The Joker Club

5 Stages of the Journey to become a Winning Poker Player 

If you want to win in Poker, evaluate your abilities accurately and pick your battles accordingly. That’s about it.

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For 10 years I played Poker almost every day of my life. I have won and lost Millions of dollars, lost all my money twice and eventually figured out how to consistently win and make serious money playing Poker. 

There are 5 Stages a Player will go through to become a Winning Poker Player. It is useful to understand each stage to be able to progress to the next.

“Poker is war. People pretend it is a game.”

Stage 1 : Trying to Hit Cards

After a Player becomes familiar with the Rules and Hand Rankings, the first stage begins where most of your attention goes into – Trying to hit cards.

Symptoms of Stage 1:

  • Strong emphasis on Hitting or Missing of cards: Hence on Luck
  • Paying attention to Flush draws missing or hitting on a certain day
  • Am I running good or bad today: Luck is on my side or not
  • If I have been running bad, my good luck is due 
  • Feeling the power of Luck: Strong role of Luck in winning/losing
  • Strong Belief: Win or Loss is dependent on Luck (Hitting of Cards)

Making progress in Stage 1:

  • When you realize you can calculate the probability of Hitting cards
  • You learn to calculate the probability of draws using Number of outs
  • You realize not all draws are equal: Some are better than others 
  • Before you were chasing all draws: Open enders and even Gutty
  • Now you are able to fold certain draws and not chase

You have mastered Stage 1 if:

  • You know how to calculate the strength of any hand
  • You realize there is no mystery to Hitting or Missing of cards
  • You understand Cards pretty much stick to Mathematical Probability 

If you’re struggling to agree with this last statement, it means you still have progress to make in Stage 1.

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Stage 2 : Trying to Speculate Enemy’s Cards

In Stage 2, your attention moves away from Hitting cards and goes to speculating your enemy’s cards and his pattern of play

Symptoms of Stage 2:

  • You start to realize not all Opponents play the same
  • They have patterns which are useful to know
  • Some play Tight and some play Lose
  • Some are Bluffing when they don’t hit their hand

Making Progress in Stage 2: 

  • You start to realize you don’t need cards to win
  • You start to Bluff: If you suspect your opponent will fold, you Bluff
  • You learn to Represent a certain hand
  • 3 betting with 910 suited and represent AA when you don’t hit
  • You start to Continuation bet on the flop even when you don’t hit
  • You start to represent Flush or straight to make them fold their hand 

Mastering Stage 2:

  • You realize there is a deeper game going beyond Hitting cards
  • Making him call or fold when you want
  • You realize Poker is all about Outplaying your opponent

You have mastered Stage 2 is when you understand: 

Poker is about Estimating the Enemy’s Hand – And then outplaying him. It is not about hitting cards at all.

This is the reason Luck does not matter at all!

If you have trouble understanding this : This is something to consider –

One study showed: out of One Billion hands played online, 15% of hands went to showdown. 85% of hands were won without ever showing cards!

Because most hands don’t go to showdown, we don’t need to hit cards or even show our cards. If we can get good at estimating our opponent’s hand, that is enough to make him dance to our tune.

Poker is about getting good at estimating your Opponent’s hand and make him do what we want. Hitting or Missing cards is almost irrelevant.

Most Professional Poker players have mastered Stage 1 and Stage 2:

1. They know how to perfectly calculate the strength of every hand. 
2. They are great at estimating the opponent’s hands.

This is only the beginning and not enough to make money at a high level.

Stage 3 is the backbone of a Winning Strategy.

Some of the best poker players in the world have not mastered Stage 3.

If you do, you can be at a massive advantage.

Stage 3 : Trying to Speculate Enemy’s Skill

In Stage 3, you pay close attention to the deeper game you learnt in Stage 2.

The Game beyond hitting cards. The Game of Outplaying the Opponent.

This is the skill part of Poker. The most important part.

It is useful to understand: Every player is trying to Outplay the other.

You must evaluate, accurately: who is doing it successfully.

Symptoms of Stage 3

  • You are able to evaluate accurately: the Skill of every Player
  • You can tell which players are good and which are not
  • You can identify a good player even when he is losing
  • And a bad player even when he is winning
  • You are able to predict who will win in a certain line up

You are making progress in Stage 3

  • When you start to accept many players are better than you
  • In earlier stages, you believed you were getting Unlucky
  • Now you are becoming aware of your Incompetence
  • You observe how certain players are able to dominate and bully you
  • They are able to make you call when they have a good hand
  • They are able to make you fold when they are bluffing
  • These players are constantly Outplaying you

You have mastered Stage 3

  • When you realize what a poor Poker player you are
  • You realize how many Players are better than you
  • Before you were Fearless, now you are Fearful 

Being Fearless in Poker is a Mistake. Being Cautious is a sign of Wisdom.

“He who knows when he can fight 
and when he cannot, will be victorious.”

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The most useful skill in Poker would be to know who is better than you and who is not. Then you could pick your battles perfectly and hence – never lose.

Stage 4 - Ruthless Game Selection 

Stage 4 is the stage of Profit. It is not possible to be in Stage 4 and be losing Money. If you are losing money, you have not yet mastered Stage 1,2 and 3.

Having mastered Stage 3 means you are successfully able to identify which players are better than you. 

In Stage 4, you get extremely selective about which games you play in.

Symptoms of Stage 4

  • You ruthlessly scan the line up before going to a Game
  • You don’t just ask for line up, you genuinely discard most games
  • You turn down over 50% of Game Invitations 

Making Progress in Stage 4 

  • You understand if the Game is not good, you break even / lose money.

       Breaking even = Wasting time    ||    Losing Money = You are Enemy’s lunch

  • You turn down more than 80% of Game Invitations
  • You often leave in the middle of the game when the line up changes

Mastering Stage 4

  • You have no interest in competing with players who are better
  • You realize Winning in Poker is a utterly a matter of Game Selection
  • You start making good money from Poker 

Masters of Game Selection will end up making 10 times more money than their peers who may be far better poker players. 

Anuj Sanghi, 42 years old, is a friend of mine and heir of a Rich family. 

In Poker, he is a fish. Almost everyone is a better poker player than him. But somehow he has been making money playing Poker for the last 7 years that I have known him. People are always surprised how he is able to win despite being not very good at Poker. I know how. 

He is a master of Game Selection.

He will never come to a game unless the line up is very good. He will leave the Game as soon as the line up changes. You cannot tempt him to come to a bad game. Sometimes, he will stay out of games for 6 months.

Stage 5 - Hunting for Ideal Poker Games 

Mastering Stage 4 teaches how easy it can be to win in Poker if you are in the right Poker Game. But you realize how rare these games are to find and they are not limited to your network, city or even your country.

You have entered Stage 5 : 

  • You stop waiting for Games to find you or invite you 
  • You start looking for opportunities outside your Network
  • All your Attention now goes into : Trying to find the Best Games
  • Where the most Rich and Successful people play for fun
  • Games which are restricted and not open to everyone

In my day, I went from playing $10 buy in to $20,000 Buy in. 

People who I met on each step of that ladder: friends who I used to play $10 buy in with and people who I used to play $100 Buy in with, most of them are still playing that same game. 

Unless you step outside your network, you will not step into the Money. 

Making Progress in Stage 5

  • You start trying out New Games
  • You travel to other cities to find Games and make connections
  • You are constantly upgrading your Network
  • You add value to Games by adding players from your Network 

Mastering Stage 5

  • You are part of the Global Network of Exclusive Poker Games
  • You get invited to some of the Best Games in the world
  • You travel First Class all over the world to play Poker
  • You don’t ever worry about Luck, Improving your Game or Losses
  • When you lose, you never TILT because you know how easily you will win the money back
  • You don’t have to try hard to win in these Games because most rich people are simply Gambling and having fun
  • You have the mastered the Real Skill which matters in Poker and it has nothing to do with Luck or even being good at Poker

Making Money in Poker is about networking your way into the Best Poker Games. These games are most profitable and also the most fun.


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