“There are many ways to play winning hold’em,” stated the self-proclaimed expert. And he’s right; there are many ways to play when all you’re concerned about is enjoying the game or booking a winner. But there is almost always only one optimum play, the play that provides you the best value. And if your goal is to win the most money, it’s not correct to make any other play!

Many players play a self-designed style to diminish fluctuation. Others design a style to book as many winners as they can. Many more play a style designed to provide them the most fun as possible.

Of course, it all depends on why you play. Is it for fun? For social reasons? To boost your ego? Or do you want to win as much money as possible? It will only be the most fun way to play if you enjoy the intellectual challenge. And it probably won’t make you the most popular person at the table while you’re playing. And if you quantify how you do at poker by your win/loss record, it won’t boost your ego. Optimal strategy will cause you to swing more and book more losers. All that said, winning is fun, people respect talent and money can boost your ego too!

If you want to maximize your win rate, you need to shed some of your inherent beliefs. It may be more emotionally comfortable not to greatly fluctuate, but is it worth the lost money at the end of the year? Optimal play tends to generate more risk, greater fluctuation and superior EV.

Booking winners is definitely more fun than booking losers. But winning money at poker isn’t about having the best won-lost record. It’s about getting the best EV over time. And when you quit good games to insure a win or conversely stay in bad games because you’re stuck and aspire to win, you’re costing yourself EV. EV that will transfer into money won at the end of the year. Additionally, styles that tend to have the best winning session percentage tend not to have the best overall EV.

It’s ok to play for fun or social reasons. But understand that it’s not the optimal mentality for winning. I often see players play carelessly early and then play their best when they’re down to the last of their bankroll. Some balance needs to be implemented between their respect for money and their desire for enjoyment. Going broke isn’t any fun!

So if you’re playing to win money, dismiss the emotions and rationalized thoughts. Think about which decision will make you the most money over time. Actualize that decision.
It will be fun stacking those chips.

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