Skills you need to be a successful poker player

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Skills you need to be a successful poker player

To win at poker regularly enough to make a profit, you need to possess a large number of skills that are not simply restricted to the technical aspects of the game. Presented here are the most important “vital” traits of any successful poker player. We've listed them in order of importance (in our opinion anyway – most important first), but how important they are in scale to you depends on the type of player you are. Some players, for example, lack discipline but win because they have indomitable self confidence.

Previous lessons:

Managing your money

If you are no good at money management and have no idea how much you can afford to lose by playing poker, then you will never be able to make any sort of permanent use of your poker-playing skills. The main reason so many strong players are ruined is because they play at limits that they are not capable of financing.

Quite often in poker you will simply hit patches where the cards do not fall kindly for you, and these patches can last for hours, or even days. The worst decision you can make is to then go and chase your losses by playing at a table with higher limits. Your game is already under pressure because of the lack of confidence in your playing that a run of bad luck brings. It's unlikely you're going to fare better when facing even more experienced players.

The way to avoid making substantial losses is to manage your bankroll profitably. Your bankroll is the amount of money you have available to play poker that would not be decimated if a run of bad luck occurs. It's also the amount of money you can afford to lose without it affecting your other, day-to-day living expenses. If your bankroll begins to dwindle to levels you are no longer comfortable with, you should move downwards in terms of the limits you are playing at, and remain there until your bankroll has recovered to manageable levels.

If you do not observe this rule, then you are several steps along the path to ruination. In one of the following articles you will be taught all you need to know about comfortable bankroll management.

If you want to become profitable at poker then you should really stick to what you know. If Texas Hold'em is your game, then there's no doubt throwing in a few hands of Omaha or Stud just to spice things up is a bad idea. You will be kicked off the table - bankrupted in minutes by players who have been concentrating on Omaha or Stud for years. There's no point in grinding out $50 in Hold'em profit over six hours then tossing it away with 15 minutes on another game.

Discipline

Every decent poker player is disciplined. The skill of being in the right place at the right time, as some players frequently seem to manage, is not only down to good luck. If you have been the victim of bad luck all evening, it does not mean you should start playing borderline hands that you would not normally touch. One moment of madness that's fueled by an emotional reaction can wipe out an entire day's profit in one single showdown. A successful attack can mean waiting for just the right card or combination to come along, and sometimes that can mean a lot of waiting.

The majority of the cash wagered at poker tables is won by patient people who know that the killer hand will come eventually. It may be in the very next deal, or it may be a thousand deals in the future, but come, it shall.

A well-disciplined player will always refrain from a situation where he has no advantage, and if he finds himself playing too many problematic hands he will leave the table. A well-disciplined player will also never allow himself to be drawn into high-stakes games which he cannot effectively afford to partake in. Instead, he counts his money wisely and takes lessons from his own mistakes, not allowing emotions and sudden impulses to overtake cold, hard logic and the wish to remain profitable.

Psychological stability


Keeping your concentration is important at the poker table, especially when your sense of justice is offended by a bad break. Perhaps you had a king-high flush in a two-player game and against all reasonable laws of probability, your opponent had the ace. To lose control and let your emotions influence your decisions is known as “tilting”, and once you tilt, you are no longer playing effectively.

With heart-breaking frequency you will encounter long losing streaks in poker – it happens to the top professionals and it will happen to you as well. It's all part of probability and elemental mathematics, but those who endure setbacks well and maintain their psychological stability are more likely to achieve better results in the long run and minimize their losses when facing hard times.

Working capacity

If you take poker-playing seriously then it becomes less of a way of entertainment, and more a way of earning income. Self-improvement and regular play are both key to achieving good results – your poker skills will not come by any other means. Keep learning, analyze the deals you have played and spend as much time as you can at the table improving your play.

If you do not have enough time to dedicate to playing and learning, you will not be able to keep your concentration at the most critical moments of play. You will lose where you should have won, and you will not attack the weak points you notice in your opponents' play as you should.

Poker does not stand for laziness and a resistance to self-development. No one has achieved significant results by simply clicking on the “Call”, “Raise” or “Fold” buttons blindly, shuffling chips or sitting all day long in poker forums cursing their bad luck.

NEXT ARTICLE:

LESSON #4: Managing your bankroll in a right way