Is your strategy dated? Guest Post by Carl “The Dean” Sampson

I recall back in 2002 when I first started playing full time and the limit games were very loose and mainly passive. The average pot sizes were very high as more players were seeing the showdown. The way to beat these games was both obvious and easy and it simply involved learning some decent theory and then playing tight-aggressive poker. This was how I earned my living for a few years until the games toughened up.

Then when this happened I switched to playing a more aggressive style but everybody figured limit hold’em out and the losing runs became longer and the break even stretches became longer and the profits thinner. This was when I switched to learning NLHE but even the NLHE cash games in around 2007-2008 were far softer than what they are now and much less aggressive. One of the biggest factors behind why players fail to make money when they play online poker is that they simply fail to see the weakness of their strategy.

A strategy can be weak in numerous ways and it can be so weak that your opponents simply exploit you easily. Then when you improve your strategy it can still be weak in other ways and one such way is that it fails to take advantage of mistakes made by your opponents. This is frequently seen with players that have educated themselves to a level where they understand about balancing and the need for it.

Firstly it needs to be said that you cannot defeat unbalanced opponents for the maximum if you yourself are balanced. Just in the same way that when your opponents are correctly balanced then it is difficult to make money from them and the best policy is often to find yourself a softer game. This is why game selection is important in poker because your ideal opponents are ones that are unbalanced in certain areas even though they may ultimately be winning players.

When your opponents are unbalanced in a certain area then your correct response is to unbalance in the opposite direction. So the best way to make money against unbalanced opponents isn’t by being balanced but being unbalanced yourself. So your strategy can still be weak even if you have worked on your game sufficiently enough so that you can balance your lines. In fact this is one of the biggest flaws that I see in players that have reached the intermediate levels of play.

Many players mistakenly think that they have reached some “Holy Grail” when they learn how to balance their lines. However balancing is only a defensive measure to prevent other good players from being able to exploit you. If you are sitting in a poker game where you have to balance to prevent yourself from being exploited then you are sitting in the wrong poker game. This is why game selection is so critical in poker when it comes to trying to forge an earn rate.

If you are sitting in games where your opponents are too strong and your edge is too thin or non-existent then you are simply wasting your time. It is better to spend thirty minutes finding the right games and then making $20/hour than jumping right into the first games that come along and making $10 per hour. Let us say that a player plays for 30 hours per week and makes $20/hour but spends the other 10 hours game selecting and waiting. This player makes $600/week but compare that to the player that jumps straight in and only makes $10/hour but plays for 40 hours. They only make $400/week despite playing for ten hours more playing the same number of tables at the same level with the same skill set.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson is an 888 poker pro at and can also be seen on his Google+ page at


  1. Great post. I like the line about “if you have to balance your lines then you’re in the wrong game.” Some of the competition I play at $1/$2 and $2/$5 are so soft that there is no need to balance. Poker is just a slow transfer of wealth from the worse players to the better players. Make sure you’re one of the better players in your regular game, or improve until you are.

  2. Ok i am officially depressed. I have worked pretty hard the last two months balancing my opening hands and getting my play unpredictable and I read this. So after reading this, I should save my balanced play for tournys and just look for tables with spew tards.

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