The First Key Evaluation In NLHE Ring Games

Carl Sampson | November 2, 2011

Carl “The Dean” Sampson

Carl “The Dean” Sampson is an online poker pro, coach and poker writer with many years experience in the poker and gambling industry. Carl has three published books and has written for many leading poker magazines like the WPT and Poker Pro Europe.


Carl plays poker online at PokerStars, not only the largest online poker room, but also the best!

When you sit down to play in any NLHE ring game then you absolutely must have an idea as to where your profit potential will come from. If you do not now this then you are committing the biggest sin of all in poker and that is to guess. As the great Amarillo “Slim” Preston once said….. “Guessing is for losers”. If you sit down in a poker game hoping that playing your hands well will make you money then you are guessing that this process by itself will be enough.

I coach players and one of the biggest mistakes that they make when entering a game is that they simply have no discernable plan of attack to make money. Let us look at a few basic concepts first and foremost in how the average poker player enters a game. The typical rock will sit there playing solid poker, waiting for good hands, trying little steal attempts, not getting out of line and hoping for big implied odds and big pay-offs on their monsters.

This is a good way of playing but only if the environment is conducive to this strategy working. If this rock has used this style of play in the past and made money with it then he is likely to continue with that style. So he sits down as usual in a full ring game and waits for some fish to pass him 100bb in a situation where he is either a lock or massively +EV. However the problem comes when too many other players on his table are doing the same thing.

It is often very difficult to see the EV of a certain strategy in a very short time frame as players tend to be pre-occupied with looking at equity in certain hands and certain situations. What they often fail to do is to look at equity in their overall strategy which is often more difficult to ascertain. If you are sitting in a game with too many players who have short stacks then your 100bb becomes far less effective as a playable stack for example.

The EV that you have against good short stack players and good deep stack players is minimal and so knowing where your likely profits are coming from knocks on into other areas like game selection as well. If you are to make your poker career a success then you need to design strategies for different opponents with different stack sizes and skill levels. This is a mistake that I made very early in my career in NLHE and I paid the price when the online games became tougher.

Online poker has a constantly shifting dynamic and this makes it very difficult for novice players and even intermediate players to become successful at it over the long term. The best strategies are not fixed like with some card dependent strategies for example but highly fluid systems that don’t even resemble systematic play at all.