It’s not about how well you play the game, or even about how well your opponents play the game. It’s about the spread of ability between you and your opponents.
Poker’s soul is founded on the principle that one decision has a mathematical advantage over other alternatives. It’s called “edge”. It’s an critically important concept to keep in mind for your entire poker career. When you have an edge over the field larger than your playing costs, you’ll win over time. If you don’t, you’ll continually be digging into your pockets.
The reason you can win over time at poker is that you can select the times to gamble. Hands that have an edge you can push to their maximum potential. Hands that have the worst of it, you can fold. The larger your edge, the greater the equity of your holding. It’s a relative thing!
The same concept applies to the game as a whole. You can select your opposition. You can choose not to play when your edge is not up to your standards. And you can choose to push your edges to their maximum when the situation is ripe.
In my Card Player columns I’ve often written that the recurring sum of volume times net edge equals expectation, and over time your expectation will equal your nominal earn. What that means is that the expectation from each independent bet wagered, either positive or negative, added into a recurring field will equal your win or loss rate over the course of time. This is an important concept to understand, and is the essence of the game.
Yes, with larger games you wager more money, but is your edge as high as in the lower game? Does the increased amount wagered make up for the loss in edge of a tougher and higher game? Is the increased variance, the greater required effort, the higher stress, worth the extra money? If it is, play. If not, pass.
Choose your ground. Select games in which you have an edge. Be real now. Are you really as good as you like to think you are? Is the edge large enough to make playing worth your while? Yes, this is all predatory, but that’s the nature of poker. And those who play the game understand that upfront. So, no need to feel bad about it. Nobody is forcing anyone to play.
It’s the most important concept in poker!