I Asked 1,124 Poker Players What Their #1 Struggle Is (Here are the Surprising Results)

Poker Player Survey Results - Top Stakes Played and Poker Struggles
Last week I asked the roughly 10k readers on my newsletter and the 5k or so more spread out between Facebook, Twitter and Tiltbook two questions:

1. What stakes do you currently play?
2. What is the #1 thing holding you back in poker?

And all I can say is wow. The response that you guys gave me was incredible!

I ended up receiving slightly over 1k emails alone and it was amazing to hear each and every one of your poker stories and your biggest struggles at the poker tables.

I am sorry that I could not provide an in-depth reply to each one of you. I felt bad about that. But since I answer every single email myself there is just no way that was going to be possible.

I got replies from 18 year olds and 81 year olds. I got replies from a single mother in New Jersey, a middle aged accountant in London, a high school teacher with a family in Toronto, a university student in Berlin, a programmer in Moscow and a young poker pro in Las Vegas among the countless others.

I got several replies from non-traditional and non-English speaking poker markets as well such as China, Vietnam and even right here in Thailand. This just goes to show that the game is definitely continuing to grow in Asia.

In short, you guys (and girls) come from all walks of life and play at all stakes and in all types of games. Many of you have good careers already and just play poker as a hobby. Some of you have dreams of going pro one day though too.

Many of you have a lot of the same struggles at the poker tables as well. I got many of the exact same answers again and again.

I put every single reply that I received from all channels into a spreadsheet. This will help me create better more targeted content for you guys in the future.

But I have also decided to publish all of that data below as well. I am doing this because I think it might help you see that there are many other people out there who play at the same stakes as you and share many of your same struggles.

The Most Popular Stakes That Poker Players Play

Here are the results from question #1: What stakes do you currently play?

Poker player most popular limits

And here are the results in a pie chart:

Most popular stakes for poker players

Some parts of these results really didn't surprise me too much.

I have known for a long time for instance that the vast majority of people who play poker online or live do so at the lower stakes. More specifically, NL2, NL5, NL10 and NL25 online and $1/$2 and $2/$5 live.

And it is pretty obvious really. You can just log on to a site like Pokerstars right now (biggest in the world) and see for yourself that the large majority of the active tables are at NL25 and below. It doesn't matter what time of the day you check either.

These are the stakes that I focus on 100% of the time on this website by the way and in all my books and videos as well. And I had people tell me again and again in their replies that they liked this.

I have never understood why so many other poker training sites, authors, coaches, streamers and so on continue to focus on high stakes and teaching you complicated theories that often don't even work in the games that you actually play in.

Talk about not knowing who your audience is!

You can be sure that my focus here on blackrain79.com and in my YouTube videos will always remain on helping you improve in the games that you actually play in.

This is also why I continue to play regularly at these stakes myself.

SNG/MTT/Spins and Live Poker

What did surprise me in these results though was the sheer amount of you guys who play live or play SNGs/MTTs/Spins online. It is over 20% of the people who visit this website.

You guys also confirmed to me in your replies that this number has risen of late especially in countries like Australia where the government recently banned online poker.

Many Aussies told me that they have switched over to playing live because the options that remain to play online are just too limited.

With that said, it should be noted that there are still many Australia friendly poker sites out there. You just have to know what your options are and find the best online poker room for you.

This is something by the way that American poker players know all too well about. Because their own government did something similar back in 2011 on what became known as Black Friday, the darkest day in online poker history.

The other interesting thing is that many of you told me that you prefer Sit and Gos, Tournaments or Spin and Gos over cash games. It was definitely a little bit surprising to see these numbers since I focus on cash games so much.

It also just goes to show how badly lacking the poker training and educational resources are out there for live and non-cash game poker players.

I got your message though.

Live poker strategy and non-cash game poker strategy are two areas that I will be looking to improve upon significantly in my future content.

The Most Common Struggles of Poker Players

Next are the results from question #2: What is the #1 thing holding you back in poker?

Poker player top problems

And here again are the results in a pie chart (top 12 replies only):

Poker player top struggles

These results were very eye opening to me and gave me some great ideas about what to focus on in future articles and videos.

The two that jump out right away to me are tilt/discipline and lack of time. I got these same two replies again and again.

I don't think it is all that shocking that tilt (or the mental game in general) is the #1 problem that most people struggle with at the poker tables.

I have long believed this to be true and the data now proves it. I think that most people actually play fairly well these days (excluding the fish of course) even at the lower limits.

However, there is still a very wide chasm between those who play relatively "solid" most of the time, and those who go on monkey tilt every time they get a few bad beats!

I am going to continue creating content about the mental game but unfortunately this is one of the most difficult aspects of the game to teach.

I can show you how to play AK out of position when you miss the flop for instance. However, it is much more difficult to teach someone how to react emotionally when they just played a tournament for 6 hours and took a massive bad beat right before the final table.

It sucks and it hurts. There is simply no way to sugarcoat it. And dealing with beats like this is the hardest part of learning how to play consistent winning poker.

And quite frankly a huge part of figuring out how to tilt less and stay more disciplined also just comes with experience. When you have seen the same crazy nonsense that this game can throw at you a thousand times, you eventually start to just become a little bit numb to it.

Everybody is Busy These Days!

And the other one that jumped out of course was the lack of time. Clearly a huge number of you just play this game for fun or a small profit on the side.

You have jobs, families, school and many other commitments. I heard from you again and again that finding the time at the end of the day after work and the wife and kids were attended to was difficult.

So this is something that I am also going to focus more on in my future content as well. More specifically, trying to give you ways to become more effective with the time that you do have available for poker.

Many of you already know my poker story. I turned pro over 10 years ago building up my bankroll on the side for over a year while I had a full time job.

I think the biggest key for me was being laser focused on playing poker and improving my poker game during those few hours that I had available at the end of the day.

You guys gave me many other replies as well though from staying focused at the poker tables, to motivation/work ethic, confidence issues, bad calls, dealing with LAGs, understanding ranges, postflop strategy and more.

I will also try to cover as many of these topics as I can in future blog posts and videos. And if you have any specific suggestions yourself you can always feel free to just tell me. I often write articles simply because somebody emailed me or left a certain blog comment.

Final Thoughts

I want to thank each and every one of you that replied to me for this little informal poker player survey. 

These results are going to be very useful for me in knowing how to help you become a better poker player. I hope that you found these results helpful as well.

What is clear is that most poker players face a lot of the same struggles and many of them also play at the same stakes.

I know from first hand experience that poker can be a very lonely game at times and so there is solace in just knowing that other people out there are going through a lot of the same problems and issues as you at the poker table.

Make sure you let me know in the comments below what you think of these poker player survey results.

Also, to make sure you always receive my latest poker strategy articles and videos as soon as they get released, make sure you are on my free newsletter (includes a free copy of my ebook Massive Profit at the Micros).

blackrain79 poker survey


  1. Nice Job!! I hope you could help us with some good advices as you usually do. I gave my response by fbook. I play nl5 and focus/playing my A (or even B) game consistently is my first struggle. Lack of time is the second, i have a full time job, a wife and a kid and i try to play a minimun of 1 hour/day. It´s hard because i have to share time with my family sometimes. I am from Argentina and i discovered that live low cash game is more profitable that online poker. But that requires a minimun of 3 or 4 hours of play at the casino and have 1 hour of distance to home. So I usually continue playing online.

    1. Thanks Marcos! I will have a lot more articles and also Youtube videos soon on how to beat NL5. It is the most popular limit according to my survey results :)

  2. Thank you, Nathan!

  3. Great post. I'm glad you put out this survey.

  4. Hi Nathan, great to see the results of your recent survey. I'm proud to say I was 1, 1124th of it! :-)

    Its so nice these days, to find someone 'out there' who is genuinely interested in helping the crowd and not just fleecing them!

    Keep up the great work and all the best for the future.

    1. Thanks for the kind words George :)

  5. Hello Nathan! Very interesting statistic data. It would be very nice if you will post (from time to time) some of your hands in the blog (cash or sng games, micro stakes) with your comments.

    1. Hey begun7777 thanks for the suggestion. I am going to start posting videos on my Youtube channel again very soon including reviews of hands that I played.

  6. Its appreciated to have someone in the poker community who has had success at these games and isnt out to profit from our struggles. Our bankrolls are usually small and hard enough to build into profit so having to dish out monthly fees for training can be killer when results are hard to come by. I wouldnt expect anyone to bring me to the promised land at his own expense of time or materials but its got to be fair if u know what i mean.
    Nathan...you have been excellent at keeping this balance. My hope is you offer free as well as paid material that can be on par with what you ve done in the past. It cant be forgotten how helpful that can be in itself.
    I have huge respect for what you do and thats why I always look forward to reading your articles and follow yoir success with great admiration.
    Keep up the good work. And thanks for all you do!
    Rene emmell

    1. Thanks Rene I appreciate it! My "business model" has always been to help people first in a huge way again and again for free and then when you do finally offer something for sale, it basically sells itself. So you can always expect more of the same from me :)

  7. Hi! I'm looking forward to more great articles from you :)

    - Luigi Joson from Manila, Philippines

  8. This is an example of why you’re the best teacher out there for those of us who work hard at other jobs and don’t have all day to grind. I am EAGERLY looking forward to what you have to say about making the most of the limited time some of us have. Keep up the great work Nathan!

    1. Thanks Michael. I will definitely be covering this topic soon :)

  9. And if I can add one more suggestion?

    Watching you play online during a session would be pretty cool. But videos of you playing and putting your strategies to work involving tough spots to play would benefit me more. I seem to learn faster from watching than reading endless pages of stuff i have to interpret in my own view instead of seeing you do it personally.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Rene. I am going to be doing this for sure by getting back into Youtube soon and releasing a video course later this year.

    2. yes... definetly learnign from videos is infinitely better than from articles so I strongly agree with Rene

    3. Hello Nathan, i bought your book some time ago (maybe one or two years). I must confess, i didn´t work with it as much as i should have and am playing nearly break-even at NL2. My question is, the last two years the game hast become much more aggressiv at NL2. Would it help to follow your e-book however, or should there be some Change for applying the changes in the game?

    4. Hey Pascal,

      I haven't noticed any change in the aggression at NL2 in the last two years. I actually just played a bunch of NL2 on Stars the other day and it was the same old passive nitty regs and fish. So there is no need to change the strategy to beat them.

  10. Nathan,
    while I agree that the training sites that focus most (or all!) of their attention on high stakes strategies don't know who their customers are, I also feel (strongly) that the customers (or potential customers) don't know what's best for them.
    This is partly due to ignorance and also curiosity and over-ambition.
    Beginners are likely to think that these esoteric strategies are likely to help them and not realize that they are useless (or worse!) for the stakes/games they are playing in.
    Even something as straightforward as "balancing your range" is completely pointless against opponents who don't know what a range is and aren't even thinking about what you might have.
    Unless a player is fortunate enough to already have a big pile of cash, they are going to have to "start at the bottom". Actually, it's best that everyone starts at the bottom and learns the basics at a level where their mistakes are fairly cheap. While every level of poker needs players who are terrible (for that level), there is no need for YOU to be that player. Pay your dues; work your way up.
    We low level players, whether recreational or aspiring pros, need to stay humble and work on beating the games we play and not worry about what strategy would work best against Ivey, Polk, Philipp Gruissem & Fedor Holz.
    If Doug Polk's ongoing bankroll challenge taught anything, it's the importance of adjusting to the player pool you are in and playing with in your bankroll, NO MATTER HOW GOOD YOU ARE!


    1. Thanks for your thoughts ekw and I completely agree with you. This is a battle that I gave up trying to fight many years ago. People love to overthink everything in poker and it doesn't matter what you or I say. They will keep spending crazy amounts of time and money studying high level poker theory that often doesn't even work in the low limit games that they play in. I always figure that when they are finally ready to start actually winning, then they will come listen to somebody like me :)

  11. Wow really intresting results I didn't answer the survey but defiantly tilt for me is why I fail at poker. Seem to be ok so far this time round moving up to 5nl very soon. Keep up the good work

    1. Good job Matt hope the move up goes well! Thanks for reading.

  12. Willing to Play HU SnG's Looking good Prop are You Open to Play Hu SNG or HU cash with 35 percent given back let ME know . . . Much Love

  13. Good professional work , And an excellent pedagogy in passing information , But the recipient must understand some of the basics of the game , Before touching on the content , In order to receive interest.
    You are the model of coach who is looking for you a lot .
    The beginning of your career , And the difficulties she was exposed to , It is the reality that connects the majority of new players.
    Thank you very much, and excuse me for bad writing, I am using google traduction