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Variance is Your Friend in Poker

Once upon a time when there were plenty of fish in the poker sea then good tight and solid play would get the money. At the lower stakes levels then that is still the case although there is substantially less fish money around these days and so any good player needs to be able to do one thing and that is to accept higher variance and greater swings to their bankroll. Some years ago I had a very low variance poker play in cash games like on 888poker but there is a vital clue here because if you are encountering low variance with your style then your earnings must by sheer definition also be low.

By earnings then I mean earn rate but the bottom line is that if you have played for say 50k hands and you have been feeling great about only dropping 3 buy-ins in all that time and your earn rate has been a measly $5 per hour then the likely reason is that you have been playing too tightly. If that continues to say 100k hands and you still haven’t dropped more than 2-3 buy-ins at any one time then you simply cannot and should not be expecting to earn more money in terms of your earn rate.

A player that earns say $1 per hour will on average encounter much smaller swings to their bankroll than someone who was making $40 per hour. This is where many players go wrong because they make it impossible for themselves to achieve considerable earn rates because their primary motive is to reduce the financial swings to their bankroll. Unfortunately there is a very powerful correlation between variance, standard deviation and earn rate in poker. The higher the earn rate that you aspire to then the greater deviation you need to embrace and accept.

This same concept applies equally so to all forms of gambling and sports betting. It is exactly the same in tournament poker, if you go into a large field poker tournament with a relatively cautious style then you should not expect dynamic results. There will be too many people in that field that are gambling more than you and so what right do you have to expect to attain a huge stack the same size as theirs or greater if you haven’t taken similarly sized risks?

The answer is that you have no right and this applies to whether or not you are playing cash games or tournaments. The bottom line is that if you want to earn more money in poker then you had better start preparing for greater swings to your bankroll because there is simply no other way to do it. ?

Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

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