Carl Sampson: Knowledge isn’t always power

Poker is a complex game and if you’re serious about making money playing it you need to put your thinking cap on. Get ready to go back to school with our poker coach…

Anybody that works with me or has been coached by me knows how much I loathe generalisations. They imply knowledge when in actual fact they lack wisdom and depth. In my mind this is why the majority of ‘educated’ poker players don’t make money despite ‘knowing the game’ very well.

This is because there is a disconnect in poker between knowledge and making money. There has to be because if knowledge always equated to profit then previously successful players would remain successful… but they don’t! Players simply do not know how to monetise their knowledge in the modern game.

The quick short-cuts

I want to get to the root of the problem by highlighting what the key problems are when it comes to players not making money.

In my opinion there are two clear reasons. One is that too many players are broadly playing in a way that is too similar. The second is to do with the first and is a derivative of it – namely that players are idle! Sorry if that hurts but it’s true!

This isn’t a poker problem but a society problem. We have grown soft! We want success and we want it with the minimum of effort. Well that worked years ago when all you had to do to win bucket loads of cash in poker was to read a few good theory books.

Tracking software didn’t solve the problem either… it just appeared to solve it for a while. Tracking software doesn’t make someone a better poker player if that player simply thinks that just using it makes them better.

Strong poker players use tracking software. Tracking software does not make someone a strong poker player.

Re-read that last paragraph! Players simply put the cart before the horse and ditto with poker theory. Strong players know poker theory but knowing poker theory doesn’t make someone a strong poker player… or at least not automatically.

Anybody that approaches me to work with me in my poker stable knows how I think about poker. My goal is to be a contrarian because that is where the big profits are. If you want an example of how a poker tracker program and knowledge wouldn’t equate to profit then let me highlight a simple example.

The coin toss

I like coin toss analogies to get points across because they are easily understood. Let’s say that me and you decide to toss coins for money. If I win you pay me $10 and likewise if you win. Now let us say that we are doing this online and the RNG of an online casino is flipping the coin for us. Now also let us say that you have a piece of software called Coin Tracker that you use to get all sorts of lovely data.

Bear with me here. This great piece of software does all sorts of lovely things when it links with the API of the site that we are using. It sends data directly to your computer and records all of my previous actions. It allows you to see my sequence of coin tosses against other players.

It shows you my profit and loss against each opponent at varying stake levels. It tells you that every Thursday for the past three months I have started with a sequence of heads, heads, heads and that I always win when I start like this.

How good is this data?

I could go on but you already get the drift. Now this is information that you wouldn’t have had were it not for the software. However we know for a fact that the information is useless when it comes to gaining an edge. Why? Simply because we know ahead of time that there is no edge in a coin toss!

Now I hear you say, ‘Carl, you’re totally missing the point because poker is a much more complex game than coin tossing.’ Of course it is. But that is precisely why players are struggling. They are not seeing the reality because of this complexity.

When we add in variance (which I might add is beyond the understanding of the majority of people that play poker) then the true reality is hidden. By the way, I am not ridiculing anyone’s knowledge of variance. The fact is if players really truly understood it then there would be no tilt, no boredom, no emotion whatsoever connected to results. The fact that tilt in all of its various guises is so rife tells me people do not comprehend variance.

Poker demands thinking

Anybody that enrols on my SNIPER program and Project Poker Pro will tell you how I operate. I teach players to be thinkers. Now I am not saying that people that come to me are not thinkers – many are highly intelligent people and many are smarter than me – but they are not poker thinkers and that’s the difference.

To beat your opponents you need to outthink them. Your strategy, mental state and your thinking all need to be superior to theirs. Before you start thinking that all this seems like hard work, it isn’t as long as you accept that you need to think independently of the masses.

If we use the famous Bell Curve distribution model to highlight earn rates in poker then we can see what lies within the bulk of the bell shape. There are players who are slight losers, breakeven players and slight winners.

Too much similarity Each extreme of the bell curve highlights players that are different to the masses. The really terrible players are different because they are awful, and they are harder to find these days. The right hand side of the bell is populated by savvy players who are winning more than the norm.

They are doing something different to the masses! They have to be otherwise they would be the masses. Some years ago I realised the way to use poker theory was to do several things. I evolved as a poker player from a time when conventional theory gained you an edge. That time ended but poker theory is still useful. Except I learned how to reverse engineer it to take advantage of others’ knowledge!

Next issue we’re going to explore areas the majority of poker players don’t. In the meantime stay healthy. Get more of Carl ‘The Dean’ Sampson at If you want to join his SNIPER poker stable or be staked, e-mail him at

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