I’m sure some of you might ask yourself the question of “Why do I lose all the time?”. I got this divine inspiration to write an honest post about what I see people doing that ruin their chances of becoming winning poker players. Mostly it’s because you refuse to be honest with yourself, the blocks are entirely mental.
I strongly believe anyone can become a solid poker player and make a living doing it, but it takes work and it takes DETERMINATION. I know some that are in it for the money and it apparently is a strong motivator for them, when I started playing I liked playing poker, but I also liked making money. I had a kind of mix and that kept me interested.
Nowadays when I play 8 tables and my only goal is to make money I feel bored, there is no passion in the game. Sure, I still learn if I focus, but I prefer playing less tables. In that way I can get reads on opponents, I can adapt my play and I can play real poker that is challenging and fun for me.
Why then, do some of you never become the players you can be?
1. Fooling Yourself
Are you constantly fooling yourself? “Poker is all luck and these fishies don’t know what they’re doing”. You constantly get “bad beats” and that’s why you can’t win at poker. You may even blame the card rooms for your bad luck.
Does this sound familiar? If it does, then you are absolutely fooling yourself.
Bad players are what make it possible to win at poker, you have to embrace the bad beats because when people are sucking out on you, you are making money in the long run. If you can keep going then you will win, but if you just play bad and blame it on luck then odds are that you will never make money playing poker.
2. Playing the Ego Game
What about ego, do you get in emotional battles at the poker table? If you answered yes, then this is another obstacle in your way to becoming an excellent poker player. Don’t think I am saying that you have no chance of becoming a winning poker player, because if you are honest with yourself and work on your game, you have a phenomenal chance of doing so.
Your chances go way down if you get into pissing matches at the poker table. You have to keep your cool and be rational about how players are playing, what are their hand ranges? How can you adapt? If you only believe someone is doing something then that is often not enough, you have to see some showdowns, you have to see his hand so you can make a proper assessment of how he plays.
If you’re thinking “I’m going to get this guy because he sucked out” or anything similar, you’re in big trouble.
3. Not Putting in Enough Time
You can’t expect to become a winner if you don’t put in the study time. What is enough time? I can only tell you how much time I put in before I started to win.
I started around 2004 and after 5-6 months I was making ~$2,000 a month. During those 5-6 months I probably put in at least 3-4 hours everyday of reading forums, annoying people with my questions and reading all the books I could get my hands on.
That should give you a perspective on what it could take. Keep in mind, that was my journey, yours will most likely be completely different. What’s important is that you put in the time and be persistent, results will come if you keep working at your game.
4. Neglecting Coaching and Help
I know quite a few players who blame bad luck and whine about how they’ve run bad for the past 6-12 months and I tell them to get coaching or send me their last 500 hands so I can look through them. And what happens?
They refuse because they know they’re playing bad poker. Why would you want to do this to yourself? Is your goal to whine for the rest of your life?
If you want to become a winner you have to be willing to show your mistakes to coaches and other poker players to discuss how you can improve. If you keep losing you HAVE to figure out WHY, only then can you make progress.
5. Tilting Your Money Away
You might be one of those players who play really well until you get a few bad beats. You then proceed to throw a few buy-ins away and get pissed because you’re so unlucky. Guess what, you’re as lucky as anyone else, but you’re throwing your money away but not keeping your composure.
In the end, you are the one responsible for your results.
Learn to meditate, do yoga or anything that helps you minimize tilt. You can start by quitting INSTANTLY when you feel any of those tilty feelings come up. If you keep going you are just giving your money away, avoid doing this at all cost!
6. Money Management
Are you constantly playing in games where you are 2 buy-ins from being broke? Then you have a money management issue, you have to start making specific rules and making sure you never go broke, because if you go broke and gamble foolishly then you have no money to play with (pretty obvious isn’t it? ).
Start by having at least 20 buy-ins for the level you play, preferably 30 buy-ins. So if you’re playing $0.5/$1.00 No-Limit Hold’em, you would need $3,000 if you’re following the 30 buy-in rule and whenever you drop below that $3,000, even if it is to $2,999 you move down to $0.25/$0.50 to get back to 31 buy-ins for $0.5/$1.00 and then go back.
7. Game Selection
This usually isn’t a problem for beginning players as the games at the micro or low stakes are pretty good, meaning that you never have to use game selection. But when you reach stakes like $1/2 No-Limit Hold’em you have to start being picky. That means leaving games that are bad (i.e. you won’t make any profit in them) or just not playing when the games are bad.
It’s tempting to keep sitting in a game when you’re losing to get unstuck, but this is just backwards if you want to make money. Set a stop-loss, if you lose 3 buy-ins you quit playing until you’ve regained your calm.
And when you’re winning you should play longer sessions because your table image is such that you will win more pots easily and generally have an easier time. On the contrary, when you have a bad image other players will take more shots at you and bluff you at a more difficult frequency, thus lowering your win rate and if the game has gone bad you might even be a loser for that session, because of your impaired judgment, table image and the table line-up.
8. Trying to Outplay People
This should go into the Ego category, but I decided to give it its own office space. This is very prevalent in today’s online games, players are paranoid that you’re making a move on them so they will call you down very loosely. And it kind of works against the bad aggressive players, because they bluff too much and are too paranoid about anyone bluffing them.
If you put one of these paranoid players vs. a good thinking player then he will get crushed, because the good thinking player will adapt to his looseness.
This is another reason why you have to play tight solid poker in today’s games and when you learn new things you add them into your game, you do not and I repeat DO NOT start playing all those speculative hands like 97 suited out of position because you think you can outplay other players.
Avoid being that player who plays hands because he thinks he can outplay everyone and thus making the hand profitable.
9. Failing to Adapt
You cannot play a mechanical game if you want to win decent money playing poker. Poker is about people and that means you have to adapt to be able to win.
If someone is playing too loose you adapt by, for example value betting them more. You have to learn how to adapt vs. different players and this knowledge or should I say wisdom comes from mainly experience and partly having someone to discuss these concepts with.
I hope this post will help you realize if you have any flaws in your game and propel you to take action. Because if you do not see your mistakes, how can you ever get rid of them? Magic? Possible, but unlikely.