The 90-10 No Limit Holdem Rule to Poker Winning Success

In 1906 Italian economist, sociologist and philosopher Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of Italian property was owned by 20% of the population. This was later generalized into the “80/20 Rule” or the Pareto Principle. Most people have heard of the 80/20 rule. 80% of sales in a company are made by 20% of the salespeople. 80% your results are created by 20% of your time. There are a whole host of 80/20 rules that float around. Knowing this principle is only useful if you can apply it intelligently and consistently to a situation. When applied to the situation of No Limit Ring Poker (I’ll specifically be referring to Hold-em, although I’m sure it applies to other games) the rule becomes much more pointed. Once you learn this poker principle you should allow it have a great impact on how you play.

With all due respect to Mr. Pareto, he never played NL Ring Holdem, so we are going to call this rule “Winning Legal Online Poker’s 90/10 NL Ring Rule”. First let me tell you that this rule is real, and it’s statistically accurate. If you believe that AA is statistically more advantageous to play than 72, then you need to put this rule in the same part of your poker brain. Ponder it and find new ways to make it work for you.

Here’s Winning Legal Online Poker’s 90/10 NL Ring Rule:

90% of the MONEY you win playing NL Ring is won with the top 10% of poker hands… AND (for most tight/aggressive poker players) 90% of the money you LOSE playing NL Ring is lost to the top 10% of poker hands.

The first part of this rule is absolutely true for almost any NL Ring poker player. The 2nd part is only true if you aren’t a fish. Also, the 2nd part of the rule is a good way to monitor your play. If you are losing most of your money to hands like Top Pair Top Kicker (TPTK) or worse, then you really need to focus on learning how to play NL Ring Poker better. If you already read the book “Winning Legal Online Poker” then you will have already noticed that your sessions are pretty consistent. You win good money when your strong hands hold up. You lose some money when your strong hands keep running into better hands. But you win TONS of money when you have have top 10% hands hold up. And you lose a buyin plus when your really good hands run into top 10% hands.

Winning Legal Online Poker doesn’t change the 90/10 rule. It’s a rule, and as such it IS REALITY. However, the rule doesn’t state that you will lose 90% of the money you WIN to top 10% hands. It states that 90% of the money you lose is lost to top 10% hands. That may seem like word play, but it means you can reduce your losses, and thus increase your poker profits by managing your game with the 90/10 rule. Winning Legal Online Poker teaches you how to spot the top 10% hands and lose less $$$ to them, although as a % of money lost you’ll still find that 90% of your lost money will go to top 10% hands – EVEN WHEN YOU FOLD BEFORE THE RIVER.

There are plenty of instances where you fold AA or TPTK or even a better hand to a made flush or straight. You may have invested quite a bit of money into the pot, but you lost that money to a top 10% hand. Winning Legal Online Poker is devised to help you spot those instances when your good hands are beat by a top 10% hand and lose less money. Now the other part of the rule is that you will win 90% of your money with top 10% hands.

You see this happen all the time. You flop a set against a big pocket pair. You make a full house against a flush. You turn a straight against 2 pair. Of course there are times when the other person simply over values his hand and gives you chips. But you’re double-ups are generally these top 10% hands. This rule doesn’t mean that your top 10% hands ALWAYS make big money. In order to make big money with a top 10% hand Winning Legal Online Poker’s “Contested Pot Rule” (which is discussed in another article) must also be in effect. But there’s no doubt that your big wins come from these big hands. So how does this apply to your game? It’s pretty simple.

If 90% of your wins come from big hands and 90% of your losses are to other big hands, then you need to play the # of hands required to get more of the first while avoiding giving too much money to the 2nd. This is where the term “nut hunting” comes from. A lot of quality players are just playing for nut hands. That doesn’t mean they don’t play value hands for value, however. But you need to understand the Winning Legal Online Poker 90/10 rule and the Winning Legal Online Poker Contested Pot Rule as you play NL Ring poker.

If you are putting “extraordinary” amounts of money behind “ordinary” hands you are going to be a victim of the 90/10 rule. Each hand has a certain value. It has “card” value, but it also has MONEY value. Pocket tens preflop are not that great. You can make money with them, but you won’t make great money with them. You should play them for the value that they have, and not over-value them. As the hand plays their value may drop precariously (as overcards hit). However, if overcards DON’T hit then they still just have a certain maximum value, because you will generally get very limited action. If your TT remains the best hand on the board then no one else will want to put much money in the pot. The pot will be small. It will be a TT POT!! However, if you notice the pot going well beyond a TT pot, then you have to understand that your competition probably has better than a TT hand (even if the board doesn’t show it). This is how you can observe the 90/10 rule in action.

Preflop AA is a top 10% hand. It’s the best hand!! If you can get all your money and all someone else’s money in the pot preflop when you have AA then the 90/10 rule is working for you. However, once the flop hits AA drops off the top 10% list, and you must be aware of that. On ANY flop the best hand is at least a set of the top card flopped. So, with a flop of 269, the best possible hand is a set of 9’s. And any set is a top 10% hand at this point. As the hand plays out the AA becomes a weaker and weaker hand. You should continue playing it like TPTK at least, but you also must be aware of the value that you are giving your AA as the hand unfolds. You may be seriously over valuing your AA. If you raised it preflop and bet it on the flop, then on the turn, and you get raised, what does that say? First you’re starting to see a pot that is more valuable than your AA and 2nd you have just walked into a “Contested Pot” scenario. If you get into a raise/reraise situation and all you have is pocket AA, then you are most probably going to be on the losing end of the 90/10 rule. Disciplined players know how to fold. Winning players know that keeping their winnings is more important that “going down” with AA, just because it WAS the best hand preflop. All AA is is TPTK, until someone prove otherwise by getting a better hand.

Another way to look at this is when you are playing “drawing odds”. You may start with a suited connector or a small to mid pocket pair. These are not top 10% hands, but they have the potential of becoming top 10% hands. When they do, hopefully your competition will over value his hand and contest the pot with you. The “Contested Pot Rule” will then go into effect in your favor and you will make lots of money.

Another ramification of the 90/10 rule is that the rest of the hands you play in a typical session (good, bad or indifferent) are just background noise. They are just “keeping up with the blinds”. You may use them to create a table image to set up your top 10% hands or you may just fold, fold, fold. You can bluff and steal small pots. You can c-bet and take small pots. You may stick around with draws and lose small pots or play small pots that you turn out losing or winning.

But the reality is 90% of the money you win is made off top 10% hands and vice verse.

Think about this rule. Find ways to apply it to your game. Review the “Contested Pot Rule” also. If you don’t have a consistently winning NL Ring game then take the Winning Legal Online Poker Challenge to learn the skills and gain the vision to play quality winning poker. Will the 90/10 rule turn you into a “nut hunter”? Maybe! There are thousands of winning “nut hunters” online every day. There are many thousand more players who hate nut hunters. Many quality, winning players hate nut hunters. However, even quality, experienced, winning online players fall within the 90/10 rule. They may proclaim that they don’t. They may hate the idea that all their “moves” and “action”, their “reads” and sophisticated play is really just background noise. But for most players that’s all it is – Background Noise, Keeping up with the Blinds. If they analyzed their play they would find that the 90/10 rule applies to them too. The 90/10 rule is very consistent for No Limit Ring play. If you play MTT’s or Sit-n-Go’s then who knows? I haven’t analyzed the rule against them. They have their own dynamic. But if you play NL Ring Holdem, then make sure you understand and think about this rule as you play.


90% of the money you win is won with the top 10% of hands.

The top 10% changes as the hand unfolds. AA is a top 10% hand preflop, by the river it may be a bad pocket pair.

90% of the money you lose is lost to top 10% hands. Find ways to spot them earlier in the hand.

Most of your other hands and action is just background noise. You need to play them to keep up with the blinds and maintain a reasonable table image, but understand that they are just a small part of your winnings/losings.

If you find that you lose most of your money to non-top 10% hands then you need to take the at least read, understand and apply the Winning Legal Online Poker book (and associated chart) and get your game right!!