what makes you so good at poker? (long)
What makes you so good at poker?
There is a small percentage of poker players that excel at this game and it’s many variations, but what makes them so good at it? Why do they excel at this game while so many other struggle? One obvious answer would be that there is vast amount of tools out there to help us further our understanding of the game. Tools like forums, tracking programs and the insane amount of books that are out there on theory and practice. We all know that with most anything, experience will bring knowledge, but I don’t think that is always the case. We all know players out there that have been playing for a long time, yet they just don’t seem to get it. Why don’t they get it? After logging hundreds of thousands of hands, you would think that things would just click, but somehow it doesn’t.
The purpose of this article is to figure out why, aside from the obvious stated above, you excel at poker , what’s inside your brain that helps you stand out among the others and what you can work on to be a smarter, psychological and mentally tough player. Now I’m no doctor and I’ve never played on TV but with the help of some of the good players here at Cardschat, we can make this article something that everyone can learn from. So let’s get into.
Aggression is a character trait, it’s not something that can be taught very easily, but I believe that it can be taught. I am not an aggressive person by nature, but I’m not afraid to be aggressive at the tables. Why is this? When I first started playing I was very timid, always afraid to get my stack in out of fear of being behind in the hand. It made me a losing player and allowed others to walk all over me, dwindling my stack to my next deposit. Over time this changed, but changed slowly. I had to talk myself into taking chances, making 3bets and check raise bluffing, when everything inside my head and my stomach were telling me not to.
Everyone has some aggression in them somewhere. There is something in your life that you do that you have no reservations doing. It doesn’t matter what it is, your job, fixing your car, being a better parent, it doesn’t matter. The point is, you can do these things because you do have the ability to be aggressive. So, I looked at those things in my life and tried to equate them with poker. I would tell myself, how come I can be an aggressive salesman and manage 40 employees and a multi million dollar store but I can’t make a 3bet preflop with ace king against a donkey on a heater without wanting to throw up.
Obviously, over time, with experience, aggression will start to come naturally but there are ways to help get the ball rolling and help you feel like you can do the things that you are afraid to do. When I looked at the fact that I can handle thousands of dollars a day at work, a 3bet preflop seemed like child’s play. So figure out where the aggression lives inside your head and in your character and put it to the test.
It’s often said that if you aren’t bored playing poker, you are not playing right. Patience is a virtue which many people lack. I’m the father of a six year old boy who has zero patience and as any parent knows, it takes a lot of patience to deal with children at times. I like to think that I have an incredible amount of patience but sometimes it just runs out. Playing poker requires a lot of patience. Dealing with, what seems like a never ending downswing, or even just a cold deck in an MTT are just a couple examples. So what are some of the things we can do while our rear ends go numb waiting for playable hands or even an opportunity to steal the blinds?
You read about how professionals make sure that they have all the right things in place when they sit down to play. No kids, no obligations to be anywhere, they have a full stomach, they are well rested, the list goes on and on. Sometimes all those things are not enough. You find yourself looking down at king queen offsuit in EP after folding thirty straight hands and thinking, “damn, I haven’t played a hand in what seems like forever, so I just have to play this hand right now!” This is bad for us and we all know it, but what can we do to combat those impatient feelings?
I find little things to occupy myself during a game. To some, background noise can be a distraction, but for me, I like to play some music at a fairly low volume. Low enough to hear it, but not high enough so that it rattles my brain. I chew sunflower seeds, sometimes a whole bag if I last long enough in tournament. Idle hands are the devils playground. It’s so easy to surf around the internet while waiting to play, so figure out how to occupy your hands. I shuffle chips constantly. It’ keeps my hands off the mouse and the pointer off that big “e” on your desktop. I have even gone so far as to buy a lavender scented candle and burn it on my desk to keep my mind at ease. Some of you might laugh at that, but for me it works. The key is to find something that works for you but make sure that it doesn’t take up too much brain power. I know you can walk and chew gum at the same time so there has to be something that you can do while playing cards to occupy your brain when there is a lull in the action.
Let’s face it, we all tilt, some harder than others. Everyone of us has played against some random donkey on a heater and wanted to rip his eyeballs out of his head. This issue has been covered so many times by so many people that nothing I or anybody else can say about it would be new to most if not all of you. Most of you know the tips for dealing with tilt but the problem is whether or not you actually use them.
It’s imperative that you do. Tilt will eat you and your stack alive if you are not careful and use the many tips that are out there. I know, I know, it’s hard to just get up from the table when you are down five buys ins. How can you walk away when you so desperately want to get that money back. The great thing about online poker that I think we sometimes forget is that it is always there. It’s not going anywhere. You can step away for an hour and it’s still going to be there. You can go take a walk, or take a shower, come back with a clear mind and work on building your bankroll back up.
Reminding yourself that online poker isn’t going to just magically disappear if you log off is, I think, the key to being able to put the mouse down and take a break.
Oh and before we leave this topic, I should say that a good yell at the top of your voice is a good way to alleviate some frustration. Give it a shot, I’m sure you will like it.
You have to want it! If you want to succeed in this game, you have to work for it. I believe that you need a driving force behind you in order to remain persistent. What is yours? Setting goals for yourself is a great way to create and maintain a driving force.
Start with small goals and work your way up. There are all sorts of goals that you can set for yourself. Volume, monetary, theory in practice are all good examples, but make them attainable. Don’t set goals for yourself that are too far fetched. When you set realistic goals for yourself and you accomplish them, you can start to make your goals a little harder . Your sense of accomplishment will keep you on the right track and push you harder.
Attaining your goals will keep you coming back and working harder to accomplish the thing we all want in this game. MONEY!
Oh, but there is more!
This is where you come in. My examples are just a few of the things that live inside you but there are many others. Some of the long standing members here will look at this article and probably say to themselves that this is all stuff that they really don’t need to read. While I don’t disagree, many of you won’t need this, but some of us do. Now I’m asking those long standing successful members to add to this what they think are solid pieces of advice that everyone can use. Many of us are not that great at math and have to rely on other elements of the game, but even the math experts know that there is much much more. The phychological aspect is a huge part of poker and you can’t always play the game by the numbers.
What lives inside you that helps make you a great player?