The real reason you are still stuck at the micro levels

Poker is a frustrating game to learn. Progress is difficult to measure because short term results are practically meaningless. Very few players learn the game quickly; most take baby steps towards their learning goals.

Stories of the latest “online phenom” add to the frustration.  How can these young players  — some of which barely have a high school education –  accomplish in a few months what you have been inching towards for years?

In short, they MASTER THE BASICS.  Mastering the basics allows these players to quickly switch their focus towards the more advanced aspects of poker strategy.  The transition from beginner to advanced player is quick and smooth because they build a strong foundation that they can build upon.

Most poker players take years if not decades to become fundamentally sound.  Here is a short list of reasons why the vast majority of poker players never grasp the fundamentals of poker strategy.

  • Player gets misinformed. As I mentioned here, there are some great poker strategy resources online but there is also an absurd amount of misinformation floating around
  • Player unrealistically seeks a clearly defined systematic way to dominate poker
  • Player overvalues his poker intuition
  • Player is too emotional and unable to distance himself from his play
  • Player seeks immediate feedback (via short term results) and doesn’t understand variance

The next few posts on this blog will feature some of these roadblocks to poker growth. To insure that the topics in this series are as helpful as possible, they will:

  • Represent a very common issue for intermediate players
  • Represent a fundamental  problem that hinders progress considerably
  • Be fixable errors; I will give tips on how to fix these major leaks

The first post of this series will cover the importance of playing lines, as opposed to playing poker situations in a vacuum. If you have any recommendations for topics or any comments about this series, please feel free to mention them in the comments of this post.


  1. 1) I think one thing that everyone reads is “vary your play” meaning sometimes raise with AK, sometimes call with AK. But what I think a lot of people don’t realize is that if I raise and the next time I limp, but never show my cards, it does not count as “varying you play”.

    2) “never slow play, you always get burned” “Never limp AA, your opponent will always suck out on you” But people never look at the hand from start to finish. Did they slow play a set on a 7 8 9 all spade flop? Did they limp with AA and still bet all 3 streets with 4 hearts and 4 cards to the straight on the board?

  2. Hey Dango, as for your 1), I think balancing ranges is very widely misunderstood, although frankly I feel it IMO borderline a bit above the fundamentals, just in the sense that you can usually get by as a winner at the low stakes without needing to balance much.

    Good topic of discussion, I will consider it as a topic for sure…

    As per your No.2… I think the first element touches on one of the reasons I mentioned players get stalled, they look for “Always do x and never do Y” answers. A systematic/cookie cutter technique to win… Of course this is the wrong approach…

    The fact of the matter is, poker players kind of fall in love with some of the new strategic concepts they learn.

    Reminds me of a time way back (maybe 6-7 years ago), when I read an article on “how to play A-K preflop” and thought I had finally discovered the solution to playing it (the advice was something like “always call in position and 3-bet out of position, or vice-versa, I forget).

    It took me a while to revisit this line and I figured out that I needed to figure out all the common scenarios you face with A-K…

    Thanks for the commment Dan…
    Jeff recently posted..The real reason you are still stuck at the micro levels…

  3. Also, learning from watching poker on TV. That can truly hurt your progress. But I think the #1 reason, and you mention it, is players don’t adapt to change, whether it’s change at the current table you are playing, in the current tournament, or current point in time.

    The book says you must do this….well, if everyone does this, adapt and do something else to counter.

    A good example is bet sizing, back in the day, it was 3x all the time, but now, depending on the situation, 2.1x is good enough.

    • Cool Dan, I agree… I have 4-5 topics in mind for this, but you are giving me food for thought on expanding the list… Thanks again!!!

  4. Dave Fraser

    Honestly this is a good topic. there are a lot of reason for it though. and every players reason is different. mine i would say is my bankroll management. and there is another which i see alot of good players miss. but ill save that for another day :P

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