Contact us



How I Learned Poker

Keeping Tustin Favorable

My friend no longer continued with poker, but I was still interested and began to study hold'em no limit . I have been a "gambler" in one way of word. It was the element of gambling that fascinated me to play poker. Instead I found gratification in learning, then successfully applying strategy. Had I been able to take the gamble out of the game, I would have, but during this recent learning period, I knew I had to lose some money until I knew the game well enough to beat it.

The problem was how to lose to the minimum until I had gained the significant knowledge and skill. An effective tool in this respect is poker playing software available for the personal computer. It enables you to play endless hands against fake players and achieve an initial sense of the game before risking money. (While writing, it has clear limitations but it is definitely valuable in that case) In 1987, I was working without such software, I remember using some old poker software a bit later, but it was of little use.

I developed a two-pronged approach to keep tuition favorable. At first, I played in a number of very small buy-in tournaments. Some of the card rooms had buy-ins ranging from free to about $10. Through these, I reasoned, I can pick up some poker experience while putting minimum money at risk. I played in 15 of these. I really turned a profit because one tournament was a weekly free entry event, and the winner earned $100 by way of rack of chips.

After attending a seminar in Las Vegas at which David Skylansky gave one or two essential tournament tips. I used them to this little weekly event and won many times out of may be eight or nine tries. Surprisingly I got lucky but the competition was very weak. Such little tournaments were good for me but a player using cheap tournaments to gain early experience should always remember the important differences between tournaments and live game play.

Another part of my strategy to learning cheaply was to share my poker money over a period of time with playing session intermingled with reading and study of the game. In that case I can play without worrying about losing the money. Losses serve as motivators to study more, learn basic poker theory, get familiar with the peculiarities of hold'em and ascertain my play.

The study material are centered on the works available by Skylansky, Malmuth, Caro, Brunson and more that I can find, such as columns in poker player, then the main poker review. It was rather slow going for me. The logic behind poker did not come so easily to me, and I did not bring much natural "card sense" to the game. I had to strive first to understand a piece of poker theory and then to take the step of apprehension I experience when I played in a card room. I actually felt little nervous as I played. It was a kind of performance apprehension.

The poker players play their hands in front of "viewers" - their rivals in the hand and the other players sitting at the table. The nervousness interfered with the transparency and efficiency of my thinking. With much experience, I became used to the card room play and able to think quietly about the concepts of theory to the realities of the game around.

In those earlier periods, I played the smallest hold'em games that I could find. It was prudent to play as small as possible until I knew I was beating the game. (Nowadays, the rakes in small game are very high and this strategy may not be as advisable. Still I was struggled a sizable rake as compared to the limit proportion.) I took this three times to the extreme by flying to Las Vegas to play in the smallest casino hold'em game I had been able to play in, a $1-$2 at the Four Queens. It was worked as a beginner's game. A dealer would discuss the game to the group online craps of new players, let them practice little then change it into a live game. As the awareness for the game selection developed, I saw this as the "juicy" opportunity. Here I was, the "aspiring to aspire to be an expert" player sitting down among the amateur who had no idea as to what poker force they were dealing with. I lost $13 over those three hours. Poker game is quite complicated.

After many years, I learned that one of the best players I had to know in San Diego had also made trips to that game in the initial stage of his learning. I think we just share a rational desire to take the risk out of the game to whatever extent we had learned.

Going Beyond the Books

My poker play was intermittent for the first two years because I was busy with my school, spending about 60 hours of casino play spread over 22 sessions, mostly in $2-$4 games. Much time has been given in studying poker than in playing it. Once I finished my graduate work, I decided it was time to put in more hours at the tables and see how I manage to do it. I played about 140 more hours over the subsequent four months. Despite of little progress, my overall outcome for those 200 hours of play revealed me that I should not be playing at the winning level. It was not all enough time to be so sure, but my losses had been more than my wins, and my result in $2-$4 and $3-$6 game continued to be negative.

Disappointedly, I further started taking my poker education beyond the books. While I knew I had not completely digested the concepts I had read about, I thought that I would go much faster with my poker education through private instructions. I always learned much better when I get a chance to ask many questions. I did check and found that David Skylansky can give some private instructions. I, in fact everyone, knew his credentials are the best, but his time was not cheap. I was worried that I might have to spend thousands of dollars over some extra period to go for real outcomes. In fact, I was prepared to do it.

Being spent most of my life in then to school I would prefer to go for, what I called tuition. But when I contacted David, explained my background and asked how many hours will it take for the instructions to see for real benefits, I was stunned and glad that he answered me, "Maybe three." So I arranged a list of sensible poker questions and problems, and by telephone, did my first hour with Skylansky.

Most of the instructions are based on two important areas I had found troublesome: How to play in loose games and how to play against aggressive one. David simplified things clearly that I had read but also provided much information beyond the books. This filled the gaps in my understanding about the poker that I was able after just that first hour of play with more confidence in loose games and aggressive games.

It turned out David had overrated in guessing that it would take three hours to develop and see results. The effect of that first session on my poker cash flow was remarkable. Though I cannot be positive because of a small sample size, from what I could see, my results considerably changed. The number of my winning session increased substantially and with a couple of more instruction at the same time. I steadily earned that what I had lost earlier and continued poker winning. A graph would show an immediate leveling out pursued by a clear reversal of the losing stage I had experienced earlier that time.

It was of course not as simple as it seems. There were certainly fluctuations. They were a form of poker. I also did have my share of discouraging losses and suffered several drawbacks when I tried to move up in limits. But now I overcame those. Since then, my overall results started becoming stable and favorable.

To conclude, applying those instructions with Skylansky may have been the single essential step I had ever took in establishing my learning process. I consulted with David regularly in the following years as I developed my play and worked my way into the middle limits. With the help of my thinking and experience about the game, I was capable enough to maximize the benefits of the instructions. Whenever David explain anything about it, it would take me into the new insights in other areas as I figure conceptual connections and to benefit the requisite work necessary to arrive at favorable ideas on my own. But even though I play well at the higher limits I still want further consultations with David as I continue with poker. His power of knowledge in poker is excellent. So like the golf player goes back to his teacher for a tune up, I would also continue to my game with his "tuition."

Continue Here: How I Learned Poker-II

About Poker | Holdem Poker Guide