The mathematics of poker have to do with such formerly arcane ideas as expected value. However, there are some old-fashioned ideas about poker that many players these days either ignore altogether or give less importance than they give to mathematical minutiae.
These ideas are no less important to online poker players as are the advanced mathematical concepts.
Is it Really Okay to Play Poker Just for Fun?
In the modern hyper-competitive world of poker, many players, especially newer players wonder if the fun has been taken out of poker and if they can simply play for fun. This is especially true of online poker players who just want a little poker action in their quiet moments.
For Fun or Profit?
So, this is the first fundamental question you should ask yourself. If you play poker strictly for fun, you probably don’t have to master the mathematics of poker. If you play poker only for fun, you can play poker online in ways that don’t force you to become a poker math whiz. In other words...just have fun.
Free Roll Tournaments
You will not win much in these tournaments nor will you lose any money at all. As a result, free roll poker tournaments are the perfect vehicle to get a lot of poker action at zero cost.
Play Limit Poker
This sets the maximum you can win or lose on any hand. It is the best way to conserve your bankroll. Even if you are playing in a low stakes game, you will probably muck a large percentage of hands before the flop.
In high stakes tournaments, players muck as many as 70% of their hands before the flop. They take into account their betting position, the action of players who bet before them, and the expected value of their hand. In a friendly game, you might stay in with as many as 70% of your hands but you still need to be aware that the fun of playing is to be able to play without making foolish bets and losing far too often.
Always Control Your Destiny
The advice to control your destiny is a great life hack that applies extremely well in poker. You do need to be aware of the chances of winning a hand by making simple observations about hand ranges, outs, and your opponents’ prior betting practice.
Luck does play a big part in winning at poker but skill puts you in the position to be lucky. The important thing to remember is that, in the very long run, the odds always even out. If you have a one in ten chance of winning a hand but the amount you’ll win is high compared to the amount you put in the pot, it could be profitable in the long run to win that one time in ten.
The key point is that luck and skill work in a synergistic way with each other. You need to make yourself lucky.
Play the Best Game for You
Texas Hold’em is the sexy game du jour but it isn’t the best game for everyone. Some players do much better at stud, draw, or Omaha. Poker is a lot like life in general: what one person does well at another might do poorly at and vice versa.
Some people do best playing in friendly games with acquaintances or friends. In such friendly games, people are not out to get your money! However, if you play for profit, you can do very well playing poker online and you will need to learn the mathematics of modern poker quite well.
All Night Poker
Here is an example of how to play poker for the purest fun and to play the game that is best suited for you. We know of a group of baseball park vendors from Chicago who have an all-night poker game a couple of times a year when the schedule at the two stadiums allows. They play all night at relatively high stakes considering that they are the epitome of working class men.
As dawn breaks outside the windows, they end the game and the winners buy everyone else breakfast.
This is never replicated when you play poker either online or in a land based casino!
So, it is an entirely appropriate question to ask if you play poker for fun or profit. If you primarily play for fun, there are several ways you can go in addition to playing with friends.
Video poker is another great way to “play poker” and have a great time at little to no cost. This game has a return to player rate close to 100%. You can play up to 100 hands at a time. Because of the high return to player rate, you can play for a very long time and in the end you’ll be close to either winning a small amount or losing a small amount.
How to Make a Living Playing Poker
Now, if you do want to play for profit, there are a few things to bear in mind. There is a reason why there are so few professional poker players and why there are so few in the upper echelons of professional poker players. Even if you play poker online and try to play against weaker players, you might not be able to make a decent living doing so. You might win almost every time you play but still need a regular job to have the lifestyle you want.
You might need a regular job just in order to be able to play online poker for a few hours every week!
Long, Hard Hours
If you do decide to become or try to become a poker pro, you need to be willing to devote many hours to perfecting your craft. Every sport or game that can be played professionally requires hours upon hours of hard work and practice. Most people see only the semi-finished product since at this level there are no truly finished products in any sport, and don’t realize how much time and hard work went into the player becoming one of the best.
There is nothing at all wrong with playing for fun and some profit and not striving to be one of the best. We all play many games with family and friends and are content to just play. Since there is money at stake in poker, you can’t “just play” poker but you also probably don’t have to become a walking encyclopedia of poker mathematics to have your good share of fun.