12 qualities of a poker winner, part 1

02.07.2021

Quite often among poker players there is a situation where, despite all the efforts made, they cannot make a qualitative breakthrough and move to a higher level (deeper understanding of the game, the use of advanced concepts, the final move from micro-limits to medium limits). Moreover this situation cannot be explained by gaps in the technical aspects of poker. The most common explanation for the permanent failures of micro-limit grinders is subtle problems in psychological thinking. Incorrect pre-session mentality, lack of understanding of poker's ulterior motives, or deficiencies in the development of the necessary qualities inherent in consistently winning professional poker players can all slow down progress or direct you towards stagnation.

The poker player may be the best in the world in reading hands or calculating the mathematical aspects of No Limit Texas Hold'em, but he will still consistently fail at the gaming tables, or in general, everything will end in an inevitable crash and loss of bankroll. The most striking example is Stu Angar, a three-time WSOP Main Event winner, famous for his ingenious ability to sense opponents and see their cards as if they were really on public display. All regalia and titles, however, did not save him from a beggarly lifestyle and death in a seedy and second-rate hotel on the outskirts of Las Vegas. The reason is the inability to rise above oneself and develop the necessary qualities for a stable stay at the poker top.

Here are the traits that poker players should have to claim to be consistent poker winners:

  • The real poker winner always plays with the edge. If you intend to prevail over other players, there must be objective reasons that make this possible: a strong starting hand, excellent hand reading skills, quick and accurate counting of outs, skillful selection of opponents at the tables. The adage that the 6th most proficient player in the world will play a stable disadvantage if the other 5 best poker players are opposing him at the short table will always be relevant. If you do not see how you will win at the poker table today, then it is best to simply leave it. A good rest, reading useful poker literature (for example, "Poker Almanac") or solving math problems on calculating pot / equity odds in the poker program Ace Poker Drills tomorrow can give you a decisive advantage at the gaming tables.
  • Aiming to victory. Many players (both professionals and amateurs) declare their goal to win money. One can only wonder: if everyone wants to make money, then where does about 80% of consistently losers in long-distance poker come from? The situation looks contradictory only at first glance. A slightly deeper understanding of motives leads to a clear understanding: the declaration of intentions and the intentions themselves are not at all identical concepts. More often than not, the self-conceit of poker players plays its pernicious role. It is also widely known in psychological (and not only) circles under the name "Ego". All people are exposed to it. Poker players are no exception. Rather, even one of the most striking examples. Calls in obviously losing situations or the urge to punish an oversized opponent happen precisely because of problems with the ego and our image of ourselves in the eyes of other people.
  • The highest level of self-control. Poker is a game of skill. However, at a short distance it will always happen that even with an exorbitant skill, the poker player will sometimes lose. It's all the fault of mathematical variance. And here the key point is not to let everything take its course or go to recoup the limits higher. Make an effort and give up trying to recoup today, ending an apparently hopeless session. The ability to rise above yourself and go against your impulses is the key to long-term victories in poker. Yes, going back to the example of the legendary Stu Unger, it cannot be denied that having a reliable person or Tilt Breaker nearby (if this sad story took place already in the era of online poker) could have turned the course of history in a different direction. But, nevertheless, a person must be responsible for his actions and control the strongest impulses on his own, relying only on himself.

  • Realistic vision of the world. The entire gambling industry is based on psychological denial. Most people who play in casinos are aware of the negative expectation of their game at the roulette tables, craps or slot machines. However, they continue to do so. The answer is simple - it's all about psychological denial and self-deception. Gamblers tell themselves that "they'll be lucky today", "roulette bets on the date of birth of a beloved cat always bring good luck", "the Shaggy Prairie Tail shaman predicted a victory, which means you just need to come and take it." In poker, self-deception is expressed in negative calls with draw hands, calls against tight opponents in the hope of extraordinary bluffs or going all-in in hopeless situations for the vanishingly small hope of pushing your opponent out on the river. All actions of a good winning player must be clearly verified and justified. Otherwise, you are no better than casino onlookers and similar audiences.
  • Constant focus on the process. Most of the hands in poker are pretty weak. Of the 1,326 starting hand combinations in poker, we play a small part of it. Very often, having received a trash hand in UTG, the player simply throws it away and switches his attention to a more interesting situation, forgetting about the existence of the table until the next deal. The winner, however, will continue to follow the course of the hand, in which he stopped at the initial stage. Its purpose is extremely simple - to observe the course of the rally in the hope of obtaining the necessary information and use it for their own benefit in the future. This allows them to always be one step ahead of less scrupulous opponents at the poker table. In online poker, players are almost always too lazy to write notes even after their own hand. What is there to say about those where they did not directly take part? The poker software (Note Caddy or automatic notes in Poker Tracker 4) can partly compensate for this laziness, but even they are not able to force them to consider the information received and draw reasonable conclusions.
  • Consistent thinking process. The decision to raise, fold or call should be logical. Verified. Thoughtful. Build on strong arguments. In real life, it is not at all uncommon when decisions at the tables are made out of despair, out of a feeling of revenge, or generally ignorance of the rules (hello, Omaha Hi / Lo freerolls!). If we can name the reason for the action, then we can correct the error in thinking. Unconscious actions will be repeated constantly and only lead to innumerable losses and disappointments.

You can read the continuation here.

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