Strategy / The Seven Qualities of a Good Poker Player

The Seven Qualities of a Good Poker PlayerDimanche, 15 juin 2014

As poker players playing for fun, we are all attracted by the calculations, the statistics and the laws of averages, at least a little. Here are some interesting ones I found for you.

Did you know that only 15% of online poker players are profit making? Then, you will find about 25% of break-even players (whose gains or losses are situated around 0$.) Finally, the 60% remaining are losing players. Interesting statistics, aren't they?

Nevertheless, these numbers don't mean that winning is an impossible mission. It might just be harder than is seems to be, unless you already have the seven essential qualities to become a good player, as I will explain below. In fact, in the following article, I will try to draw up the typical winning player profile. By the way, there are no studies to prove my thoughts. With the experience acquired during my evolution, I could develop skills to identify the right stuff required to win at the game. It is of course possible for you to win, even if you don't have the following assets.  

1. Self confidence

This quality is essential when you are at the table, and people having a better self-confidence are usually the best performers. I'm not inventing this, it's the same for many aspects of life. In order to develop a strong self-confidence, nothing's better than experience. The more you face situations you have already lived, the more you're at ease to make the right decisions. So it's important to practice and improve in a continuous way your knowledge to develop this self-confidence which will guide you easily at the poker tables, facing hard situations. 

2. Discipline

A good player is able to manage his bankroll. He never plays at limits which could compromise his bankroll' s health. He is patient and waits until he has the necessary bankroll before moving up to a superior limit. He must be disciplined in managing his money and has to avoid taking reckless risks.

He's also rigorous when it comes to managing his emotions and doesn't let the frustration of a bad sequence or the joy of a good one change his ways. All in all, he remains down-to-earth, able to manage his gains or losses without modifying his mood. Also, he has no regret to leave a session when nothing is working right for him, without persisting to recoup his losses. This is all about self-control and this aspect is not taught in the books. It's a player's task to learn how to control himself. 

3. Mental focus

The difference between a player who wins a little and another who wins a lot often lies in their ability to pay attention to details. It's important to focus on your opponents' way of playing : it will make it possible for you to identify their weaknesses and take advantage of them during the next confrontations.

There is often dead money on your tables and you may not be aware of it! What is dead money? This is money your opponents are going to bet without paying attention to their hand. Most of the time, little amounts, often 1 or 2 big blinds, that you can easily steal from them! As wise men say, with dollars you make millions! So you must keep concentrated at all times to take advantage of these opportunities.  

4. Mathematical abilities

We often come back on the mathematical aspect of the game; unfortunately we can't disregard it. Just accept it and do your best to assimilate it. Some players are more at ease with math than others, but the implicit probabilities remain the same for all. The player who understands them will win the advantage over those who don't master them. A lot of documents are available regarding this subject, all you have to do is to make an effort to find and read them! By the way, it is not necessary to make hard calculations for each hand. You will often see that good skills in guesswork are sufficient. 

5. Don't give up

To be a good poker player, you have to put in considerable efforts and spend a lot of time. If you wish to become a great player by playing 2 or 3 hours per week, the process will be really longer than if you devote more time, it's logical. Above all, don't give up when you meet bad sequences and always keep your head up. Phil Ivey has not become who he is in only two months... He has been playing a lot and has always found new ways to improve his game. You must persevere in terms of time and of improvement efforts. A self-learner will manage better than someone who expects to be told every secrets. What you have to do then is to always think about your strategies, about your opponents' and identify the ways to improve.

As a matter of fact, a study has shown up that 53% of the players who reached the level of 100,000 played hands are winners. More hands you play, more you improve your chances to become a profit making player. It's no surprise to me, the more I throw balls towards a basket, the more I will score points. 

6. Understand the luck factor

Luck is an integral part of poker. This is a true fact, not a fatality. So, how can one eliminate its impact? The answer is to understand and to accept poker is a game you play having a strategic approach for the long term. We have all suffered in a session when our hand had 90% of chances to win and finally collapsed. If you are in such a situation you'll win 90% of the time, and will lose a small 10% of the time. If you only think about single episodes of losses, you are not thinking about long term. You are forgetting that these unfortunate losses will be highly rewarded by wins finally. With poker, luck has a short term impact only. Your mission is to put yourself in profit making situations and to let Lady Luck do her job. In the long term, you will see that she won't betray you. 

7. Be consistent

The best poker players are consistent and start playing when they feel ready to fight with their A Game. In my next column, I will explain more at length the A Game. In a nutshell let's describe it as the mood you have to adopt to be able to play your best poker. To be consistent in poker, this is it: only play if you feel good. You should play only if you feel as a warrior coming towards the battle field, mentally ready, focused, self-confident, fresh and disciplined. In a few words, you must be top shape. You must also master your emotions. Understand how to refrain from negative reactions when you suffer bad beats. Your mission is, once again, to play only if you are in a good mood and able to recover quickly whatever the circumstances are. All these aspects can be improved with time and hard work. You first have to be able to stand back and to evaluate yourself. With poker there is always room for improvement. Either strategically or emotionally. You have to practice over and over again. Remains to see how you can manage your emotions during long losing sequences (downswings.) From my point of view, this is the toughest aspect in a professional poker player's life. 

Olivier Racine is a poker coach highly recommended by You can get in touch with him via  

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