Only 10% of Poker Players Are Successful & Make Money

Only 10% of Poker Players Are Successful & Make Money

And a new poker hiatus begins…

A few takeaways from this most recent Harrah’s Cherokee WSOP journey:

#1. During a cash game (fortunately, a winning session), I mentioned to a dealer that common wisdom and my research showed that 10% of cash game poker players are profitable. He replied, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

#2. During one of the tournaments I played, I asked a dealer the same question, but specified tournament poker players. He said that from what he had seen through the years, somewhere between 5% and 10% of tournament players were profitable.
He mentioned that most of the people who win big will still end up losers 10 years later. I threw out three names of WSOP Circuit tournament players who have been winning big recently. He confirmed that those players were likely long-term winners.

It would be easy to figure out the answer to poker if these three players all played the same style, but they don’t. The most consistent winner recently (and possibly the most consistent winner on the Circuit over the past decade) is talkative and aggressive. His talk irritates other players to the extent that half the players hate him.

In order to get to the bottom of this situation, I did some research and watched his interviews over the years. Some of these videos had very few views (less than 100) and were from six years ago. The first thing I learned was expected—the table talk is on purpose. While part of it is to have fun, the other part of it is to get you to make bad decisions and reveal information.
Amazingly, some players still fall for this. He also made one important comment on one of those interviews many years ago. He said, “Keep folding. Don’t get that wrong now. Keep folding.” This tells us that when you play this individual, you should call or raise.

The player I’m referring to above likely uses Aggression Until Resistance. It’s something I might implement the next time I play in a tournament. I used it in that last $580 tournament, but I took it way too far. Once you get called with 82-off pre-flop, you need to hit the brakes. One feeler bet on the flop is okay, but it needs to end there.

By the way, cash games saved my ass that year. Most people are either better at cash or tournaments. I had been losing in tournaments and winning in cash games. It would have been nice to win in both, but that doesn’t seem possible for me.

The other two players on the Circuit that are consistently successful are completely different. From what I have seen, one loves to 3-bet pre-flop. He’s basically accumulating chips prior to anyone seeing a flop. The other one seems to be highly intelligent and is crazy tight-aggressive while respecting position to a high degree regardless of the blind levels.

The problem with this information is that you can’t just choose one style and think it will work. Pretty much everything will depend on your nerves. If you have nerves of steel and you’re willing to lose while going for the gold, then you might want to implement Aggression Until Resistance.
If you want to test people right off the bat, then you can try being aggressive pre-flop, but this style will lead to big pots and a great deal of volatility. If you’re more patient and conservative, then consider TAG while respecting position to a high degree regardless of blind levels.
For me, it was the first or third style. Nobody can peg me as tight or aggressive (only incorrectly), and they can never peg my range because I’m always changing gears. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. It seems like I won the most when I played that third TAG style for many years.

I’m in poker purgatory. However, I watched A Football Life: The Steve Young Story with my son. The dude had to deal with being a backup to Joe Montana—possibly the best quarterback ever when you consider intangibles and his ability to perform under pressure (16 TDs, 0 INTs in four Super Bowl Wins)—for years.
Young stuck it out, knowing he would never quit. It took many years, but he finally won the Super Bowl as QB of the San Francisco 49’ers. This is just another example of how perseverance and hard work eventually pay off.

#3. During a different cash game prior to a tournament, the dude to my right continued to talk to me about how most poker players were assholes, how he would never want to play more poker, and how people have very little shot of winning consistently. This wasn’t exactly the kind of mindset I wanted to be in prior to heading into a tournament. All I could do was defend poker to the best of my ability.

I told him that the 10% of cash game players who understood money management, table selection, position, etc. were consistent winners, how there were consistent winners on the Circuit, and how some people just love the game.

When I proved that it was possible (though difficult) to be a financial winner in the game of the poker, he said, “Yeah, but what about the time investment?”

Some people are wired to be miserable, or at least to spread misery.

#4. During one of my Re-Entry flights, a guy sat down directly to my left and said, “What a day!” Someone asked him why. He explained to everyone at the table that he had just received an email from his wife’s attorney, indicating that she was filing for divorce. Based on his story, this had something to do with him traveling to play in poker tournaments too often. This wasn’t exactly a trip filled with good humor and holiday cheer.

#5. During another flight, an older cowboy fellow told everyone at the table that he was going to ride his horse across the entire country. He then threw a pack of Viagra onto the felt and said he was well prepared.

#6. Another player asked my opinion on his play in a tournament the night before. I’m not going to describe this person because he’s really cool, incredibly easy to get along with, and I had played with him several times, so I don’t want this to come off the wrong way. He told me that he had 80,000 in chips 30 minutes before bagging the night before, and that he called someone’s pre-flop all-in for 45,000 with AK-off because he didn’t want to go into Day 2 with 80,000.

First off, there is nothing wrong with going into Day 2 with 80,000 chips. Not only is it enough ammo to give you a shot, but it prevents you from having to buy-in to another flight, which reduces costs. This is very important based on the current fees for WSOP tournaments, which, to be blunt, are too high and potentially even greedy.

Secondly, if you take ALL DAY to build your chip stack to 80,000, why would you risk more than half of that stack in what’s likely to be a race at best?

He lost that hand, went on tilt, and lost the rest of his chips prior to bagging. By folding AK there, he would have preserved his chips, bagged, saved an extra buy-in, and had a chance at more than $100,000.

Today is Sunday. Not just any Sunday, but the Sunday that is Day 2 of the WSOP Harrah’s Cherokee Main Event. I’m at home because I didn’t even play in the event—an event I looked forward to for four months. Playing in Florida two weeks ago was my big error. Not only did I have to pay traveling expenses, but 1st Place was approximately $95,000, which is much lower than the Main Event at Cherokee.

I’m not saying I would have cashed in the Main Event at Cherokee, but I at least would have had a shot. The 20,000 in chips and longer blind levels make it more about playing poker than luck. But with all the negativity I experienced the weekend before, maybe it wasn’t meant to be. And by missing that tournament, I did get to go to my town’s Christmas carnival with my family, which, due to my son’s age, could have been the last time I saw my son visit Santa and tell him what he wanted for Christmas.
Sometimes when you think everything is going wrong, as long as you’re trying to do the right thing, you’re really moving in the right direction.

April was a LONG time away. And, yes, I stuck to my word and waited 4.5 months to play poker again! I couldn’t even play a cash game during that time. That’s rough. But I was using it as a bankroll-building time period. I had been chasing all year. As long as my other gig remained intact, I hoped to be playing downhill in April. What you have behind you financially plays a major role in how you play on the felt.

My other gig did not remain intact!


Author: Henry Brown