Poker, an ever-changing game

An important Omaha player of our days, Robert Williamson III, has the following opinion about his favourite game: “poker’s a day to learn and a lifetime to master“. You may think that he exaggerates a little, given that poker has only 52 cards and 9 pre-established winning hands. It is true that poker theory has evolved so much that you can find tens of books on this topic but why is it necessary a lifetime to master it, as Williamson put it? Well, the explanation is quite simple: the competition nowadays has become so fierce that poker theory alone doesn’t guarantee your success at the poker table.

Nowadays, you must possess some unique skill if you want to be so successful as to make a living out of poker. Back in the 70’s, when poker was starting to develop as a professional game, some players (for example Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese and David Sklansky) could win more easily than now. Why? Because they knew the mathematics of the poker game. Knowing mathematical probabilities and playing by them was a huge advantage against their opponents who were either uneducated or playing just for fun.

Things have changed. Nowadays almost every player knows poker mathematics so this is no longer a competitive advantage. So what can you do to win? You have to develop some extra skill. Tom Dwan uses smart aggression and leaves the impression that he has no respect for money and yet this tactic makes him win big. Daniel Negreanu is an impressive reader who is able to distinguish real hands from bluffs most of the time. Of course, he acquired this skill after years of playing and observing his opponents, so you must invest time, money and first and foremost passion and perseverance. I personally believe that another good tactic is to ride the opponent who allows you to manipulate him and then annihilate his aggression.