Thursday, December 14, 2017

How the Best Poker Players in the World Think Differently Than Everybody Else

How the Best Poker Players in the World Think Differently Than Others
I get a lot of email from struggling poker players at the micro stakes. Too much sometimes in fact!

But this is because poker is a hard game to truly master and many people find it difficult to achieve consistent success especially when they are first starting out.

I hear a lot of the same struggles and problems over and over again. So much so that I feel like a broken record at times giving the same replies again and again.

So I wanted to write this article to talk about some of the ways that the very best poker players in the world think differently at the poker tables. Because a lot of these issues are a mindset problem in my opinion.

I should mention that I definitely do not consider myself to be one of the best poker players in the world. However, I have been playing the micro stakes online now for over 10 years as a pro and I have written 3 books on these games as well.

Winning Poker is Boring

Winning poker isn't fun. In fact it is downright boring most of the time. There is a reason why we call it "grinding."

But many people first get into this game for the thrills and the excitement, the big all-ins and the crazy bluffs.

This is the ridiculously inaccurate way that Hollywood and heavily edited poker TV shows depict the game after all.

And that's cool. If you want to be a losing poker player like most people are, then by all means go ahead and make all sorts of wild bluffs and undisciplined calls and so on.

But the best players know that the game simply doesn't work this way. Winning poker (especially at the micro stakes) is all about discipline and patience. Sometimes you are going to have to make fold after fold after fold after fold.

Do I like folding 10 hands in a row more than most people? No of course not. Folding sucks. You can't win when you fold. It is a guaranteed loss.

But if it the right thing to do (i.e. a nit raises you on the turn and you only have a one pair hand), then it is the right thing to do!

It doesn't matter how many times you have made a tough laydown already today. It changes absolutely nothing about the present situation.

It is important to remember that every hand in poker is an independent event. Just because you had to fold 10 times in a row before does not have the slightest impact on your decision in the current hand.

Winning poker is boring guys. It also requires near superhuman levels of patience and discipline at times especially at the micros.

The difference between that small group of big winners and everyone else is they are willing to make the right decision each time no matter what.

Endless Ups and Downs

The other thing about poker is that there is definitely no instant gratification in it. As I often say, poker is the exact opposite of a get rich quick scheme.

But people send me their graph all the time when they have one winning session and they are already on cloud 9 telling me how they are going to be crushing the highest stakes games soon.

But it's a completely meaningless sample size and the next day they are just going to send me their losing graph and they are ready to throw in the towel and quit the game again!

Look here's the thing. Poker is an endless rollercoaster and the sooner you learn to at least accept this statement in theory, the better your results will be.

Now it must be said that as long as you are human day to day results are going to get to you. I am not going to lie. I feel good when I have a nice winning day and I feel really frustrated when I have a big losing day. I often head straight to the gym afterwards to get the stress out.

But I also know deep down that these day to day results don't really matter in the end. I know that I am going to win in the long run. And this is how all of the biggest winners think as well.

At the end of the day the entire goal of poker is really just to have more ups than downs.

You are going to lose a lot. You should expect to lose as much as 40% of your sessions if you are a winning cash game player. And you can expect to lose more like 90% of your sessions if you are a winning tournament player.

You really need to learn to make at least some sort of peace with losing in poker because it is going to happen so frequently. And you also need to control your ego when you win as well. You aren't that good when you win and you aren't that bad when you lose.

Poker is all about the endless ups and downs. Learn to enjoy the crazy ride and focus on winning the war, not each battle.

This Isn't a Game

The last way that the best poker players in the world think different than everybody else is that for them this isn't just a game. Poker is serious business. It's a job, a career even.

They aren't in this thing for the quick buck. Poker isn't the flavour of the week hobby for them and then next week they are off to try something else. That's how losing poker players think.

The amount of turnover in poker is insane. I have heard reports before that PokerStars (biggest poker room in the world) has over 50 million accounts yet only about 2 million are active, meaning the account holder logged in within the last month or so.

That is absolutely insane when you think about it.

Most poker players are incredibly fickle. They get super excited for a brief period especially when they are first starting to learn the game.

And then when things don't go their way they drop off the face of the earth. You don't hear from them for months or even years down the line when they catch the "poker bug" again.

You just can't have this hobbyist mentality if you ever want to have success in poker. You have to take the game much more seriously than this. This means that sometimes you will go months or even years until you get the results that you want in poker.

It's not any different in the business world. You wouldn't start a new company and expect to be killing it after a few weeks. Most successful businesses take years and years to build.

If you really want to make it in this poker game then you need to be in it for the long haul. Chances are you won't start making a good consistent profit for at least 6 months.

It is best to be fully prepared to accept this from the get go. It might take some people years. In fact, I can't even guarantee that you will ever be successful in this game at all!

But I can guarantee you one thing. If you quit early like most people do, then you will 100% without a doubt never see if you had what it takes to be one of the best in this game.


I didn't mean to paint an overly gloomy picture of poker in this article but sometimes you just need to say it like it is. As I talked about in my recent 10 years as a pro post, you need to treat poker like a business.

You need to bring the same amount of discipline, patience, finances (bankroll management) and work ethic that you would if you were starting a new business.

Poker is just a game to most people. It's a hobby, something fun to do in their spare time. For the best poker players in the world though it is a passion, an addiction and they have a never-ending drive to become better every single day.

Most people are simply not willing to really put in this kind of effort especially when it gets tough, when they are losing for days, weeks or months on end.

A small amount of people will be willing to keep going though. And they almost invariably end up becoming some of the biggest winners in the game.

You gotta ask yourself if you are going to have what it takes or if this is just another hobby for you. Only you truly know the answer to that question.

How the Best Poker Players in the World Think Differently Than Others


  1. this is the kinda talk i needed to hear today. Thank you for the brutal honesty
    i always am rushing things instead of just being more patient

    1. Thanks David, glad this article helped!

  2. BlackRain, thank you for this wisdom. Great input!

  3. wow! I wrote some notes to help myself stay focused and they start "Poker is Boring" ... go figure. Misunderstanding the nature of the untameable beast (aka poker) is what destroys hours of work in seconds. So now, if I am card dead I will probably fold AQo anyway if the nit raises from early position, because I know it is never 'my turn to win'

    1. Haha Anton, it definitely is boring most of the time, if you want to win that is. You probably should still call with your AQ but there will never be any huge value in it versus a nit's tight range.

    2. i had to read this again today. was up late playing and lost a good chunk of my br. i stepped up to higher stakes playing jackpot at ten a game and lost every hand i played,,,often my oppenent had crap and hit big on turn and river. lessons learned. You must stay within your br and not get impatient and not play when upset and up late.