On Friday, I announced my brand new book for preorder, Poker’s 1%: The One Big Secret That Keeps Elite Players On Top. (The announcement came with an offer for a FREE book before Christmas if you order by December 9. Get the deal now before it’s gone.)
Since Friday, I’ve gotten one question more than any other. “What’s the big secret?”
It’s a fair question. To answer the question properly, I’d need a book. (Conveniently, I have written just such a book. It’s available for preorder now through December 9th.)
Ok, that was a little obnoxious. Sorry about that.
I’ll give you the short answer right now. The vast majority of poker players (roughly 99% of them) rely on what I call hand strength- and read-based play. Hand strength-based play is when you make your decisions based primarily on how strong (in absolute terms) your hand is. For instance, maybe you don’t like to stack off with top pair. Or maybe you call one street with a gutshot or middle pair, but not two streets.
Now I’m not saying everyone plays like a robot in this way. On certain board textures or against certain opponent types, the hand strength-based player might mix this up a bit. (This mixing qualifies as read-based play using my terms.) Sure, the hand strength-based player might make a hero call once in a while with ace-high. The hand-strength player also can throw in a bluff or two when the time is right.
But, when you watch a hand-based player hand after hand, you’ll see the same patterns. Calldowns with hands of certain strengths, folds on the turn with weaker hands, and so forth.
There’s a big problem with this. It’s the community cards. On different boards, different hand strengths are made with different frequencies.
“Duh,” you say. You can’t make a full house if the board ain’t paired. This is true, but the problem is more subtle than this. Seemingly small changes in the flop cards can change the frequencies of certain hands by a significant amount by the river.
And, in the end, it’s the frequencies that count. The pass line bet in craps is a bad bet because it comes in only 49.4% of the time. If somehow it came in at 50.6% instead, you could bankrupt the house just by placing that bet over and over again for eternity.
It’s a tiny shift in frequency—49.4% to 50.6%—but it makes all the difference about who wins and who loses over time.
More to the point, it’s a imperceptible shift in frequency if you’re just watching the game with your eyeballs. You could sit there and watch a craps game all day long, and you could not tell me just by watching casually which game had the 49.4% frequency and which one had the 50.6% frequency. You’d never know. It’s too subtle.
This is the secret of poker’s 1%. This is the insight that makes elite players elite and leaves everyone else fighting over the scraps. Most poker players, roughly 99% of them, play in a way that get some of their frequencies correct some of the time. On certain board types in certain stock situations, they are checking and betting with roughly the right frequencies. They are folding, calling, and raising in roughly correct proportion. They are value betting and bluffing with an effective mix.
But in many, many other situations, their frequencies are out of whack—often dramatically so. And the kicker is, they never notice the problem. It’s because they are thinking fundamentally about the wrong thing first. They are using a hand strength-based strategy when in fact they should be using a frequency-based strategy.
The frequencies come first. Frequencies are at the heart of any gambling game. Win a pass line bet 50.6% instead of 49.4%, and you flip the edge. Win a roulette bet 1/34 of the time instead of 1/38, and you’ve likewise flipped the edge.
When someone bets in no-limit hold’em, the most important determinant for whether the bet will be profitable or unprofitable is the frequency of the response. Will that bet get a fold 20%, a call 70%, and a raise 10%? Or will it get a fold 35%, a call 60%, and a raise 5%? Or will it get a fold 55%, a call 45%, and never a raise?
Will the raises be half bluffs and half value bets? Or will the raises be 75% value bets and 25% bluffs? Or will there be no bluffs at all?
This is what matters most. When your frequencies are consistently out of whack, you beat yourself. It’s that simple. When your opponents’ frequencies are out of whack, they beat themselves. When your frequencies are consistently better than your opponents’ frequencies, you win the money. You have the edge. You are playing the craps game with the 50.6% pass line win frequency.
So this is what I think you should do. Instead of playing a hand strength-based strategy, you flip it around. Instead of letting the hand strengths determine your frequencies, you figure out your ideal frequencies first, and then fill in the hands.
Reads are still important. Making consistently good reads will make you extra money. There’s no question about it.
But here’s the thing. Frequencies are king. You can be an elite poker player making no reads whatsoever. If you get your frequencies right, that’s all you need to win big money. Again, reads can make you extra money. Elite poker players use their reading ability to win money. But the frequencies are most important. If you get the frequencies too far wrong, all the reads in the world won’t make up for it.
If you doubt me now, you won’t after you witness the coming wave of no-limit hold’em bots. Many of them will be 100% frequency-based, 0% read-based. They will play a purely frequency-based game. No reads at all. And they will crush.
So that’s what the book is about. It’s about how to transform your game from a flawed hand strength-based game into a frequency-first approach. It’s just an introduction—I can’t make you an elite player overnight. You have to do the work on your own to get from here to there.
But after you read Poker’s 1%, you will see clearly why your current approach to no-limit hold’em is flawed. You will see how to fix it. And you will know precisely the type of work you should do on your own that will—if you commit yourself to it day after day, month after month—get you the results you want.
I have the pleasure of having a readership that has seen the value of my books. Frequently I hear from readers who attribute large improvements in their play and results to one of my books. I love hearing these stories, because they let me know for certain that my books are well worth the price tag.
This one will be no different. In fact, this book has the highest ceiling of any of the eight books I’ve written. If you read this book and really “get” it, and if you do the work (the work to be done is outlined in the book), the sky’s the limit.
So that’s the secret. Want to know more? Preorder before December 9, 2013 and get my awesome Black Friday deal.