I’d be a great poker player, if only …

by PokerAnon ~ March 10th, 2010. Filed under: General poker strategy, Instructional posts, Poker psychology, Poker theory.


“I’d be a great poker player, if only” … I had the bankroll to play higher levels … I wouldn’t get tilted and spew off my winnings … I had the time to play more hands … I had time to review my hands … I wouldn’t pay off the idiots who chase always chase their draws …

You’re only as good as, well, as good as you are. You’re not “a great player, except …“, you’re just a player that does some things well and other things not so well.

So, what defines a good player? And then, if someone has those abilities and characteristics, when do they go off them? For example, a good player is aggressive, but, maybe if they are tired they’ll play passively, or if they just had a fight with their girlfriend they’ll play too aggressively.

  1. Knowledge: Knows the basics; hands by position, odds and outs, implied odds, flop textures, putting opponent’s on ranges, equity against those ranges, variety of plays.
  2. Application of knowledge: Knows the hows and whens. Understands that sometimes the hands are secondary to reads, stack sizes, position. Knows when the situation is appropriate for plays like check-raising, continuation betting, semi-bluffing, bluffing, trapping.
  3. Flexible: Can adjust the application of knowledge to different situations such as buyin levels, table dynamics, reads. In some instances this supersedes the application of knowledge because there will be things that you never do at certain levels or against certain opponents but you usually do at other times.
  4. Stable: Doesn’t get thrown emotionally by bad beats, opponent aggression, a run of poor cards, pressure, variance. Is patient and confident that in the long run they will come out ahead. Is able to maintain their standards and quality of play consistently.
  5. Continuous learner: I laughed in my head when someone claimed this buzz-phrase in a job interview that I was giving simply because it gets overused and is often a meaningless claim. But when real, it is necessary. Over time one’s game will change and the opponents will also change so there is no such thing as remaining the same. Without striving to move forward, you inevitably slip backward.

I probably need 3) to a greater degree than most, or at least more than many players. That’s a function of me playing with different sized bankrolls over 4 different sites at the moment. It’s tough to maintain the concept of the players at all these different sites and levels and, as someone said to beginning players, playing too long at freerolls hinders can one’s development as a poker player. You can develop bad playing habits, and for me, trying to maintain that wide a range of player concepts is the difficult part. It gets strained further by videos and hand analysis of games at higher stakes than I play, resulting in the standard “outleveling” myself. I make plays or assume a range for my opponent that goes beyond where they are capable of doing or understanding. If I raise preflop, the flop comes K78 two tone, I bet and get raised, what are the chances that he’s being aggressive with a draw? Almost none. He either has a K or two pair, or sometimes A8/A7/QQ/JJ, once in a while AA. A set almost always gets slowplayed, no matter what the dangers of draws on the flop. That’s the kind of players that I’m normally up against.

It would be really cool, and worth a lot of money if Chris Ferguson had kept an honest blog or regular review of his progress and evaluation of his opponent’s and his own adjustments necessary when he did his $0 – $10,000 grind project. The information on adjustments, general opponent skills and traits and variance would potentially be invaluable.

But to get back to the traits, maintaining flexibility definitely decreases my stability. For that matter, some of the continuous learning also gets in the way of stability when I don’t move up in levels but continue to learn thought processes and plays for opponents who are much better than the ones that I generally face resulting in erratic play on my part, some FPS (Fancy Play Syndrome) and out leveling myself.

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