What Winning Players Don't Do: 4 Common Traits of Losing Poker Players
THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2014-08-24, by JTringerThere are certain things that successful players do, but also certain things they don't do. In order to discover what you should avoid, it can be helpful to examine losing poker players. The four traits in this article are often exhibited by bad players and you should take steps to remedy them if you see hints of them in your own play.
Have you ever noticed that the worst players tend to be the ones who brag about how good they are? There's a fine line between confidence and cockiness, and it's important to stay on the right side.
The main problem with having an ego at the poker table is that you can't learn; short term or long term. In an individual session, if you come to the table thinking you are automatically the best player, you won't scrutinize your opponents and pick up on their play style. Given that poker is a game of incomplete information, not looking to learn about your opponents is just shooting yourself in the foot.
The bigger issue is that you don't learn much in the long term either. Poker as a whole is an ever-evolving game. Winning players even a few years ago are now losing players unless they improved. If you have an inflated ego, you likely don't put much time into thinking critically about your game and trying to find mistakes to correct. This is a surefire way to get left in the dust no matter how much talent you have.
The solution: Be confident at the table, but know that there's always room for improvement. The only way to be successful in the long run playing poker is to continually work on your game, no matter what level you play at.
Emotion is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it's crucial for motivation and enjoyment while playing poker, but on the other hand, there are many negative emotions that can cause you to play poorly. Suffice to say, emotions are a necessary part of poker, but must be examined and controlled regularly.
Losing players often tend to be emotional. They get too excited by winning and frustrated or angry when they lose. This leads to one of two things: playing scared to avoid losing to avoid going on tilt, or chasing after pots to try and win, which leads to losing more and going on tilt. Either way, being emotional is not optimal for long term poker success.
The solution: Keep every hand or session in perspective. Winning a hand is nice, but one hand is not going to make or break your success. This way you lower your peaks, but also your lows, and can avoid going on tilt.
Striving to be the best is a good trait, but much different than being a perfectionist. A perfectionist is someone who needs everything to be done in a certain way, or to go in a certain way. As anyone who has played any poker could tell you, poker is not a predictable game.
The key problem that a perfectionist has is revealed when something goes wrong. To a perfectionist, losing a bit is essentially the same as losing a lot. In the end, it is considered losing, and not good enough.
So when a perfectionist loses a hand, or a few hands, the wheels often come off. Instead of trying to play their normal solid game, perfectionists are often the type of player who tries to force himself into pots to try and win. It's not hard to see that making poor decisions and playing a lot of pots is a bad idea, and a losing strategy.
The solution: Recognize that there is a ton of variance in poker, and that things go wrong. Even the best players make many mistakes, but they don't let one small mistake snowball into bigger ones.
Poker is a game of decisions. Every good decision you make helps you win, and every bad decision you make contributes to losing. You won't always make good decisions, but you can learn from the bad ones. Some players, however, are indecisive, and end up avoiding tough spots because they are afraid of making the wrong decision. This leads to stagnant growth and typically suboptimal play.
These types of losing indecisive players are typically thought of as doormats. If someone raises before them, they'll fold unless they get a great hand. Not only are they easy to play again since they won't resist unless they make a strong hand, but they also don't improve much. Most of your growth as a poker player comes from examining mistakes you made in tough situations and learning from them. If you are never in a tough spot, it's hard to learn.
The solution: If you are an indecisive player, address your fear of losing. Accept that you're going to lose pots, even big ones, if you are making good decisions overall. As long as you learn from mistakes, they are temporary, but if you also play indecisively, you'll get the same losing result over and over.
Not all losing players have all of these traits, and some winning players often have glimpses of some of these. If you have one of these traits and it's hurting your results, make it your top priority to correct and you'll soon see rapid improvement.
The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.
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