5 Signs You Are Better At Poker Than Most People

5 Signs You Are Better At Poker Than Most People

This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Fran Ferlan.

There are a ton of poker articles on improving your game, fixing your leaks, listicles of things you're doing wrong and so on and so forth.

There's nothing wrong with this type of content, and trying to improve your game is nothing but laudable, but always reading up on things you're doing wrong can lead you to the conclusion that you actually suck at poker, while the reality is the exact opposite.

So today, we're going to cover 5 signs you might actually be better at poker than most people. If you're reading articles like these and work on improving your game, that's already a good sign, so keep reading.


1. You Don't Pay Attention to Short Term Results


If you know that poker is all about the long run, chances are that you are better at poker than most other players. 

A lot of amateur poker players have trouble dealing with the constant ups and downs in their poker results. 

Knowing the fundamentals of winning poker strategy is one thing, but to endure when that strategy isn't producing the results you're hoping for is an entirely different story. 

You can read thousands of articles on all the cutting edge poker strategies, read a bunch of books, and know all there is to know about optimal GTO strategy, but all of this still doesn't guarantee that you'll be succesful in poker. 

All the theoretical knowledge in the world isn't going to help you much if you can't apply it consistently despite the negative results.

If you've already played poker for a while, you know how incredibly brutal it can be at times. When you play poker, there's no shortage of little disasters that keep coming at you day in and day out.
 
Sometimes it can even feel like the better you play, the worse results you're getting. 

Poker variance can be brutal at times, and even intermediate or professional poker players sometimes have a hard time to truly come to terms with it. 

Doing everything right and seemingly getting punished for it over and over again is enough to make almost everybody just throw in the towel. 

But as all great poker players know, poker is a game that's played over many iterations over long periods of time. 

What happens day to day, week to week, or even month to month is irrelevant.

When you're losing, it feels like the losing never stops, and you can't win a hand to save your life. 

But that's just an illusion. Great poker players know that as long as they keep playing their best, losing is only temporary. 

The problem is, it's really hard to play your best when you keep losing in spectacular fashion over and over again.

Everyone can play great when the deck is hitting them in the face. It's a different thing entirely to play your best when you keep getting your ass handed to you.

Since we're all so preoccupied with what's happening to us RIGHT NOW, it's easy to lose track of the big picture. That's why the most successful poker players don't even pay attention to their short term results. 

Since you can't control how you're running session to session, why would you even waste your mental and emotional resources by getting worked up about it?

If you know you're beating your current limit over a big enough sample size, if you're sufficiently bankrolled for the stakes you're playing, and you're working to improve your game off the felt, it doesn't matter how you're running day to day.

Instead of wasting their energy on lamenting on their bad luck, the best poker player focus on bringing their A game every time they sit down to play.

If you're worrying how you're running day to day, you're either:

A) not sufficiently bankrolled for the stakes you're playing

B) you're playing in games beyond your skill limit, or

C) you have an underlying mental game issue you need to address.

If none of the above applies to you, there's no reason whatsoever to fret about your short term results.

As long as you play poker, there will be ups and downs in your graph, but the only thing that matters at the end of the day is the long term trajectory of the said graph. 

By the way, check out Nathan's video on what winning players do and losing players don't to delve deeper into the topic.


2. You Play The Player, Not The Cards


Poker is a game played against other players. If you play against players over which you have a significant skill edge, you can expect to do fairly well over the long run. 

But since poker is a game of incomplete information, it is up to you to figure out where exactly this edge lies. It is one thing to know the basic poker strategy, but to recognize weaknesses in your opponent's game is a different story. 

Most beginner poker players just play their card and hope for the best. But the truly great players know that their cards are often completely irrelevant. 

In other words, they play the player, not the cards. They know the fundamental winning poker strategy inside and out, but their knowledge doesn't stop there. 

They can also recognize in which areas their opponents deviate from the norm, and they adjust accordingly. 

This means they can often have a winning session even without a particularly fortunate run of cards. 

If you are constantly looking for edges and exploits in your opponent's game, chances are that you are a better poker player than most. 

That's because most people just play poker on autopilot, so to speak. 

They see their hole cards, they fold them if they don't like them, and play them a certain way if they do. When their opponent takes a certain action, they respond in accordance to their hand strength. 

In other words, they play a reactionary game. They only take a certain piece of information into account once they encounter it. 

Truly great poker players, on the other hand, take all the contingencies into account beforehand. 

In other words, they think proactively.

For example, say you are dealt a certain hand in an x table position. An amateur poker player will think about their hole cards and their table position, consider the previous action, then decide whether to fold, call, or raise.

A professional poker player, on the other hand, will consider the following factors:

Their table position, the previous action, players left to act, the type of players they're up against, their perceived ranges from a certain table position, the effective stack sizes, stack-to-pot ratio, pot odds, implied odds, leaks and potential exploits in their opponents game, their previous history with certain players, the metagame, their post flop plan (i.e. how to proceed if their hand hits or misses the flop), and finally, their hole cards.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it goes to show that your hole cards are only one of the factors to consider, and it's certainly not the most important one to guide your decisions. 

Let's say you have a very specific read on your opponent. For example, they fold 90% of their hands when they are playing from the big blind. 

Since they don't defend their blinds nearly as often as they should, you can profitably steal their blinds with virtually any two cards. 

If they won't adjust accordingly, your hand strength is totally irrelevant. You can steal their blinds while holding two napkins in your hand.

If you play poker online, you can get this kind of reads by using a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4. It comes with a built-in heads-up display (HUD) that shows you your opponents' stats in real time. 

You can choose which stats you want displayed on your screen. For example, you can see how often your opponents defend their blinds by using the fold to steal (FTS) stats, or how often they fold to continuation bets by using the fold to c-bet (FCB) stat.

Check out this article for more info about the best poker software used by the pros to learn more.

Anyway, truly great poker players have some sort of a mental checklist in place like the one outlined to make the most informed decisions possible. 

As you can see, this goes way beyond just thinking like: I like my hand somewhat, I call, or I like my hand a lot, I raise.

As mentioned, poker is a game of incomplete information, and the player with the informational advantage will usually come out on top.

Bottom line: truly great poker players don't rely solely on their hole cards to win. 

Instead, they use their technical game knowledge and reads on their opponents to make informed, logical decisions at all times.


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3. You Don't Take Bad Beats Personally


One of the hardest challenges virtually all poker players face is dealing with the never ending swings in fortune that are part and parcel of poker. 

There's really not many games in which a more skilled player has to lose as often and as terribly as in poker. It's clearly frustrating to seemingly do everything right but still lose in a spectacular fashion.

Poker is so incredibly brutal at times that some players come to the conclusion that the game is somehow rigged against them

This kind of thinking is mostly prevalent in online poker, where players report to suffer a disproportionate number of bad beats, coolers, suckouts and so on. 

But in reality, this has much more to do with the incredible pace of online poker compared to brick and mortar casinos, rather than the rigged RNG. 

While you can only play about 30 hands per hour live, you can play 5 times as many hands online in the same time span (and that's without multitabling. 5 times more hands equals 5 times more bad beats. 

It's simple math, not a conspiracy. 

Yet, a lot of poker players are quick to ascribe their bad results to scammy poker sites and/or the inadequacies of their opponents.

This is honestly one of the biggest lies you've been told about how to win at poker...


Which is perpetuated by those who would rather blame their lack of success on their "bad luck", then take the simple steps to improve their game.

Some even go so far to assume that there's no point in playing against recreational players at all, because they play so erratically and without logic, so you can't predict anything about their game.

What's worse, they seem to get rewarded for their crazy plays in the worst possible times.

This line of reasoning is obviously faulty. 

Playing against weaker competition is clearly more profitable than playing against players that actually know what they're doing. 

Sure, it can be frustrating at times, but capitalizing on the numerous mistakes they're bound to make is what winning poker is all about.
 
The fact that they seem to constantly get lucky against you is irrelevant. If you keep putting your money in with a mathematical advantage, you're going to do far better than players who just do whatever and hope for the best. 

After all, good players are usually the ones to suffer the bad beats, not the bad players. 

If a weaker players outdraws you, it simply means you put your money in with a mathematical advantage, but that edge didn't manifest in this particular instance. So if you suffer a bad beat, it means that you actually made the right play. 

This might sound like mental gymnastics to justify losing, and fair enough. You still lost money, and that sucks. Nobody particularly enjoys losing money, especially when it seems unjustified.

But the fact remains is that winning poker is all about making rational decisions despite the outcome, as well as avoiding mistakes and capitalizing on the mistakes of your opponents.

Just because you win a hand, it doesn't mean you played it correctly. Just because you lost a hand, it doesn't mean you did anything wrong. 

The players that understand this don't take it personally when they lose despite being a clear favourite. 

While annoying, they know situations like these are bound to happen over and over again. 

So instead of getting worked up about them, they simply shrug it off and keep playing their best.

Even better, when they get a bad beat, they use it as an opportunity to learn something about their opponents, i.e. they look for leaks in their game. 

They view the money lost not as a tragedy, but the price they pay for a piece of information.

This is also how professional poker players think about the game. 


4. You Invest in Your Poker Knowledge


Poker is a game of skill, and like any other skill, you get better at it with practice. But not any practice will do. Only deliberate practice counts. 

This means you're actively trying to improve a certain aspect of your game and you have a way of measuring your progress in a quantifiable way. 

Since short term poker results aren't the most reliable sign of your expertise, it's better to focus on other aspects of your game that you actually do have control over. 

For example, say you want to be more aggressive in your post flop play. You can see whether or not you're improving in this regard by tracking your flop and turn c-betting frequency.

(A c-bet, or a continuation bet, is a bet made by the previous street's aggressor).

If you see your c-betting frequency increasing over a significant sample size, that's a good sign you've improved your postflop aggression.

good poker player

Focusing more on specific aspects of your game that you can improve rather than measuring your success exclusively in money won or lost is the hallmark of successful poker players.

Working on improving your game means you're taking the game seriously, and if you do that, you're already way ahead of a lot of players who just play for fun and don't really care about improving. 

In fact, a lot of them don't even see the point in doing so because they think poker is nothing more than a game of luck.

This is obviously not the case. While poker does have a short term luck element involved, over the long run, the players who take time to develop their skills will fare far better than those that don't.

The most successful poker players view poker as a business. If you want to achieve long term success in this game, you need to view yourself as the CEO. 

You decide which games to play, when to play them, and how to play them. You also need to manage your inventory (i.e. your bankroll), set realistic goals for your business, keep track of your expenses and so on. 

Looking at it from this perspective allows you to detach from negative short term results, and helps you to not take losses personally. You simply see every pot won as revenue, and every pot lost as expenses of doing business. 

By the way, check out how business savvines can be transferred to the felt by taking advice from one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time here.

This way, you won't feel the need to berate your "customers" aka the fish when they make some asinine play and suckout on you. 

You'll simply smile knowing that you've just met your new customer.

In order for your poker business to sustain itself and thrive, you need to maintain and develop your competitive edge. 

Poker is an incredibly competitive endeavour, and the only way to succeed in it is to constantly improve your poker knowledge. Every business needs investments to set up its operations, and poker is no different. 

There are a variety of ways to improve your poker knowledge: reading articles such as this one, watching videos, reading books, working with a coach and so on.

Which method you decide to use depends mainly on your personal preferences and the goals you wish to achieve. 

Watching Youtube videos, for example, is a great and convenient way to learn just about anything, but it can take a while to find what you're actually looking for, and there's often a variety of mixed information. 

Hiring a poker coach is an extremely efficient option to improve your game, but it can be cost prohibitive to a lot of people.

At the end of the day, whichever method you choose to improve your knowledge, you're already ahead of the curve, because most players just don't bother with it in the first place.

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5. You Have Realistic Goals


A lot of players are attracted to poker for the prospect of making an easy buck. But if you've played poker for some time, you know that making money consistently by playing cards is anything but easy. 

In fact, most people actually lose money playing poker over the long run, and very few players are actually able to make a significant amount of money. 

After the initial enthusiasm about the seemingly easy money, a lot of players get discouraged when they realize their bankroll is actually declining over time. 

People who get into poker for the prospect of making a ton of money are in for a bitter disappointment. 

This is not to say that it's impossible to make decent money playing poker, of course. Some people managed to do it, and it's certainly possible with the right amount of effort. 

The problem is, it takes a lot more effort than people expect. Reading a few books on poker, watching a couple of videos or reading a few articles is great to improve your poker knowledge, but it's certainly not all it takes to crush the game beyond belief. 

If you want to make a lot of money from poker, it's not enough to be merely a decent player. You have to CRUSH the game. 

And in order to do that, you need to exert a lot more effort beyond merely reading a few articles here and there.

At the end of the day, your poker results will be directly correlated with the amount of effort you're willing to put in. 

And the fact is, most people just aren't willing or able to put in the amount of effort required to get truly remarkable results. 

If you truly want to excel in this game, not only do you need to be familiar with all the advanced poker strategies, you also need to put in an insane amount of volume, practice game and table selection  religiously, adhere to a strict bankroll management, study and fix your leaks off the felt (nobody particularly enjoys studying, not even poker related material), manage your emotions and tilt problems and so on.

You'll probably need to invest in advanced poker courses and/or poker software, or even hire a coach to take your game to the next level.

By the way, check out this article on the best poker software the pros use to crush their competition.

Bottom line: making a killing from poker requires way more effort (and time) than merely playing a couple of hours on weekend with a beer in hand.

With all that said, it's important to have realistic expectations from this game if you want to succeed in it, regardless of how you define success in the first place. 

A lot of players have unrealistic expectations on how much money they could potentially make, without considering what it actually takes to get there. 

You don't need to be a full time pro to make decent money from poker. But you also won't make any progress if you just play whenever you feel like it, without a clear goal in mind. 

It doesn't need (and it shouldn't) be a monetary goal like: I'll make an x amount of money in a y period of time. 

These are results oriented goals, and they don't work because how much you earn over a small sample size is simply beyond your control. 

A better goal would be: I will play an x amount of hands in a y period of time with a positive winrate, while working on improving my light c-betting frequency.

The latter goal is more defined, within your control, and it gives you a clear direction for improvement. 

The less ambiguous your goal, the more likely you are to achieve it. 

Most people don't have poker goals, but poker wishes. Things like: I'd like to play the high stakes, win a certain tournament, or I'd like to quit my job and play poker full time. 

These aren't necessarily bad goals, but without a plan they remain just wishful thinking. 

Wherever you are in your poker journey at this point, if you set realistic goals for where you want your game to be some time in the future, you're doing it better than most people. 

People set goals for themselves in all other aspects of their lives, be it their careers, relationships, health, you name it. Poker shouldn't be any different. 

If you only play poker because you enjoy it and play for the sake of it, that's great. Not everyone has the ambition to become a full time card player, and thank God for that. 

But if you only play poker recreationally and you're thinking or retiring early with your poker winnings, you might need to adjust either:

a) your goals or 

b) your behaviour (i.e. take the game more seriously.

Bottom line: regardless of what your ambition is with poker, you need to act in accordance with it. 

If you just play recreationally, have fun and don't worry about it. 

Just don't expect to become a poker millionaire that way. 

If you have greater ambitions, make a plan, stick with it, and get to work.
 

5 Signs You Are Better at Poker Than Most People - Summary


To sum up, here are 5 signs you are probably better at poker than most players, in no particular order of importance:

1. You don’t pay attention to short term results.

Success in poker takes time, and you know that there will be ups and downs in your poker results. You don’t fret about how you’re running day to day or week to week, because you know that variance plays a significant role in your short term results.

2. You play the player, not the cards.

Average poker players play the cards they’re dealt to the best of their abilities. Truly great poker players know that the cards they’re dealt are only a part of the equation. They constantly look for leaks and exploits in their opponent’s game to maximize their edge, regardless of the cards they’re dealt.

3. You don’t take bad beats personally.

Poker can be brutal at times, and nobody particularly enjoys losing money, especially when it feels “undeserved”. A lot of players lament their bad luck, and it doesn’t take much for their game to go completely off the rails if they experience a suckout or two. 

Great poker players, on the other hand, know that losing occasionaly to an inferior competition is what makes poker profitable in the first place. When they get a bad beat, they simply shrug it off, because they know it’s an inevitable part of the game.

4. You invest in your poker knowledge.

The best poker players approach the game as a business. They’re here to make money, and at the end of the day, their success or failure is measured in dollars won or lost. In order for your poker business to thrive, you need to invest in your competitive edge.

Investing in your knowledge means you’re taking the game seriously, and it’s bound to reflect in your poker results.

5. You have realistic goals.

A lot of people view poker as a quick way to make an easy buck, but in reality, it’s anything but. While you probably won’t get filthy rich from poker, there’s no reason you can’t make decent money from it.

As long as you have a realistic plan and the discipline to execute it, there’s nothing stopping you from reaching any milestone you set out to achieve. 

It won’t be easy, but it will definitely be worth it.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $1000+ per month in small stakes games, get a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

5 Signs You Are Better at Poker Than Most People