When you look at athletes like Usain Bolt, it’s not hard to see why they’re the best in the world at what they do. First, they have great genetics for their chosen sport. Second, they have deliberately practiced speed, strength and endurance to meet the demands of the sport. What then makes an elite poker player? While you could name certain qualities required, coming up with a clear answer might not be that obvious.
In short, world-class poker players are described as people with powerful minds. They are smart, patient, disciplined and have very good logic & math skills. While the balance for these areas might be different for all players, you can’t become a superb player without excelling in multiple areas.
There are a few traits though that are common for all elite poker players. We asked our friends at Beasts Of Poker, who have some of the best Finnish professional players on their team, to describe what are the most important traits that separate top players from average winning ones. Let’s take a look at these traits one by one to understand them more deeply:
Great money management skills
Making a career out of poker at the highest stakes possible requires an almost robotic approach to money. For elite poker players, money is simply a tool that use to apply your skills at the table. It’s a way of keeping score in poker as there’s not any other good measures of how well you’ve done in the game.
You can become a great poker player with a conservative approach to money both at the tables and outside the tables. It doesn’t hurt to have a hundred buy-ins in your bankroll before playing at a high stakes table. If anything, a potential loss doesn’t hurt you so much monetarily or emotionally.
On the other hand, if you love risk too much and take big gambles with negative expected value your chances of becoming an elite pro are not that great. There are countless of players with very good technical skills who have gone broke by playing too big games for their bankroll.
The other way many players have decimated their bankrolls is through frivolous spending. Nights out at VIP clubs, fancy cars and a showy lifestyle can be attractive to many players after they’ve made some money. Upgrading your lifestyle fast leaves you with no ammo to fight the inevitable downswing though.
Natural talent or passion for games
Anything can be learned, but some people just grasp poker much faster than others. Especially great players of the past have had a natural ability to always find exploits against other players at the table. Many great players have also evolved from eSports players who decided to switch into poker. Good examples would be players like Doug ‘WCGRider’ Polk and Bertrand ‘Elky’ Grospellier.
Poker has evolved into a game where certain situations can be solved quite precisely, but this was not always the case. Back when the nosebleed games on Full Tilt Poker were running, there were no solvers available for studying the game. If you wanted to become the best, there was no other way to do that than to figure things out faster than other players.
Besides a natural talent for games, passion for poker is what drives you to learn the game across many years if not decades. Reaching the top if you don’t love playing poker is a very hard thing to do!
Discipline & work ethic
The most successful players are extremely disciplined in their decision-making. Besides knowing what’s the right table to sit at and how to play their hands for maximum profit, they don’t let their emotions get the best of them. When they’re not playing their best, the take a break or call it a day.
To learn how to play excellent poker, you need to be very disciplined in improving your game. Watching a training video or two doesn’t quite cut it. The best players spend hundreds of hours on using solvers and finding solutions to different spots. With a poor work ethic, it’s almost impossible to be among the best in the world at anything.
You learn most of the things in poker through analysis and looking for ways to play certain situations better. If you’re not critical of your play, improving will be slow. The sign of an intelligent person is they never spot asking the question why about anything. Instead, they want to find even more optimal ways to do whatever they’re doing, be it poker or something else.
You don’t need a genius-level intelligence to be an elite player though. You have to learn from your mistakes and not be too stubborn once you’ve learned the basics of winning poker. There’s always room to improve as a player, and the best players are constantly plugging leaks from different areas of their game.
Despite some of these traits being hard to develop if you don’t have them naturally, there’s good news for everyone who wants to improve in poker. Discipline and bankroll management are areas of the game that anybody can learn to do as well as a world-class player. They obviously need a lot of effort, but those two areas are probably the most important for success in poker. Therefore, you have every reason to put in the effort and improve to a better player.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our brief analysis what makes elite poker players stand out from the rest. Good luck at the tables!
Beasts of Poker helps players to learn winning strategies for both live and online poker. Follow the Pro Team of Beasts Of Poker by watching their Twitch streams, read their articles and starting crushing poker!
Artikeln är skriven av Seat Opens samarbetspartner Beasts of Poker.