How to Keep Previously Gained Edge while Playing Poker

How to Keep Previously Gained Edge while Playing Poker

One of the best ways to improving your chances of winning in a casino is to have a wide choice on what games you want to play and how much you care to wager.

While the members on this website bet on many different games, from slots to Keno, my favorite cash game is poker. I rarely enter a casino unless it offers live poker. Sometimes I will try out a new casino because of the poker slot machines or because they offer a new type of dollar or five dollar slot machine where I can test my luck. Such games are a challenge, especially for a systems player like myself.

Doyle 'Texas Dolly' Brunson, one of the world's top winning gamblers, prides himself on the variety of games where he invests his bankroll. You have to admire Brunson for many reasons. He is highly respected by his peers and the power structure in Las Vegas. And unlike comedian W.C. Fields who had a favorite expression, 'Never give a sucker an even break,' Brunson believed in giving his competition an even break.

In his best-selling book, 'Super System: A Course in Power Poker,' Doyle tells how he will often play other games where he knows he is not the best, just to give some of the money he has won at poker or golf back to the losers. Why Because he enjoys the challenge of winning at a game where he does not have an edge. He doesn't do this often, of course. Such a policy would be madness and it would probably destroy Brunson's substantial bankroll.

No, when you play poker, golf or some other gambling game against a pro like Doyle Brunson, you had better have an edge. If you don't, I can pretty much guarantee that you will be hitting the ATM before the evening is over -- not once but several times.

If you are playing blackjack, you can gain a slight edge on the house by learning the basic strategy of 21 that was created in the early 1950s by Prof. Edward Thorpe. A professor of mathematics at the University of Southern California, Dr. Thorpe developed a winning strategy for blackjack by using a computer to simulate playing 100,000 hands. His basic strategy was computed on the computer, one of the first ever built in America, and using a single deck of 52 cards.

Thorpe used the casinos' own rules against them. While a player is not required to hit or stand on any hand, the house must hit any 16 and stand on 17 or higher. Some casinos allow a 'soft' 16 (Ace-five),, most do not. The math professor came up with a basic strategy for standing, doubling down and splitting cards that gave him a significant edge against the house and which virtually guaranteed him a profit as long as he had a sufficient bankroll to protect himself against occasional swings when the casino would overcome his advantage which could be four percent or better.


After Thorpe won a lot of money in Las Vegas, he wrote his book which immediately became the guidebook for the hundreds of thousands of gamblers who read it and memorized his system. Casino operators badly underestimated the power of Thorpe's system. Dealers and casino executives at first snickered and even laughed out loud when the mathematician split aces or doubled down on Ace-three when the dealer was showing a bust card (four, five or six). But as his winnings piled up and they discovered they could not beat him, several casinos used cheating dealers who could make their own odds by the way they manipulated the cards.

Thorpe outsmarted them on that move by abandoning their casinos and taking his action to a rival gambling house. When cheating didn't work, the casino owners got together and decided to increase the number of decks they used in order to make card counting tougher and less effective. Today only a small handful of casinos deal one or two-deck blackjack, with most opting for six or even eight decks. The professor responded to that with a smile.

He developed another point-counting system for blackjack that worked almost as well with multiple decks as it did for single decks.

While poker players like myself cannot give themselves a similar edge in poker, there are ways of gaining an edge a different way. I prefer to play at a casino that has a lot of tables in its card room. That way you can find the right game for your bankroll. If the cards aren't coming to you at table 23, no problem. Just ask for a table change to table 21 or 14.

Talking Stick Casino in Scottsdale, AZ. is my idea of a near perfect poker room.

The casino management boasts of having the largest number of poker tables in the state. Having just left Missouri where I played at Downstream or Indigo Sky Casino in Quapaw, MO. and Seneca, MO. respectively, I was immensely relived when I went to Talking Stick, an Indian-owned casino and resort on the Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation.

Downstream Casino rarely offers a player anything except no-limit Texas Hold'em. Indigo Sky is nearly as bad in the games offered. Downstream gives a player the same choice in poker as Henry Ford offered in the color of the Fords he built on his assembly line -- 'You can have any color you want as long as it is black.' The game at Downstream is $1-2 No Limit Texas Hold'em with a required buy-in of $100. Indigo Sky offers $1-3 No Limit Texas Hold'em with a minimum $100 buy-in. Sometimes the casino will offer a $3-6 limit game with a $30 buy-in, which is a horrible game for the average player. The casino does not offer a kill, which keeps the pots limited. Few players can withstand the house rake, and you can end up losing almost as much money at $3-6 over a period of time as you can at no-limit.

Talking Stick is a totally different scene. I played there the other night and started the evening at $4-8 limit Texas Hold'em with a kill. After a couple of hours, I switched to $4-8 Omaha High-Low with a half kill (buy-in for both games, $40). The poker room also offers A $6-12 split game where you play a round of Omaha High-Low followed by a round of Seven-card stud high low.

If you can find a casino with that kind of variety in your geographic area, I suggest you go to it muy-pronto. Just say bye-eye to your old casino and make it stick until the poker room manager gets the picture and makes some badly needed changes.

“Never give a sucker an even break”

  • Your advice is well taken , I was getting into poker awhile back and texas hold em . I haven't played in awhile but like poker so might keep at it . There are several places to play for free to get aquainted better with the game . Poker seems to be booming and very popular . I believe it is a game of skill and takes a lot of practice to be a good poker player. I think I would need a lot more free practice of sorts before I could trust or feel comfortable betting with a real bankroll. Thanks for the article and advice.
  • There are some online casinos that will boot you off right quick if they think that you are using a gambling "system" of any kind. I had an interesting phone conversation with a CS from one of the online signups I was on, and that was a very important policy there. As for a machine dealing the winning card to me -- I can wrap my mind around slots - there might be something there, but no self-respecting machine on earth is going to simply hand me the winning card, no matter how many times I push "Deal". I have played online for years and years, and I still can NOT believe that one. Maybe I will wait for some kind of tutorial - maybe there is something like that, at the machines at the local casino. ...Maybe I'll believe it after that.
  • I have been playing poker pretty much every day for at least a couple of years now and have to say that gaining an edge is really quite difficult these days. If I play at the lower stakes then it really is just an unbelievable grind, though I can show a profit over an extended time period - move up to the higher stakes however and a bad run can wipe out my entire gambling budget for the rest of the month ... If anybody has any suggestions for where to find the most fish at the tables, please post away :)
  • I don't play much poker of any kind. I like blackjack, but I know, it's not poker, is it? After reading this article though, I started thinking about reading a few of the books mentioned and maybe putting those systems to the test. Every-once-in-a-while I like to try to expand my hobby, especially if it will expand my bankroll, that too will expand my hobby. Thanks Geno for the info. We will see how it goes at a later date.

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