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Your biggest enemy in Texas Holdem

I have always maintained that the biggest enemy for any poker player is the variance that is within it. By variance then I am essentially talking about the swings of luck both good and bad that are within all poker games. The vast majority of players that play poker are unaware of simply how good and bad they can run beyond the norm. Let us say that you have a theoretical earn rate of $20/hour. How can you possibly know that you are making $20/hour?

The fact of the matter is that you cannot predict to the nearest dollar or cent what your earn rate will be. It is in a constant state of fluctuation and you can really only narrow it down to within a dollar or two after a very large number of hands. That exact number of hands is difficult to define but be advised that it is common and documented for good strong winning professionals to have break even stretches lasting for as long as 100,000 hands.

Let us put that into context for a minute, a live game player who played full time for forty hours a week may see 20 hands per hour inside a casino. That is a mere 800 hands per week. Stretching that over the space of a year would mean that this player was dealt somewhere along the lines of 40,000 hands or poker a year. So what we are looking at here is a situation where a top live game player could go as long as 2.5 years breaking even without winning money.

No one would be able to comprehend that or very few people would. A player who was making $20 hour may show as little as $5/hour over a smaller sample size or as much as $70/hour. So it is clear then that players could be seriously misled either way by a long adverse bad run like this. The chances are that a long winning run is the sign of a winning player just like a long losing run is a likely sign of a losing player. But it is certainly not definite.

Countless players have packed in their day jobs to play poker on the back of good runs that were nothing more than variance. Let us say that after 5000 hands you were making $45/hour playing poker. Your current job is paying you $25/hour so should you quit working to play poker? This is a bad idea, you could easily break even or lose over that next 5000 hand period and your hourly rate drops to $20/hour or less.

You do not need anything bad to happen for an hourly rate to tumble; just a lengthy period of indifferent results that cannot match your recent lucky run is all that it takes. So the fact of the matter is that variance will mess with your head and force you into making incorrect decisions both in the actual games themselves and in your decision to either stop playing poker and pack it in or to commit and play full-time.