two weeks later after several studies we look at the hand history. What do we see? We see that players can't even simple use this statement during the game. Looks like someone have just read it watching some film’ perhaps, and missed this out.

If you don’t have time to read the absolute minimum, what can we say of even more complicated things that require much more time and effort. We’re not speaking of watching videos or reading articles. One can’t even remember a single sentence. Unfortunately, 60-70% of recommendation aren’t followed and performed by the players.

You don’t want (or just can’t) work with information

This is obvious - Internet has many good quality information about the game. There is an open informational space in poker - at the web sites, forums, torrents. This information is free and given in a simple comfortable format. No other industry, which is able to give a good income with minimum studies and qualification, has this free volume of information. Not a single industry.

You are in a unique situation when you can self-educate yourself but you’re too lazy to reach out and take this knowledge.

However, when I open hand histories of micro stakes players, I see the same old mistakes. Everything explained in free videos and articles. I’ve even checked the date of registration at the poker forum of those who repeat making these mistakes. Three months, two months, six months... Do these people do nothing all this time ignoring “Video” section? I’m sure they’ve been there. What’s next?

What prevents you from watching free videos and making recommendations for yourself? Who advice to do what and how. Is it so hard to try this stuff, to look what’s going to happen? ABC matters with ready answers everywhere are left unnoticed, you ask those questions at the lessons and waste your time and many interesting questions stay untouched. More to that, you had no time/wish/skill to find more info on that you don’t have to donk-bet with sets against all the opponents! Or info about how bad check-bluff min-raise on the flop is.

What are you waiting for? Do you wait for someone to chew everything up for you and put it in your month for you to spit it out?

Let’s get back to additional study materials. In one of the exercises I asked the participants to tell their opinion about the situation in hand. There was a student, who told me everything I’ve told against in one additional material. The explanation (detailed one) was given in six lines of very simple text. The logic is strong behind it. Why wasn’t the simple information learned? Why weren’t the facts analyzed and why they were not included into the game? It was a crazily simple thinking pattern; all the stats and examples were identical to the one given in the example. You don’t want to get better. You don’t want to analyze the information.

You think that poker is something from the parallel reality and don’t think rationally during the game

Very often I see irrational actions in hand histories of my students. I even afraid to ask them why they played this way as their head may be blown by the explanation. I asked them a lot, though. They had no explanation.

Why??? The head blows up. How an adult who risks his own money and aims for “winning in poker” can’t give a simple rational explanation for his actions?

Imaging you go down the street. Some hobo comes to you and asks for a $20. You take this money out of your purse and give it to him. You know he won’t give it back. You know this is money thrown away. The hobo takes off with the money. Your fellow comes to you and says: “What are you doing, fool?” And you say that you have no explanation to that.

Sounds crazy? Equate this with poker. How often do you do the same when playing poker? Why we do some crazy things at the poker table we would never do in real life? How so magically the cards in poker transferred to some parallel reality where no logic and rational thinking laws work?

Let me give you another example. Fish who just sat at the table limps. You raise three big blinds with :As :Jh, the fish goes all-in for 70 big blinds. You call. Why? Is AJ such a monster hand? Do you know something of your opponent’s range? Are you pot committed? No. No. And no. Nevertheless, you call 70% of the stack with god-knows-which-hand against god-knows-which-range with only 3% of your stack previously invested. Is that rational?

Or a common example when you don’t want to throw away “great” AK hand when it is beaten. Or even a fish min-raises you on turn and you have a set on a four-cards-to-the-flush board. You have pot odds to get full house and make call, see blank river and make another all-in call. WHY?

Why do you take irrational risks with your own money? You try to increase your EV, not go the other way around, don’t you? Don’t do silly things. Save yourself the trouble and spend money on something more useful when useless gambling?

I saw and heard a lot of stuff from more than 200 of my students. In the end I constantly have a question “Why?” And have no answer for that. Sometimes I get sad. But those are low stakes. Pointless and merciless :)

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