6 Secrets Rich Poker Pros Don't Want You to Know

6 Secrets I Learned From Rich Poker Pros

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

If you want to achieve success in any field, your best bet is to look for people who’ve been there, done that, then do your best to emulate them.

The same is true with poker. 

This article will show you 6 pieces of advice I’ve learned from the very best in this game, and how you can implement them into your own game to achieve extraordinary results.

There’s a lot of ground to cover on this one, so let’s get right into it.


1. You Need to Play Poker Against Weaker Players


You don’t need to be the best poker player in the world to succeed in this game. You only need to be the best player at the table you’re playing. 

In other words, the only way to beat this game over the long run is to play against weaker competition. 

If you’re the sixth best poker player in the world, and you go up against the top five players in the world, guess what? You’re still going to be a losing player. 

Some people are under the wrong impression that you should battle it out against players that have a similar skill level as you. This is only true to an extent. 

If you want to improve your game, you obviously want to challenge yourself to see where your skill level might be lacking. You can’t improve your game if you already know all the right answers. 

But here’s the rub: if you only play poker against players that are just as good or better than you, you WILL be a losing player, or a breakeven at best. 

Sure, you might develop your skills as a consequence, but it will come at the expense of your results. 

If you battle it out with the players with the same skill level as you, you’re essentially just trading money back and forth, minus the rake. 

At the end of the day, your poker success is measured in how much money you make, not the stakes you play. I’d much rather crush NL5 than be breakeven at NL100. 

Even the world class poker professionals don’t battle it out exclusively with other high stakes pros. They play poker tournaments with a bunch of recreational players because they know they have a significant skill edge over the entire player pool. 

And when they play cash games, they often have a “sponsor”, i.e. a rich whale that is more than happy to lose money for the pleasure of playing against the very best in the world.

By the way, check out Nathan's recent video on how to quickly spot a poker pro at your table.


Bottom line: Poker is a game of skill, and the only way to beat the game over the long run is to play in games in which you have a significant skill edge over your opponents.

This means you need to practice proper game selection appropriate to your skill level. 

There’s no place for ego here. It’s better to start at lower stakes and gradually work your way up, even though the money in play may seem trivial.

For much more, check out my popular article on the 15 proven ways to beat small stakes poker.


2. Success in Poker Takes Time


At a first glance, poker may seem as a great way to earn a quick buck with little to no effort. 

But the reality is completely different. 

In fact, poker is the opposite of a get rich quick scheme. It often takes years, and sometimes even decades to achieve truly remarkable results. 

When you see successful poker pros cashing in on a big tournament, you might be under the impression that all it takes to succeed in this game is to win a huge tournament, and you’re all set. 

Winning a poker tournament is arguably one of the “easiest” ways to make a significant amount of money from playing poker, but winning a single tournament does not equate to long term success in this game. 

Poker tournaments in particular have extremely variance dependent outcomes, and even world class pros can go months, even years without a significant cashout. 

So when you see your favourite poker pro cashing out in a huge tournament, what you’re seeing is the summit without the climb. 

None of the top class poker pros you see today didn’t get there overnight, and they didn’t get there because they got lucky. 

Sure, you can argue that winning a poker tournament is a matter of luck, and fair enough. 

It does take a particularly fortunate run of cards to win a tournament, but as mentioned, winning one tournament is hardly an accurate assessment of one’s playing abilities. 

A lot of aspiring poker pros have had great results early in their poker career, but have faded into obscurity after a while. 

That’s because they’ve wrongly attributed their results to their superior skills, when in fact they’ve just been on a heater. 

Everyone can run hot for a while. But it’s only after variance is accounted for can you be sure that your results are truly reflective of your skills, rather than a particularly fortunate run of cards.

The opposite is also true. If you aren’t getting the results you’re hoping for, know that it takes time to get there. 

As long as you keep working on improving your game and keep putting in enough volume, the results will follow. 

But it surely won’t happen overnight. A lot of players get discouraged when they realize how incredibly frustrating poker can be at times. 

Keep playing long enough, and you’ll encounter situations you can hardly believe are possible. 

The bad beats and suckouts never end, the deck can go cold for weeks and months on end, and you never ever seem to win a coinflip.
 
This is just too much to handle for most people, and no wonder. 

Nobody particularly enjoys losing money, especially in such horrendous fashion only poker can provide.
 
So if you’re in it for the money, you probably won’t have a good time at it. 

Now, all of this is not to say you can’t make decent money playing poker. 

If you follow the right strategy and put in enough effort, you can make a decent side income. 

But it won’t be easy, it won’t be straightforward, and it will most definitely take some time.


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3. Mental Game of Poker is Just as Important as the Technical Game Knowledge


Knowing the game inside and out is a prerequisite, but it’s certainly not all it takes to succeed in poker. 

Being familiar with the winning poker strategy is only a part of the equation. The other aspect that often gets overlooked is the mental game. 

Technical game is about knowing the correct strategy inside and out. Mental game is about persevering when that strategy doesn’t produce the results you’re hoping for.
 
If you know which cards to play in which position and how to play them, you will do far better than players who just play any random two cards and hope for the best. 

But following the right strategy doesn’t mean you’re going to win every time. 

It’s one thing to make mistakes and lose, but in poker, sometimes you can do everything right and still lose. 

And it will keep happening over and over again.
 
Poker is a never ending swing of ups and downs in your results, and the best you can hope for is to have more ups than downs over the long run. 

The technical term for these swings by the way is called variance, and it’s something a lot of people simply can’t get past.

I wrote an entire article on how to use a Stoic philosophical system in order to handle variance better. And many people told me this helped them tremendously in handling poker variance.

Bottom Line Though:

If you play poker for any prolonged period of time, you will inevitably encounter a soul-crushing downswing. 

You’ll be card dead for days or weeks, you won’t win a coinflip to save your life, and your flush draws will never seem to complete. 

The good news is, these downswings happen to everyone, and in a way, they’re a great equalizer. In poker, everyone gets screwed in a spectacular fashion sooner or later.

The most successful poker players, therefore, are not the ones who are the luckiest, and not even the most talented ones, but the ones who can handle adversity and keep playing their best regardless of how terribly they’re running.

In fact, as Nathan discusses in a recent video, this is just one of 5 signs that you are better at poker than most people.


That’s because they already know they’re the most talented players even before they sit down to play. They know that as long as they keep playing their best, losing is only temporary. 

When amateur poker players lose due to variance (or bad luck, if you will), they often feel slighted and or cheated, and they feel like they somehow don’t deserve it. 

Professional poker players, on the other hand, know that variance is an integral part of the game, and it’s what makes poker profitable in the first place. 

Since they can’t control variance, they embrace it. When they run bad, they don’t curse their bad luck, but see it as an opportunity to showcase their mental toughness. 

They know they’ll react better to bad beats and suckouts than the vast majority of other players, and they’ll therefore lose less money than other players would in the similar position. 

For example, let’s say you lost three buyins due to bad variance. You get frustrated, start spewing chips left and right, and you lose two additional buyins until you rage quit and swear you won’t even bother with poker anymore. 

A professional poker player loses three buyins, realizes he played perfectly and variance had a role in the negative outcome. He shrugs his shoulders and keeps playing his A game.

In this example, who has a better chance of breaking even in a session or even ending up having a winning session? 

Obviously the player that keeps their cool despite the outcome. Losing some money in poker is inevitable. Losing more than necessary due to anger, frustration, desperation etc. can, and should be avoided.

All of this is not to say that all professional poker players are zen masters or have some secret hack to stop tilting immediately. 

They may have some techniques in place, or they may practice mindfulness, meditation, yoga or what have you, but their secret to solving tilting problems is actually a lot simpler. 

Their secret to stop tilting is simply the fact that they know that they are the best player at their table. 

Think of it this way. If Lebron James were to play a pick up game against a bunch of amateurs, would he get pissed if the opposing team took the lead? 

He wouldn’t. It’s freaking Lebron James we’re talking about. In fact, he would welcome the challenge and then proceed to demolish them.

Phil Ivey also doesn’t lose his marbles when he gets beaten by an amateur poker player. He just shrugs it off and keeps playing his A game.

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4. Think in Big Blinds Instead of Money Won or Lost


When playing poker, it’s easy to get caught up in your day-to-day results, whether they are positive or negative. 

Many people for example will try to employ some "system" to turn $100 into $10000 at the poker tables.

When you’re running well, you can’t help trying to calculate your hourly rate, and think about how much time it will take you to retire early with your poker winnings. 

You think it’s just a matter of time before you jump stakes, and you even consider going pro or semi pro. 

Then, when variance inevitably swings the other way, you’re left dumbfounded, and your confidence gets shattered along with your game. 

The losses keep piling up, the deck goes cold for weeks or months, and you can’t win a hand to save your life. 

Your confidence swings wildly along with your results, and at the end of the day, you feel like you’re just spinning in circles without making any progress at all.

We’ve all been there. When you’re winning, poker seems like an easy game, and you can just sit down and print money. 

When you’re losing, it’s a living nightmare. No matter what you do, your stack just keeps melting away. 

It’s normal to be affected by your poker results. After all, how much money you win or lose is how you measure your success in this game. 

But the fact is, how much you win or lose day to day is not entirely in your control. All you can do is make logically sound decisions, play to the best of your abilities and hope for the best.

Since you can’t control the outcome of any given hand or session,  it may be a better idea to change your perspective on winning or losing.

In other words, it might be wise to detach yourself from short term results entirely. 

To do that, you should change the currency in which you view your results. 

Instead of thinking about the amount of dollars won or lost, think about the long term expected value of each of your plays. 

If you make plays with positive expected value, you win, and if you make plays with negative expected value, you lose.

Don’t think about the actual outcome of the hand, because you can’t control it anyway, so why get worked up about it? Instead, think about the expected value.


Example Hand


Here’s an example to illustrate the point.

Effective stack size: 100 BB

You are dealt pocket AA♣, Villain open-raises, you 3-bet, villain 4-bet shoves all in. You call.

Villain shows pocket JJ

The board runout:

K938J

Tough luck for you. 

When things like this happen, it’s normal to get upset and frustrated, especially when they keep happening over and over again. 

In this situation, you might say something like: 

I just lost $100, and I should have won. This is so unfair!

Technically true, but not really helpful. What actually happened is you’ve put your money in with a mathematical advantage, but that edge didn’t manifest this time. 

You’ve still made the right play. In this spot, your hand has roughly 82% equity. If you keep putting your money in the same way over and over again, you will win $82 on average. 

The fact that you lost in this one instant is irrelevant. In other words, you lost $100 in reality, but you’ve made money in expected value.

This is also known as Sklansky bucks, named after the legendary David Sklansky. 

If you want to know more about Sklansky bucks and other ways to deal with poker variance, check out this article of mine.

This may seem like mental gymnastics to make peace with losing money, and fair enough. 

You still lost money, and that sucks. But poker is a game that is played over many iterations, not a single hand. 

Over a big enough sample size, how much you expect to earn and how much you actually earn will even out. 

Sometimes you’ll win more than you expect, and sometimes you’ll lose more than you expect, but it all evens out eventually. 

Knowing that, it doesn’t really make any sense getting upset over individual hand results. 

If you’re still having trouble with coming to terms with it, don’t think about it as money lost. 

Instead, think about the lost big blinds. Instead of saying: I just lost $100, say: I just lost one hundred big blinds. 

This also sounds like mental gymnastics, but it works. Think about your chips as tokens that allow you to play the game, not the actual money that you use to buy groceries and pay the bills.

Doing this allows you to detach from negative emotions you would otherwise feel when losing money, so you can keep playing your best no matter how you’re running from session to session.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care at all about how much money you’re losing, of course. 

You should still practice proper bankroll management and game selection, and only play with money you’re comfortable with losing. 


5. You Don’t Have it All Figured Out


There is one defining characteristic virtually all successful poker pros have: they continually work to improve their game. 

Even at the very top of their field, they don’t get complacent. 

This mindset of constant improvement is what enabled them to get to the top in the first place. 

Beneath the surface, poker is an extremely complex game, and it takes a lifetime to master. There is always something new to learn, and the strategies are constantly evolving. 

Winning poker strategy today is different than it was 10 or 20 years ago, and chances are, it will keep evolving. 

If you want to achieve long term success in this game, you need to keep up with the trends. 
Learning the fundamental winning strategy is only the beginning, not the end goal of your poker journey. 

After studying poker strategy for a while, a lot of players get the wrong impression that they figured it all out. 

They just need to put in enough volume and it will be just a matter of time before they reach the high stakes and retire early with their poker winnings. 

It obviously doesn’t work that way, though. 

You may have studied poker a bit, read a couple of articles and/or books, but guess what? So did everyone else that takes the game even remotely seriously. 

For example, they are studying and learning from all the latest advanced poker training sites.

Poker today is a lot more competitive than it used to be, even at the very lowest stakes. Knowing to “just play tight” is not enough to crush the game beyond belief anymore.

All the successful poker pros are acutely aware of this, so they keep expanding their knowledge, even though their understanding of the game is already vastly superior compared to the overall player pool. 

They know that they don’t have it all figured out. If you think you do, you can’t learn anything new by definition. It takes a certain amount of humility to look at your game objectively and try to fix your leaks. 

Everyone has leaks in their game, poker pros included. What separates them from the amateurs, though, is they’ve become expert in identifying their leaks and working on fixing them.

If you want to fix leaks in your poker game, the first step is to actually identify them. 

If you play poker online, you can use a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4 to quickly identify your leaks.

Poker Tracker 4 has a feature called “leak tracker” that tells you exactly where your stats fall out of norm for winning poker players. 

This means that guesswork is completely out of the equation. The program tells you what to work on and where you’re bleeding money.

This is only one of the advantages of using hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4. It’s an indispensable learning tool used by professional and amateur poker players alike. 

If you are serious about improving your poker game, you should at least try out the free trial of PokerTracker 4

With all the information you can get on your game (and your opponents’ game as well), even the full version will quickly pay itself off multiple times over.


6. It’s Not About the Money


A lot of players are drawn to poker for the prospect of making a quick buck. 

But anyone who has played poker for an extended period of time knows that making money from poker is hardly a reliable source of income. 

In fact, the vast majority of poker players actually lose money over the long run, and only a select few actually manage to make a profit

And even those that do, don’t always manage to do it consistently. That’s because poker variance plays a huge role in your short term results. 

This is especially true in tournament poker. Even professional poker players can go months, if not years, without a significant cashout. 

So earning a living from playing cards exclusively is just not a feasible option for the vast majority of people. 

This doesn’t mean playing poker can’t be lucrative, though. It can be a great way to boost your income while doing something you actually enjoy. 

It won’t be a walk in the park, but it can be done if you follow the right strategy.

With all that being said, the most successful poker pros aren’t really in it for the money. 

After you reach a certain level of success, however you wish to define it, extra digits in your bank account don’t really contribute to your overall life satisfaction. 

Think of it this way. Making your first million dollars could mean life changing money. But if you already have, say, 10 million dollars, one extra million won’t be as impactful.

All of this is not to say that money isn’t important, because obviously it is. It just means that after a certain threshold (i.e. being able to pay the bills and live comfortably without having to worry about money), additional income doesn’t necessarily improve your overall wellbeing. 

The most successful poker pros didn’t get into the game because they wanted to get filthy rich (for the most part). 

There are obviously more lucrative and far less ludicrous ways to go about it if that’s your primary motivation. 

Instead, they had a deep passion for the game, and they developed their skillset because they wanted to compete at the highest level. 

Getting rich, while a nice added benefit, was a secondary concern for them. 

For this reason, you can still see your favourite pros play and enjoy the game. They aren’t at the tables because they have bills to pay. They’re there because it’s their favourite thing in the world.

Making money from doing something you enjoy is great. But trying to enjoy something because you can make money from it doesn’t work.

See my popular 21 Texas Holdem tips the pros don't want you to know for much more on this.


6 Secrets I Learned From Rich Poker Pros - Summary


You don't have to spend years and years studying high level advanced poker training courses or high level poker strategy books to get real results in poker these days.

Instead, you just need to know the simple secrets used by today's top pros.

To sum up, here 6 pieces of advice from I’ve learned from the very best in the game, in no particular order of importance:

1. The only way to win at poker is to play against weaker competition. 

There’s no honour and no point in battling it out against players with the same skill level as you. If you want to win, you need to have a skill edge over your competition.

 This means leaving your ego at the door, and only playing in games you have a reasonable chance of beating.

2. Success in poker takes time.

Poker is the opposite of a get rich quick scheme. Watching poker pros would make you believe it’s easy money, but it only seems easy for them because they’ve spent years and decades honing their skills to perfection. 

If you aren’t already achieving results you’re hoping for, keep at it, because it always takes time to get there.

3. Don’t forget to work on your mental game

Knowing the right poker strategy is not all it takes to win in this game. Persevering and having discipline even when that strategy is not producing the results you’re hoping for is just as important. 

The good news is, by improving your technical game knowledge, you’ll also improve your mental game, because you’ll know that losing is only temporary as long as you keep playing your best.

4. Think in big blinds.

Instead of thinking about money you won or lost, think about the expected value of each of your plays. Over the long run, how much money you win or lose will be directly correlated with the EV of your plays, regardless of the outcomes of the individual hands.

Bonus tip: if you play poker online, set your stack to display big blinds instead of dollars. This will help you think about the EV of your plays, instead of looking at it as actual money.

5. You don’t have it all figured out.

The most successful poker pros didn’t get there by thinking they already know everything there is to know about poker. Instead, they keep learning and expanding their knowledge, even though they’re already the best players around. 

If you already think you know everything, you can’t learn anything new by definition. 

6. It’s not about the money.

Paradoxically, the richest poker pros aren’t really in it for the money. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money, but if that’s your primary concern, you’re better off looking elsewhere. 

Whether you’re a winning or a losing player, enjoy the game, because being able to do something you enjoy and potentially win some money here and there is a win in and of itself.

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.

6 Secrets I Learned From Rich Poker Pros