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Because of the World Series of Poker and countless television broadcasts, Texas holdem is the most glamorous game in the casino. The game brought to Las Vegas by Texas gamblers like Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim, and Crandall Addington is now the most popular variant of poker in the casinos. Jack Binion and Benny Binion made hold’em the game at the WSOP Main Event when they first staged the tournament in 1970. Its legend has grown ever since, especially in the era of TV broadcasts, worldwide tours, and mainstream appeal.
As the masses embraced the game, a number of misconceptions grew up around the game. Part of these common mistakes come from the way the game is portrayed on the TV screen. Some of the misunderstandings can be blamed on unscrupulous authors and online poker writers, who publish misinformation, either on purpose or out of ignorance. This bad information needs to be countered, so here’s a list of common poker myths that need to be rectified.
People watching at home think playing Texas hold’em is like it is on those television programs. Most of those games depict main event tournaments with hundreds, maybe thousands, of players. These events take many long hours and, often, several days of gambling to complete. The tournament has to be edited down to a 1-hour show with 18 minutes of commercials, so you’re seeing the most exciting 42 minutes of the poker tournament.
Most hands of Texas holdem are nowhere near as exciting as you’d think. In fact, the game can be a grind at times, like any other intricate hobby. Most hands won’t have all-in calls, dramatic showdowns on the river, stare downs, and controversies. Don’t get me wrong; you’ll get plenty of those, but not every minute of the day. You wouldn’t expect a police officer’s job to be like the cops in an action movie, so you shouldn’t expect live poker to be as exciting as cards on TV.
This is advice for those playing at low levels. Not everyone gambling at the low limits is going to bluff. It is common wisdom that many gamblers can’t be bluffed out of hands at the low limits, so it’s not always a great strategy to bluff when the pot is small. Some profitable players at the low limits never bluff, or do so on 1% of their hands. If a person plays one hand an hour, it’s best not to assume he or she is bluffing when they move into the pot. That’s good advice at any bet level, but should be taken as good advice especially when playing low rollers.
Poker isn’t always won by the professionals. The stories of Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer are now legendary in poker history, but the case of the online gambler or the amateur player winning big doesn’t mark those two as flukes. The number of professionals who make their living at cards is still quite small when you compare it against the entries in the big tournaments. Most of the players are amateurs of varying skill levels. When you compare a big field of lesser talents against a small field of greater talents, you’re going to find a few of the amateurs at almost every final table.
This underscores something important about tournament play, and about Texas holdem gaming in general. Luck is a huge factor in who wins the game. A person can play perfect strategy and still lose big. When you enter a tournament, the odds are against you finishing in the money, and the odds are long you’ll make the final table. Even if you’re a professional with odds twice as good or five times as good as the average player, the probability is you run into someone who gets lucky at the right time (or wrong time) and takes all your chips. Amateurs have a chance, if you’re smart and don’t go on tilt.
The idea is out there that you can take a small amount of money, say $10, and turn it into a fortune by doubling up and moving up in limits. This is theoretically possible, so I’m not saying it’s a total fairy tale. But if you consider yourself a rational person who plays the odds most of the time, don’t count on it.
Even if you’re a good player, you probably need a bankroll to do any real damage at the poker table. It’s hard playing with the short stack. What that means is you have less margin for error. If you try to work your way up the pyramid, the odds are great (even when playing well) that you’ll get unlucky and someone is going to take your chips. People who use this strategy tend to have to drop down a rung on the ladder several times before they make any headway, if at all.
One of the great myths of online gambling is that success at Facebook poker translates to real money Texas holdem success. It’s easy to win when it’s free to play. Facebook is full of people playing for fun or entertainment or to hang out with friends. They’ll call anything and never bluff themselves. A decent player employing fundamental tight aggressive strategy is likely to do really well against such fish.