Mindset of a Winning Poker Player

zachvac

zachvac

Legend
Just been thinking about this for a while, most of these are true about not only poker, but also life.

1. Cocky - You are not just a decent poker player, you are the best player sitting at the table. You can outplay everyone there and the only time you lose money is when you either hit bad luck or when YOU make a mistake

2. Modest - Since you are the best poker player at the table, you don't have to say anything to seem better. You are content with everyone thinking you are a donkey and losing money as long as you know you are making the correct plays. The only opinion of your play is yours and the only thing that opinion is based on is long-term profit potential. You also know that even though you are the best at the table, there's always something you can learn, always something that can make you better, even the best player in the world doesn't play the game perfectly. Everyone can learn something.

3. Mentally Tough - Your mind doesn't wander, you are able to give 100% of your brain to the task at hand, winning at poker. You are able to stay focused for long periods of time without starting to crack and play differently. Similarly you do not let anything get to you such as taunting from other players or bad downswings.

4. Competitive - You have to have the will to win. You have to want it bad, which leads into:

5. Work Ethic - You have to be willing to work hard to be the best poker player you can be. You understand that the reason you're the best (see #1) is that you simply outwork everyone. While everyone else is playing for fun or not being honest about their play, you are working hard while playing to ensure that you make the best play at all times and are observant of other play which you can learn from.

6. Discipline - This sounds a lot like #5 and #3, but this means you simply do things right every time. You don't ever say "what the hell, I could hit" or ignore something important during the game. If you are an excellent player part of the time but can't do it every time you sit down at the table, you can't call yourself an excellent poker player.

and finally

7. Love of the game - You have to love playing poker and love putting in the hard work it takes and love seeing the results. This doesn't just mean loving the game when you win. It means embracing the bad runs with the good runs, it means working your ass off to be the best you can be even when you see all the shitty players getting rewarded when they make bad plays.

Now this is not by all means comprehensive, and it's all just my opinion, there are all sorts of lists of this sort (Greenstein did one in his book I believe). This is personally what I strive to accomplish though when I play, and is mostly geared towards online cash games, but can be applied to pretty much everything. They definitely hold true in baseball as well. Comments are welcome.
 
I

Inscore77

Legend
^^^True in all points of life

That is a lot like what my old high school football coach would say, and you being a college baseball player, I'm sure your coach says something to the same extent as well Zach
 
Monoxide

Monoxide

Cardschat Elite
Very good points, much of the game of poker -in the long run- is mind based.

Sure you can run bad, but complaining how bad it is, saying how much you hate poker and donks that suckout on you will only have a negative effect. Thinking poorly yields a result of playing poorly. The mind is a powerful manifesting tool.
 
zachvac

zachvac

Legend
^^^True in all points of life

That is a lot like what my old high school football coach would say, and you being a college baseball player, I'm sure your coach says something to the same extent as well Zach

Yep, a good saying my HS coach used to use a lot was "if you go up to the plate intimidated of the pitcher thinking about how good he is and think "I hope he walks me or maybe I can get a hit", that if you do get a hit it was an accident. If however you go up there knowing you're going to get a hit, praying that the pitcher will give you something that you can hit, and be one step ahead of the pitcher, you've got a much better shot at getting a hit.

Of course the thing is that you've got to maintain that confidence despite the fact that even the best players fail 2 out of 3 times. You've got to maintain confidence knowing that you're going to get a hit despite the fact that the reality is most likely you won't. And then of course there are the "downswings", when every single hard-hit ball seems to be right at someone, or the first baseman is holding the guy on at 1st with the bases loaded and luckily happens to be there when you smoke one down the baseline that in all rights should have been a hit if he had playing smarter (ie he chased a gut shot and hit :)).

The major difference is that if you hit a hard shot that just happens to be caught, everyone will congratulate you and tell you to keep doing what you're doing and sooner or later they'll start to fall. I don't know of anyone (apart from people on CC) that would tell someone "just keep doing what you're doing" after losing a $100 pot getting their money in ahead. But that's one major aspect of all walks of life. You're going to fail, and it's how you react to it that determines how well you do, in baseball, poker, and life. Are you going to dwell on the failure and hope that you don't get another opportunity to fail? Or are you going to say "I messed that one up, I hope I get another opportunity".
 
F Paulsson

F Paulsson

euro love
1. Cocky - You are not just a decent poker player, you are the best player sitting at the table. You can outplay everyone there and the only time you lose money is when you either hit bad luck or when YOU make a mistake
I actually disagree with this, and it might be semantical, but I have some personal experience with this feeling and it's caused me grief in the past, so:

You should strive to sit at tables where you're the best player, for sure. Game selection is, along with position, the most undervalued "feature" of poker in my opinion. But when you decide that you are the best - and I use the word "decide" rather than "conclude" intentionally - you may end up in a very detrimental situation.

If you've decided you're the best player at the table, hands down, and get outplayed, your ego is going to put up quite a fight against the notion that what just happened was the other player being better. I've been there. I've refused to believe that another player could actually have gotten the best of me and instead tried to twist and turn the situation into how he must have made a mistake, somehow, and he's actually a horrible player.

In essence you run the risk of getting a "bad read" on that player. Overly simplified, it means you may tag him as a donk and lose more (or win less, which really comes down to the same thing) than you should have. More in detail, you may compensate in the wrong direction versus that player. An example is in order:

If I bet three barrels with JTs unimproved on a scary board vs. an opponent I've thought of as tight (figuring, for whatever reason, that he's likely enough to fold a better hand that it's worth it), and he calls the river bet and shows down 2-2 and drags the pot, I might tag him as a calling station and adjust accordingly, because I "know" that I'm not the kind of player who barrels off bluffs blindly left and right, and there's no way he could have known that I was bluffing.

But what if he knows something I don't and was actually being a bit of as sly player? What if he figured that while he wasn't going to be ahead very often, he might have noticed that I try to play well, and therefore knows that I'm likely to note who calls him down lightly (and thus make me stop trying to bluff him in the future) or he simply knows that I exercise pot control and so my only two viable options on this board are "bluffs" and "monsters" or maybe he saw me take a bad beat and deduced that I could be steaming, or...

Basically, he might have been making a very smart play in calling me down with what, on the surface, appeared to be a weak hand. If my ego gets in the way of seeing the situation for what it is (and believe me, it has - many times), he just got a huge leg up on me.

"Carefully cocky" is what I advocate. Be open to the idea that others at the table might be better than you are, or at least better than you think they are, and try to think humbly about situations where you lost more than you perhaps should have (or won less, yadda yadda), I think you stand a better chance of not only playing better, but also going into tilt a lot less.

I liked your post though, don't get me wrong. :)
 
F Paulsson

F Paulsson

euro love
Oh, and while on topic: I think it's important to try to label your opponents "positively" rather than "negatively." An example might be not to write "lagtard" on a player who made a big turn checkraise bluff, but instead go with "tricky" or "capable of bluffing." This is not a way of showing respect for your opponents, necessarily, but rather to make sure that future hands against this player (when you forgot the situation but read the notes) go influenced more on what actually happened and less with what your current - quite possibly emotionally charged - perception of him might be.

"stupid donk who will call anything and never folds, gahhhhh" is in other words not a good note.

In my carefully cocky opinion.
 
zachvac

zachvac

Legend
I agree with you, I considered using confident rather than cocky, but I do believe cocky is the correct word, just not to an extreme. That's also why I included modest as #2. Basically see the baseball example I used earlier. You realize and know that no matter what you do you will fail the majority of time (this is true in baseball, not really in poker, but even in poker no matter what you do there are times you will fail and you could do nothing about it), but in your mind you have to know you're going to succeed. Your mind set can't be "I hope I have a winning session today", or "If I play well I might have a winning session". It has to be "I'm going to play well and am going to have a winning session", while at the same time knowing that it's possible that it won't happen. Kinda difficult to explain, but I think you get what I'm trying to say here.
 
flint

flint

Visionary
1. Cocky - You are not just a decent poker player, you are the best player sitting at the table. You can outplay everyone there and the only time you lose money is when you either hit bad luck or when YOU make a mistake

Yep, always strive to be the best and always be the best. I think I fit this one except I don't make mistakes, I only change up my game by accident:D

Actually, I think being cocky isn't very good in poker, all you have to be is confident - play with your heart and your mind and go for the win.
 
Stick66

Stick66

Legend
Oh, and while on topic: I think it's important to try to label your opponents "positively" rather than "negatively." An example might be not to write "lagtard" on a player who made a big turn checkraise bluff, but instead go with "tricky" or "capable of bluffing." This is not a way of showing respect for your opponents, necessarily, but rather to make sure that future hands against this player (when you forgot the situation but read the notes) go influenced more on what actually happened and less with what your current - quite possibly emotionally charged - perception of him might be.

"stupid donk who will call anything and never folds, gahhhhh" is in other words not a good note.

In my carefully cocky opinion.
Wow! Excellent point. I think this is a problem of mine. If someone went through all the notes I have on players, they'd probably find the word "idiot" to be the most prevalent ("donk" is so trendy and I'm so anti-establishment...OI!). But now I see how negative tags could be a bit detrimental. I guess it would hurt more to be beat by a "loose idiot" than a player who "calls down 2nd pair and chases gutshots at 2-1." I'll just stick to the facts from now on and ditch my opinions from my notes.
 
zachvac

zachvac

Legend
Yep, always strive to be the best and always be the best. I think I fit this one except I don't make mistakes, I only change up my game by accident:D

Actually, I think being cocky isn't very good in poker, all you have to be is confident - play with your heart and your mind and go for the win.

See the reply I made about 2 minutes before this one :).

Also I forgot to mention part of being cocky is knowing that if you do get outplayed you are going to do your best and outwork your opponents and learn from it so it doesn't happen again.
 
flint

flint

Visionary
Wow! Excellent point. I think this is a problem of mine. If someone went through all the notes I have on players, they'd probably find the word "idiot" to be the most prevalent ("donk" is so trendy and I'm so anti-establishment...OI!). But now I see how negative tags could be a bit detrimental. I guess it would hurt more to be beat by a "loose idiot" than a player who "calls down 2nd pair and chases gutshots at 2-1." I'll just stick to the facts from now on and ditch my opinions from my notes.

I totally agree that this is excellent stuff. I do recognize now that when I label a person as a donk, I oftentimes attack him too strongly not seeing what his bets are trying to tell me. I guess I have to try to keep my opinions of players very objective and try to learn to extract more definite information on my opponents.

Zach, that would have been a good reply to my reply. I am afraid you got a bit too cocky by pressing the reply button 3 minutes too early :)
 
Z

zippyflounder

Rock Star
Just been thinking about this for a while, most of these are true about not only poker, but also life.

1. Cocky - You are not just a decent poker player, you are the best player sitting at the table. You can outplay everyone there and the only time you lose money is when you either hit bad luck or when YOU make a mistake

2. Modest - Since you are the best poker player at the table, you don't have to say anything to seem better. You are content with everyone thinking you are a donkey and losing money as long as you know you are making the correct plays. The only opinion of your play is yours and the only thing that opinion is based on is long-term profit potential. You also know that even though you are the best at the table, there's always something you can learn, always something that can make you better, even the best player in the world doesn't play the game perfectly. Everyone can learn something.

3. Mentally Tough - Your mind doesn't wander, you are able to give 100% of your brain to the task at hand, winning at poker. You are able to stay focused for long periods of time without starting to crack and play differently. Similarly you do not let anything get to you such as taunting from other players or bad downswings.

4. Competitive - You have to have the will to win. You have to want it bad, which leads into:

5. Work Ethic - You have to be willing to work hard to be the best poker player you can be. You understand that the reason you're the best (see #1) is that you simply outwork everyone. While everyone else is playing for fun or not being honest about their play, you are working hard while playing to ensure that you make the best play at all times and are observant of other play which you can learn from.

6. Discipline - This sounds a lot like #5 and #3, but this means you simply do things right every time. You don't ever say "what the hell, I could hit" or ignore something important during the game. If you are an excellent player part of the time but can't do it every time you sit down at the table, you can't call yourself an excellent poker player.

and finally

7. Love of the game - You have to love playing poker and love putting in the hard work it takes and love seeing the results. This doesn't just mean loving the game when you win. It means embracing the bad runs with the good runs, it means working your ass off to be the best you can be even when you see all the shitty players getting rewarded when they make bad plays.

Now this is not by all means comprehensive, and it's all just my opinion, there are all sorts of lists of this sort (Greenstein did one in his book I believe). This is personally what I strive to accomplish though when I play, and is mostly geared towards online cash games, but can be applied to pretty much everything. They definitely hold true in baseball as well. Comments are welcome.

desire to win, if the stakes or the prize pool is not of size to make you want to win then its just a case of wasting time. There is a balance between bank roll managment and motivation that needs to be looked at. When we first start out just winning a mtt for 2, 3, 10 bucks was a big thing now its not. The buyin is part of setting up the challange, not so high as to make you play like scared money but large enough to motivate you to think every move through.
 
T

TossUpKing

Rock Star
I value poker as the same way I value life, and value is a big word. I expect quality when it comes to my game, and I wouldnt have it any other way. We are playing a game of survival, not a game of "fun". Much like life. Bruce Lee is my hero, and I feel like is more spiritual which is why poker is such a diverse game that goes past the odds and into the hands of the players, and the hearts. Determination and deliverance for what you want to accomplish. If you devote yourself to accomplishing a vision. the struggle therein when it comes to mental status would be the stability and effort put into maintaining it, much like a machine or your body. Again more universal things. I enjoyed this post, keep up the good work poker players. you can never be "too good".
 
Alex Sentsov

Alex Sentsov

Legend
Awards
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If you don't want to play, don't play. Nothing will come of it. Play - when the mood.
 
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