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A Zero Sum Game


   Poker is a zero sum game. What this means is that over the long run, everyone will be dealt the same number of good and bad hands (note: the long run is tens of thousands of hands). If two players played for a year, they would receive approximately the same number of straights, flushes and full houses. On a given night however, one person might receive three flushes and another player none. These fluctuations are the known as the "luck factor" and are the reason any gambling game exists at all.

   So if everyone is dealt the same hands, how is it possible to win at poker? Because given the exact same hand, one player may fold and another may raise so the amount of money you win or lose is ultimately determined by the quality of the decisions that you make. This is why the courts in California and other states have ruled poker to be a game of skill. You really must know when to hold them and know when to fold them not to mention when to check and when to raise.

   There are two main factors in the decision making process, math and psychology. You'll want to begin by learning the math since even a basic knowledge of it will put you head and shoulders above the majority. This will be enough to allow you to win consistently at most of the softer low limit games. Once you progress to playing for larger stakes, most of the players will have a good grasp of the mathematics of the game and you will need to learn the psychology in order to have an edge. The math you'll need to know pertains to starting hands and pot odds.


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