How to Be Lucky in Poker

If you've been playing poker for any considerable amount of time, you've no doubt delivered and received bad beats. You've likely also won several coin flips in a row, and seen your preflop AQ combo beat AK.

Luck is all around poker. And while skilled players win over the long term, you may wonder how to increase your short-term luck.

That said, let's discuss examples of poker luck, how variance comes into play, and ways to get Lady Fortune on your side.

How to Get Lucky in Poker

Famed poker pro Phil Hellmuth once said, "If there weren't luck involved, I would win every time."

Hellmuth can make a good case for this, because he's won a record 14 WSOP gold bracelets. But he's also lost many tourneys too, thanks to the luck factor.

Chance is a big part of what keeps people playing poker. If a bad player doesn't win some hands, then they quickly quit and never come back to the game.

But how do you get lucky enough to beat pros like Hellmuth in poker?

You'll see poker luck in a variety of ways, including these examples:

  • Hitting a 4 outer hand on the river to make your hand.
  • Getting a runner-runner straight to come back and win.
  • Winning several coin flips in a tournament and making a deep run.
  • Flopping a flush with smaller suited connectors like 6 7.

The biggest aspect of getting lucky in poker involves having a good run of cards. Sometimes it's much better to be fortunate than to be the most skilled player at the table.

But there are other forms of chance beyond just what cards you're dealt.

You could be assigned to a really easy table in a poker tournament. And playing against these less skilled opponents helps you get off to a good start and eventually make a deep run.

Sometimes it's the cards that your opponents are dealt that make a difference.

You may flop a set and your opponent also flops a two pair. The opponent then fails to account for your set and pays you off over the hand.

Extracting maximum value in this situation has just as much to do with your opponent's solid hand and lack of reads as it does with your bet sizing.

All of these situations play a large role in how much money you win or lose in the short run. Thanks to luck, poker players can win lots of profits over a series of sessions while skilled players can go on horrific losing streaks.

Poker Luck = Variance

The thing about chance in poker is that you never know when it'll go for or against you.

One day you may feel great after a winning session where you come out on top in several close situations. Other times you may curse the poker gods after being the victim of multiple bad beats.

The truth is that there's no mystical force helping or working against you. Instead, it all has to do with variance.

Variance is the measure of how far statistical results deviate from the average. Relating this to poker, variance determines how far your short-term results skew from the actual odds.

Here's an example:

  • I have Qh Jh on a flop of 8h Ac 3h.
  • My chances of getting a flush on the turn are 19.60%.
  • This means I'll win roughly 1 in 5 times.
  • If I win 3 out of 5 times, then variance is working in my favor.
  • If I lose 10 straight times, then variance is working against me.

Understanding variance alone can make you strive to be a poker pro. After all, this lifts the veil over thinking that everything is about what cards are dealt.

This concept will also encourage you to learn about the different odds in poker and how you can swing them in your favor.

You Can't Do Anything About Short-Term Variance

The best thing to understand about poker luck is that there's nothing you can do to influence results other than playing your hands well and analyzing opponents.

Let's look at an example of how short-term luck can impact you negatively:

  • You have a set and your opponent has a gut shot straight draw on the turn.
  • They can see their two hole cards and the four community cards.
  • This means there are 46 unseen cards for them.
  • Only four cards will make their hand (a.k.a. outs).
  • Their chances of winning are 8.7%.
  • They overcome the odds and hit their straight anyways.

The scenario above is the perfect example of a bad beat.

These are the type of situations that make you blow up and consider quitting poker. Furthermore, you may even question why you always have a bad luck with the game.

But again, the key is understanding that this is just variance and you'll win in this situation the vast majority of the time. If you replay this scenario 100 times, you'd win 91 times.

This means that getting lucky playing poker is just as much about making the right plays and continuing to play as it is about things going in your favor.

How Do You Swing Luck (Variance) in Your Favor?

cked in your favor, like in the example above, you can still lose.

But the key is to take steps to improve your odds of winning, and subsequently your luck too. Here are few ways that you can go about this.

Find Soft Poker Games

If you go against poker players with equal skill level, then luck will totally influence who wins the session. Even worse is when you go up against better players because you'll need good fortune on your side to win.

Chances are that most poker games you choose will feature players who are better and worse than you at the table. But the goal is to consistently find tables where you're better than the majority of opponents.

Playing hands in soft games increases the edge that you have. And when you keep getting into hands with better odds, you'll see your short-term luck increase.

More importantly, you improve your long-term odds of winning profits. But how do you go about finding soft cash games and tournaments?

This is easier said than done in today's poker environment because the average player is more skilled than in years' past. But you can still pull off this feat by following some simple tips:

  • Look for online poker sites with beginner's tables.
  • Search for poker sites that have rules against third party software.
  • Play at smaller poker sites / networks because they attract fewer pros.
  • Play live poker with unskilled players that you know.
  • Look for poker rooms that offer a lot of overlays, where casinos must cover gaps between guaranteed tournament prize pools and the entry fees.

Improve Your Poker Skills

If you don't continually improve your poker skills, then you'll be relying on luck a large majority of the time. This is why it's crucial to spend some of your poker time working on your game.

Having poker skills helps you boost profits when luck is on your side. It also keeps you from blowing your bankroll during the sessions where it doesn't seem like you can win a pot.

SSure, sometimes it feels like poker is all about luck. But the following situations make the subtle and not so subtle differences that boost your bankroll:

  • Extracting maximum value when you have the best hand.
  • Laying down a hand where you're beat on the river.
  • Timing bluffs and semi bluffs well.
  • Re raising when you properly identify a weak player who'll fold.
  • Stealing blinds and small pots under the right conditions.
  • Using pot odds to make correct calls on drawing hands.
  • Knocking limpers out of a hand with a large preflop raise.
  • Understanding variance and limiting your tilt episodes.
  • Avoiding limping into a hand because you know somebody is about to raise.

Of course, just recognizing situations where skill helps you is only a small part of the battle. The biggest aspect involves spending time with the right channels to improve your poker skills.

What are the right channels?

Poker strategy has undergone a revolution over the years.

It used to be that books and magazines were the best way to improve your game. After the poker boom of the mid 2000s, training videos and coaching became the rage.

Today, I recommend that you watch poker pros' Twitch streams to better your skills.

A growing number of professional players are streaming their sessions through Twitch. And you don't have to pay anything to watch most of these streams because the revenue comes through ads.

What's great about Twitch streams is that you get into the mindset of a pro as they play online poker. You can then adapt their tips and thinking skills to your own game.

Of course, other methods of learning poker strategy haven't gone away either. You can also read articles and books, watch training videos, and seek out coaching.

BBut again, watching Twitch streams is a valuable resource that you can use for free.

Cash Games vs. Poker Tournaments

I like to play cash games and tournaments. And your luck can run high and low in both poker settings.

But it's important to know that tournaments have more variance than cash games. The reason why is because the increasing blind levels force more action.

This in turn creates situations where players make less than optimal moves because they don't have the luxury of waiting orbit after orbit.

Cash games, on the other hand, allow you to replenish your chip stack at any time. This means that you can sit back and wait for more situations with positive expected value.

Poker tournaments are where the majority of the luck is in the game.

You need to win multiple coin flips in order to take down a tournament. And one lucky run in a big tourney helps you rapidly build your bankroll.

TThe key is to work on your poker tournament strategy so that you can put yourself in the best position to be on the right side of luck.

Conclusion

The fun thing about poker is that it features players of all skill levels. And you don't have to be a good player to enjoy the game.

One reason why is because you can get luck on your side and go on a hot streak regardless of how bad you are. Of course, most poker players don't want to sit around waiting to catch lightning in a bottle.

This is why I recommend studying poker strategy so that you know the odds and how to get on the right side of them.

Being skilled doesn't mean that you'll win 90% of the time. But it does ensure that you have a better shot at winning in both the short and long term.

My favorite method of improving poker skills involves watching Twitch streams. But you may find that articles or training videos suit you better.

In any case, you can slowly work on bettering your skills while enjoying the game. And hopefully luck is on your side during the process!