How to Think Like a Poker Pro - 3 Rules For Success

How to Think Like a Poker Pro
Poker is the ultimate game of mental warfare. Because it doesn't matter how good you are, you will get humbled by this game sooner or later.

In fact, I don't care if your name is Daniel Negreanu or Phil Ivey, you will get humbled again and again and again by this game.

And this is the main reason why so many people are ultimately not successful at poker. It is unbelievably difficult at times to handle the adversity that this game will throw at you.

I personally have gone through several stretches in my 10+ year pro career where I literally thought I was the worst poker player in the world and I would never win again.

I thought to myself maybe the haters were right after all! Maybe I really was just a luckbox fish on a heater. The thoughts that can enter your head during times like this are crazy.

Because even though I have millions and millions of hands of evidence to the contrary (that I indeed am a large winning poker player), this game can absolutely strip away any sense of logical thinking from you.

The only way to survive in this game is to learn how to think like a poker pro.


1. You Have to Learn to Let Go


I think the first key to learning how to think like a poker pro is to understand before you even begin that sometimes you are gonna be so far up sh*t's creek without a paddle, you won't even know what hit you.

There are simply going to be times in your poker career where you will lose for days, weeks or even months on end even while you are playing excellent poker.

I am not aware of any other game on earth that has this kind of warped outcome. It goes completely against everything we are taught in life.

We are taught from an early age to work hard, get good grades, be kind to others, keep your nose clean and so on and good things will come your way in life. And for the most part this is true.

This kind of causal relationship is not always the case in poker though.

Sometimes you can completely destroy the competition, be out-thinking and out-playing them on so many levels, but all it takes is one lucky river card and you are done.

And this is why the first step in learning how to think like a poker pro is to just let go. I know it sounds a little counter-intuitive but this is all you can do sometimes.

There is no point in trying to understand it. How can you make sense of something that is inherently non-sensical?

Yes, that fish just hit another miracle on the river against you and your aces got cracked for the 8th time in a row. Welcome to the wonderful game of poker.

You can get either let this eat you alive and go tilt away half your bankroll like most people do, or you can learn to approach it like the pros do, and just breath, smile and let go.


2. What Goes Around Always Comes Around in Poker


Now I don't really consider myself to be a Buddhist but I do live in a 95% Buddhist country. And I believe that many of the concepts and ideas from this spiritual practice and philosophy apply directly to poker.

And I am specifically referring to the idea of Karma. Or as we often say in English "what goes around comes around."


Despite how crazy this game can seem in the moment sometimes, you will get "paid back" eventually for those 8 losses in a row with your AA.

It might not happen today, next week or even by next month. But it will happen eventually because at the end of the day poker is just cold hard math, odds and statistics.

And what I have learned more than anything is that if you consistently play well, then good results will come your way in the end.

This is why it is so important to find one consistent winning strategy and never waver from it no matter what your results have been lately.

This is the mistake that most people make. They determine their strategy based on whether they have been winning or losing lately.

If they have been winning big they will typically play a bit tighter and even quit early to "protect" their winnings.

However, if they have been losing though, then they will often play looser and more aggressive, make more bluffs, and play as long as possible to try and get even.

Sound familiar?

However, constantly changing your strategy like this depending on your results is like deciding whether you are going to be happy or not based on the weather outside.

Because you are giving up power over the one thing you do control in this game, your attitude and how you play the game.

You have to understand that short term results in poker are always going to be completely outside of your control. Focus on the one thing you do control, consistently playing each hand to the best of your ability.


3. You Can Choose to Play Good Poker All the Time


And this is indeed what I mean when I talk about how to think like a poker pro. The mindset of a poker champ is one of choosing to play great poker all the time, not just when they are winning.

You see, when we are winning in poker, hitting all our draws, coolering everyone and so on, poker is an easy game. Anybody can look like a genius when they have AA and the other guy has KK.

The real key to success in this game is all about how well you are able to play when you are the one getting the short end of the stick again and again.

Most people suddenly start playing a LAG style (loose and aggressive) and make all kinds of crazy bluffs and bad calls in a vain attempt to win it back.

And don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a LAG style of play. In fact I often recommend it and it's actually really profitable when done right.

But if you are a TAG player and suddenly turn LAG just because you are losing, this is going to be a disaster. And that is the mistake most people make.

Real poker pros and top players instead see losing as an opportunity to separate themselves from everybody else. And that is by sticking with the same disciplined strategy no matter what their recent results have been.

Because the truth is that you absolutely can choose to play the same solid strategy all the time if you want to. The buck always stops with you in this game. You are the one in control.

You should actually see running bad as a blessing. It is an opportunity to show what you are really made of as a poker player.

I love running bad because I know 95%+ of my competition at the micros will not handle it as well as I do. They will become overly emotional and make mistakes.

But hey, nobody is perfect. I certainly am not. And running bad for an extended period of time will get to anyone.

So if you feel that you are just too tilted to play a strong disciplined game, then you have another option as well, quit for the day.

We are often told growing up that "quitters never win." Again, this is true in most cases in life, but once again, not in poker. Being able to quit at the right time is a hugely important skill that all top poker pros possess.

And this is because they know that real long term consistent success in this game is just about applying the same winning strategy again and again and again over the long term.


Consistency is the Key to Everything in Poker (And in Life)


It's the exact same thing if you want to have success in areas such as business, fitness or relationships. You get good results in all of these with consistent effort over time.

It's about showing up consistently whether you feel like it or not.


This blog that you are reading right now is a perfect example of this. Why will thousands of people end up reading this blog post when so many other blogs out there receive very little traffic at all?

It is because I have consistently published an article every single week for 5+ years now on this website and have built up a large, loyal audience.

Same thing with my poker YouTube channel which recently surpassed 10k subscribers (thank you by the way). It's just all about consistent effort applied over time.

And it is absolutely the same with poker. If you apply the same simple poker strategies that I talk about all the time consistently over a period of months and years at the micros, you will win.

If you are just in this game for the quick buck or to gamble it up, then you may as well just give up now. Poker is not a get rich quick scheme.

In order to have success in poker you need to be in this thing for the long haul (months, years, even decades). This is how poker pros think.


Final Thoughts


Learning how to think like a poker pro is one of the hardest things you can ever learn to do because it often means suspending all logic and just blindly trusting in the process for long periods of time.

And this is extremely difficult in the "give me results now" world that we live in. The idea of waiting for months or years to see real results in poker is just not something that most people can handle.

But unfortunately this is the way that the game actually works in reality.

Most poker pros who I know have been at this thing for years and years, and like me, they have put in way, way more hours at the poker tables than the average amateur player.

They are truly in this thing for the long run. They know that in order to see the results that they want, they need to keep consistently applying the same winning strategy day in and day out.

But once again, let's get real here. You wouldn't start a new business and expect to start seeing big profits by next week right?

No of course not, it will often take years before you start to see any sort of real progress. It literally took Amazon.com 14 years to start turning a significant profit.

So why should you expect any different in poker? Why do so many people pick up a poker book or study a few charts and expect to be crushing the games and going pro by next month?

What if Jeff Bezos decided after a month or two that this Amazon.com thing would never work out because they weren't seeing any results yet? Just imagine that!

Look, the short term will always be complete madness in poker. Don't let it destroy you like it does to so many others. Challenge yourself to rise above and be stronger than the game.

Learn to think like a poker pro.

By the way, if you want to know about my day to day life as a poker pro traveling the world, make sure to follow me on Instagram.


Let me know your thoughts on how poker pros think in the comments below. Do you think it is important to remain calm and consistent?

How to Think Like a Poker Pro

This One Little Word is the Key to My Poker Success

This One Little Word is the Key to My Poker Success
Have you ever made a call at the poker tables even when you absolutely knew for sure that you were beat? Perhaps you just had to see it?

Well, if so don't worry because we all have. They even have a name for it. They call it a "crying call." But what if I told you that there is actually no such thing as a crying call in poker, only bad calls?

It is true.

There is actually one little word in poker that will drastically change your results at the micros in particular if you start implementing it right now.

When I finally learned to incorporate this one little word into my poker game, especially against the tight players at the lower limits, my results skyrocketed.

It literally changed everything for me. It is the key to my poker success. And I know it will be for you as well. So what is this one little word already?

Fold.


Most People Don't Actually Even Like to Bluff


Here's the funny thing about poker. Most people are highly suspicious that other people are constantly bluffing them. It's this crazy little egotistical game that many of us play in our heads.

This suspicion is magnified drastically in a game like poker because you often don't actually get to see their cards if you fold.

So in other words you are always left wondering and wondering. And this eats away at some people. It causes them to become paranoid that people are constantly out to bluff them.

But here's the other thing about poker. Most people don't actually like to bluff all that often. This is especially true at the lower limits.

It is really only a handful of recreational players (fish) who like to bluff. And usually when they do it, it is so transparent and bad that you can just easily snap it off.

But the vast majority of regular players at the lower limits in particular (online or live) actually aren't bluffing anywhere near as much as you might think.

And this is because bluffing is not something that most people naturally like to do. It is a bit like lying. It can cause you to become nervous, raise your heartbeat a bit.

Bluffing also causes confrontation which many people do not like. It is much easier to just sit around and wait for the nuts and play an "honest" game.

So this is what most people actually do at the lower stakes in particular. They might make a small bluff here and there, but by and large, when they are betting big amounts, it's because they have it.


Turn Raise is Usually the Nuts, River Raise is Always the Nuts


In my first poker book Crushing the Microstakes I firmly stated that the turn raise is usually the nuts and the river raise is always the nuts.

And this is because in my vast experience of playing millions and millions of hands at the micro stakes online, this statement is almost always true, especially against the legions of tight nitty regulars that you will encounter frequently these days.

These set-mining nits who are playing on 15 tables just aren't running a random bluff against you out of the blue. You aren't special, they aren't picking on you for something to do.

No, they don't even have time for that!

When they raise the turn it's because they can beat your one pair hand. And when they raise you on the river you can literally bet the farm that they have your one pair hand crushed.

I am talking about players who are multi-tabling and have HUD stats of like 18/15/2 in 6max or 12/10/2 in full ring.


Here is an example:

You raise AA from early position and a tight regular calls you on the button.


Flop:

357

You CBet

He calls


Turn:

9

You CBet

He calls


River:

2

You CBet

He raises...


Now, you can go ahead and make the "crying call" here. This is what most people do after all. But let me tell you something else that most people do.

They lose at poker.

And why do most people lose at poker? Because they make bad calls like this.

If you make the call here (on this board and versus this player type) he is going to show you one of the following hands the vast overwhelming majority of the time:
  • 33
  • 55
  • 77
  • 99

Many people will try to convince themselves that maybe he has a bluff or another overpair like:
  • TT
  • JJ
  • QQ
  • KK

The problem with this line of thinking though is that most tight regulars at the micros will just call down with these hands when you triple barrel. And if he had QQ or KK he probably would have re-raised us before the flop anyways.

So what is he left with? Yup, you guessed it. Hands that beat our one pair. Specifically sets. And it really doesn't even matter which one he has because all of them beat AA.

Most people will call here anyways without even thinking. And that is why they get the results that they do in poker.

The select few who win big in poker however will think a bit deeper and find the fold button instead.


Why is It So Hard to Fold a Hand Like Pocket AA or KK?


So why is it so hard for most people to toss away a hand like pocket AA in a situation like this? Well, I think they get married to how pretty their hand looks.

They think that having a big over pair like this is basically a licence to print money. The problem is that it isn't though. Hands like Aces and Kings are just one pair. And they can and will lose sometimes.

Now let's look at just how disastrous it is for your poker winrate to make the crying call here against a nut peddling nit in a situation like this.

You will often need to call as much as 50 big blinds in order to see a showdown with your pocket aces in a spot like this.


Let's assume some very typical bet sizing amounts of 3bb preflop / 55% pot flop / 70% pot turn / 70% pot river:
  • Preflop: you raise 3bb + 3bb call + blinds = pot 7bb
  • Flop: you CBet 4bb + 4bb call = pot 15bb
  • Turn: you CBet 10bb + 10bb call = pot 35bb
  • River: you CBet 25bb and he raises to 75bb = 50bb to call.

50 big blinds is an absolutely huge amount to call here when you know that you are beat a very, very high percentage of the time.

Now let's just think about how the math works if you were able to make the correct laydown here even once every 1000 hands.

This would save you 5bb every 100 hands. So if you are currently a break-even type player with say a 1bb/100 winrate you would now be crushing the games with a 6bb/100 winrate instead.

Please just let that sink in a little bit longer.

Making the correct fold in a situation like this a little bit more often could quite literally be the difference between you being a break even poker player versus a big winner.


Now you might be wondering does this type of situation actually pop up once every 1000 hands on average? That is debatable. I am certainly being a little bit liberal here in my estimates.

However, I hope the gravity of these numbers strikes a chord with you.

If you can learn to just stop making these bad crying calls against a nit on the turn or river it can actually improve your overall poker results in a massive way.


The Key to Poker Success


So what this really boils down to actually is a very simple question. And that is: Do you truly want to be a winning poker player or not?

Because I will tell you what finally gets you to start making these folds can be summed up in one word, discipline. This is the real key to poker success.

Most people straight up just do not have it. After all, it's the micros right? It's only $5 to call. Who cares right?! They just have to see it!

But once again, if you are playing NL10 for example then $5 is actually 50 big blinds. That's no joke!

And like I just said, being able to make this fold more often can actually be a key difference between you having mediocre results in this game or being a large winner.

Look guys, it's really not rocket science. It's just discipline. It's wanting it more than the next guy does at the end of the day.

Amateurs make the call, pros fold. Why is this?

Because the pros have seen it enough times already. They are ready to learn from their mistakes. They take this game seriously. They truly want to win.

They don't need to keep getting their ego involved every time like amateurs do. Because that's all it is. It's an ego call. It's an "I need to see his set one more time" to satisfy my ego call.


Go See The Cold Hard Stats For Yourself


But as I always say, you don't even need to believe me or take my word for it. Just go log into your PokerTracker database right now and go see the results for yourself.

Just click on the View Stats tab, click on More Filters, then Actions and Opportunities. Now filter for all the hands where you got raised on the turn or the river and you chose to continue in the hand.

This One Little Word is the Key to My Poker Success

See all the glorious losses for yourself that came from your crying calls in situations like this! Let all that red ink fully sink in.

Because that right there is a big part of the difference between you finally getting the results that you want at the poker tables or continuing on with your "somewhere around break-even" ways.

It's having the discipline to finally start making the right folds when you need to make them. Now look, nobody is perfect, everybody still screws up and makes a bad call from time to time.

It is important not to beat yourself up about it when it happens.

But the biggest winners (the professionals) are able to make these folds most of the time. The amateurs get their ego involved and they just "have to see it."

And that is why they get the results that they get in this game. It's a simple matter of discipline. And it's always your choice every single day at the poker tables.


Final Thoughts


So what is the one little word that will completely change your poker results? Fold.

This is truly the key to my poker success. This is how I made a career out of this game at the micros as a 10+ year poker pro and now a multiple time poker author as well.

It's not easy to do. Everybody wants to see it. They want to know for sure that the guy has it again. But the problem is that you often have to pay a big price to see it.

And when we are talking about turn or river raises here, we are talking about a heavy price of 20bb, 30bb or even 50bb sometimes.

In today's micro stakes games where the edges are often very thin this is quite literally the difference between a winning and a losing poker player.

Begin with the tight nitty multi-tabling regulars at the micro stakes online. When they raise you on the turn or river, just start folding.

Bite your tongue and just do it. Remember that you pocket aces or your pocket kings are just one pair. And they aren't good anymore.

Do you really have to see it yet again? You already know what hand he is going to show you. Have the discipline to let it go just this one time and you will start seeing how easy it actually is.

I actually just laugh and fold these days. This nit has literally been waiting an hour to hit his set against me while I have been stealing so many other pots against him.

Now he finally hits his set against my pocket AA or KK and I don't even pay him off! Can you imagine how much that must piss him off?

It really becomes easier and easier once you get used to doing it. You don't need to see it. You don't need proof that the sky is gonna be blue again today either.

The bottom line is that when a nit raises you on the turn or the river he has your one pair hand beat. Just laugh and fold. And thank me later.

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Lastly, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet to learn all my best strategies to crush the micros.

And let me know in the comments below if you are able to make the difficult folds at the poker table. Or is this something you struggle with?

This One Little Word is the Key to My Poker Success