Poker edges are anything a player does well, than their opponents do less well, that give them an advantage. The bigger the advantage, the bigger the edge. Identifying and working on your poker edges is vital if you want to maximize your winnings. In order to be a profitable player, you need more than just an edge on your opponents – however, without an edge you cannot possibly be a profitable player in the long run. Many players struggle to correctly identify where their edge comes from, which will make it impossible to work on improving their edge. Many players think certain thinks are edges when they are not, or claim their edge is something than in fact only gives them a small advantage that may not be sustainable in their games (and will certainly not if they move up levels).
What is edge?
Let’s look at the concept of edge, using another game familiar to most.
In roulette (American version) the casino has a minimum 5.26% edge if you decide to bet on a particular number, red or black, or odd or even. Infact almost any American roulette bet gives the casino a 5.26% edge.
Let’s say a player decided to bet on a specific number on the roulette wheel, e.g number 26. If the player wins the casino pays out 35-1. If there were 36 numbers on the wheel this would be a fair wager – in the long run neither the casino or the player would have an edge. There are 18 red numbers and 18 black numbers, however there is also an 0 and 00 on the wheel. The casino is getting it’s edge by only paying out 35-1, when the true odds are 37-1. If you decided to bet on red/black or odd/even, the casino would pay out 1-1, which would be fair if there were exactly the same number of red and black numbers or odd or even numbers, and nowhere else for the ball to land. However with the green 0 and 00, you can see where the casino’s edge comes from.
If as a player you are placing these particular bets, there is nothing (provided the wheel is fair, and the casino has taken steps to stop players using equipment to track where the ball will land) you can do to reduce the casino’s edge. These edges are inbuilt via the rules of the game, and the fixed odds you are getting. No system can reverse the edge into the player’s favor, or reduce the edge of the casino. Licensed casinos in the US cannot increase their edge on these bets either, as the rules of the game and the odds it must pay on these bets are fixed by gaming law.
What are your poker edges?
Before reading any further please take a couple of minutes, and write down what you think are your poker edges.
Some players when asked what their edge is say:
- I only/mainly play in position
Things like this are not edges, as everyone gets the same opportunities to do these things, and they are easy to do. Sure, playing more in position than out is likely to form part of a good strategy – however, most players do this (so it cannot give you an edge over them).
- I wait for better cards
Everyone gets the same number of ‘better cards’ – everyone plays their ‘better’ cards, so again this is not an edge – infact, by only playing what you think are the ‘better’ cards you are likely giving your opponents an edge (as it is easy to play you, and you are not maximizing your EV across all the cards you are dealt).
Small unsustainable poker edges
Imagine a player who said their edge was:
I only put in big money with preflop premium hands or when I make a big hand postflop with drawing hands, and opponents almost always pay off big with second best hands. I always fold when opponents try and play big pots, and I don’t have a big hand.
In a small stakes game this could give you a edge. However, your edge from doing this is small and may be unsustainable at your current stakes (and almost certainly will be if you move up). This is not a proper poker strategy.
You say, your opponents almost always pay you off – whilst it is true at smaller stakes some opponents may pay you off when they shouldn’t, often this actually happens when big hands clash. You are almost certainly just getting lucky in that every time you have had a big hand, you opponents happened to have a hand they couldn’t get away from (in small stakes games big pots are usually created when big hands clash).
If you insist even though you are playing a value heavy style (doing little to no bluffing) and only putting big money in when you know you have the best hand, and your opponents still keep paying you off even without a great hand themselves, you should be able to make even more profits by playing a wider range correctly. You don’t get dealt that many premiums preflop, and it is hard to make hands – you would do a lot better trying to play a wider range and maximizing the EV of that range (which would consist of value hands and bluffs).
Big sustainable poker edges
Here’s what we at UnfairPoker.com think a big sustainable edge should look like – as you can see it is having the right knowledge AND applying it correctly together than give you the edge.
- Acquiring the relevant knowledge
- I continually work on studying poker strategy, such that in any spot I have a good idea of what the minimally exploitative (i.e. balanced, or GTO) play would look like.
- I also work on what changes to this are profitable, knowing the tenancies and frequencies of the player pool in the games I play.
- I also work on any further deviations to this for the common opponent profiles I will likely be up against in hands.
- Applying the knowledge efficiently in-game
- In game, I use mental energy and time wisely. In any spot, I am immediately able to understand what are the most relevant things to think about that will give the maximum benefits in the time that I have to make the decision.
- I continually work on the mental game, such that I do not believe I am giving up much due to tilt.
Whilst everyone has the same opportunities to build up poker edges like this, it takes a lot of work to this which many players are not prepared to do – the more time you put in working efficiently, the more your edge is likely to be.