4 Reasons Why Poker Is So Complicated to Master

Table of Contents

There is a popular saying by Mike Sexton that states that poker can be learned virtually instantly but can take you your entire life to master properly. Without a doubt, it feels as if these words lay the foundation for learning poker when you start to play the game.

Something many enthusiasts or people are trying to get into poker ask, “Can anyone learn poker?”. An honest answer is that anyone can learn poker, but mastering it is completely different. Only a rare few can reach the mastery level.

Poker itself is a multifaceted card game and has a popular variant known as Texas Holdem. This variant stirs together community cards' shared information along with private gameplay of hole cards.

There is an extremely important part of the road to winning poker, and that is mastery of mathematics in each hand. You need to be the one who knows more than everyone else on the table, not only a few games but every single game.

Top 4 Reasons Poker is So Complicated to Master

Poker is a vast game, and there are so many reasons that make it complicated to master. It is nearly impossible to cover everything. However, here are the top 4 reasons why mastering poker is rather difficult.

1. Poker is Not Just “One Game”

There are three types of poker games, and these are the parents of the hundreds of variants the game has birthed. These three poker types are:

  • Stud type poker
  • Draw type poker
  • Community card type poker

Fundamentally, regardless of the variant, a standard poker hand ranking is implemented regardless of whatever the play pattern may be. When you dive deeper into the game, you realize there are so many ways to play that it is nearly impossible to memorize them all.

2. Poker Has Hundreds of Variants!

Poker is not just one single game but a family of multiple card games that are related to one another. Essentially, in poker, players make bets over who is holding the best hand during the game.

In a way, it is less of a card game and more of a betting game, where you influence other players to make a decision. There are hundreds of variants in poker, and more are invented as time goes by.

In addition, these variants have branches that make it even more complex. Texas Holdem is possibly the most played and popular variation. It comes with a variety of table selections and stakes that players can pick from. Yet again, it has further variations depending upon the wagging limit function.

3. Learning Poker Variants Classification

On your road to mastery over poker, understanding classifications is crucial. The hundreds of variants fall into different poker categories and sometimes even similar ones. Therefore, classification is required.

Here’s a generalized list depicting which each poker variant belongs, starting with the three main types:

  • Draw - In these games, players are allowed to draw cards and improve their hands. Moreover, they can even discard their cards and acquire replacements.
  • Stud - In this version, some of the cards are placed facing up, and there are a few betting rounds during each game.
  • Community - In community games, some cards are faced up, and all players are allowed to use them as a part of their current hand.
  • Buy - This is a rich person’s poker game where you can pay a little extra fee to get privileges, such as acquiring another card or exchanging your current one.
  • Low - These are also called “lowball” games, and as the name suggests, the player with the lowest hand wins the pot.
  • High/Low - This is similar to lowball, but in these games, you can win by either having the highest hand or the lowest in a game.
  • Wild - In these games, either one or multiple cards are assigned the “wild” value and can be used in-game to represent a different card. Ultimately improving your hand.
  • Split - Split is one of the few variations in which there are multiple winners. The pot is split between multiple winners based on the criteria set.
  • Pass - In these games, you can pass your card or trade it with your opponents to get a better hand.
  • Match - These games allow you to stay in the game, and if you do not win, you must pay a penalty, which will be added to the pot. In other words, you will have to match the total prize pot.
  • Mixed - As the name suggests, these games involve several variations that are set in a sequence or picked by the players at the table.

4. Losing is The Way to Learn Poker

Just when you think the types and variants are complicated, learning poker ensures each step you take is steep. Inevitably, as a new player, you will have a high loss ratio, but it is also the fastest way to understand where you made mistakes.

In a way, poker is a game of courage, dedication, and commitment. Losing does not feel nice, and therefore, many new players quit early on. Mastering poker is the final stop in the journey, but this long road has many hurdles to overcome.

The first and most important fact you need to embrace is that you cannot completely learn, let alone master poker in a few hours. If it were any game other than poker, it would make sense. However, poker requires betting, and each time you lose, you will lose something. Whether you are playing at a table, online, or chips with friends.

A fair piece of advice would be to make micro bets and go through the process of losing constantly and learning how and why others are winning. 

As you continue to lose, this will establish the mentality where you will understand how others' expressions and decisions influence you and how yours influence their decisions.


Poker is complicated to master, and as you have learned, there are many reasons for it. Not only do the multiple variants make it difficult to acquire mastery over the game, but there is an enormous role played by mathematics and psychology.

Mastering poker requires you to be the one with the most information, calculate the odds instantly, and, last but not least, mislead your opponents through simple facial expressions and decisions in each round.

Remember, winning poker does not require a good hand but the ability to make your opponents fold while they are holding the win in their hands.

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