The keys to winning poker

Poker is very competitive. Most of the traits needed to succeed in poker are derived from this fact and are, for the most part, similar to what is needed to succeed in other competitive endeavors (e.g. chess, soccer, racing). A good way to learn how to learn poker is to study how winners act and think – read biographies of winners. In this section the qualities needed to win are examined as they relate spe‐ cifically to poker.

Passion for the game

The most important part of becoming a good poker player is having a passion for the game. Mozart said, “Neither a lofty degree of intelli‐ gence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.” You have to care about what you’re doing to get really good at it. The concept of passion is slightly abstract, so let’s try and make it more meaningful for a poker player. Since poker is, by its nature, very competitive, a passion for the game also means a desire to be the best player. Or put another way, it necessarily means a desire to beat everyone you play. When you are actually playing a real person this will translate into a desire to crush your opponent. Incidentally, one of the best ways to gain or regain this passion is to watch players better than yourself and see them make really skillful plays – this can be inspiring.

The question is, how does someone achieve that high skill level where they are better than everyone else in their immediate envi‐ ronment? The answer is easy – it’s the same answer a person would get that asked the same question regarding skill in any discipline – through hard work and study. But hardly anyone actually does that, instead they play poker and assume they’ll get better as a result. They may do, but the process will be slow and erratic. Instead of playing poker and hoping that the side effect will be a gradual im‐ provement, it’s much better to act on our main goal and gear our plan specifically towards attaining this improvement.

If someone wants to be a doctor they donʹt just start doing surgery. They go to university for six years and intern for another two to study the profession. If someone wants to play soccer in the Premier League it takes many years of practice, practice and then some more practice. They study their discipline with professionalism. To suc‐ ceed as a poker player is no different, this professionalism is needed.

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