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How to Win at Poker | Good Player vs Winning Player

7,345 Views on 6/10/15

Learn how to win at poker and more importantly, be a good player, as a winning player is not always a good player.

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Winning Player

We’ve often heard it said that poker is easy to learn but takes a lifetime to master. It may sound a little cliché, but for the most part it’s true. It doesn’t necessarily take that long to reach a reasonable level of proficiency at the game, but mastery takes something completely different. 

So what is it that sets apart the good players from the players who are killing the tables day after day? Naturally there is no magic formula, and the bottom line is that it takes months or even years of hard work and dedication. Let’s consider a few of the things that sets winning players apart from the rest.

Love of the Game

Wayne Rooney

There is a really strong correlation here. The players who love the game are generally the players that succeed.

People get involved with poker for a wide variety of different reasons. For some it’s a nice way to relax, for others it’s viewed as a way to make money fast, a little akin to a get-rich-quick scheme.

Here’s the thing. Those of you who are in it purely for the money are probably not going to make it. You are probably going to be quitting as soon as you meet the smallest amount of resistance. Why? Because the way you are defining success is going to hold you back.

If we view success as “making a ton of money”, then on those days where we break-even or lose, it’s going to feel like an absolute failure. We’ll struggle to see why we play the game in the first place. After all, we are in it for the money, and we are currently making none, so what’s the point of forcing ourselves through long and tiring grind sessions.
But those that love the game of poker define success in a different way. They define success by constantly finding ways to improve. It doesn’t matter if they are down 10 buyins on a particular day so long as they have learnt something about how the game works and how they can do better.
I’ve seen this so much. 9 times out of 10, the guys who love the game are in it for the long haul and will often succeed. The guys who are in it for the money are going to be gone faster than you can say “downswing”.

Working on Your Game

Work Hard

This should be somewhat obvious. If we want to be one of the game’s elite, we need to work very hard. However for many players it doesn’t happen for a couple of reasons.
  • 1) Don’t have the motivation to work on their game
  • 2) Don’t understand how to work on their game
If you’ve already established that you are in the game for the pure love of it, then the motivation will come easily for you. If you don’t have the motivation to work on your game then perhaps you should strongly evaluate why you are playing. Maybe it is the right time for you to quit. Even if you are in the game purely for the money, you will need to analyse why that is not motivation enough for you currently and establish whether poker really is the best life choice for you. Remember, the road is tough, only the elite will make it big.

PokerVIP CoachingProblem number 2 is far more common. Perhaps you are familiar with the feeling of sitting down in front of your computer with the intention to “work on your game”, before quickly realising that you have absolutely no clue what to do. Perhaps you may even fire up a few training videos but don’t really gain the full impact of them because you don’t feel fully involved. Passively watching a training video without really paying that much attention is an extremely common thing that poker players do. It’s not going to help you, not even in the slightest.
Trying to work on our entire poker game at once just isn’t going to be practical. Poker is far too complex and there is way too much information for us to absorb all in one go.
The way that successful players work on their game is by breaking it down into its smallest components and working on them one by one. We are not going to talk about this in depth here, but if you feel that working on your game is a problem for you then it’s recommended that you check out the article “Guide for Improving Your Poker Game” on PokerVIP.

Don’t be a Sheep


Have you ever watched a few different training videos and found that the information is completely contradictory? Perhaps one coach tells you to cbet in a certain spot while another insists that it’s terrible.

Shark ChipWhat do the majority of players do here? They remain confused, forever unsure about the best play until someone else comes along and sheds light on the situation for them. What do the elite players do? They set about analysing the situation for themselves in depth and arriving at their own personal conclusion. They can categorically state that they think coach A is wrong for x, y and z reasons.

In other words, the elite players think for themselves. They are not sheep that blindly follow what other people tell them. This is absolutely crucial in the world of poker, because there is a decent chance that over 50% of the advice you receive will be bad advice. It’s down to us to filter the bad information from the good. If we are not capable of doing this then we may as well quit now, or resign ourselves to the fact that we are forever going to be just an average poker player. 

So when an average player watches a training video, he blindly sucks everything in...
“I don’t really see how that is true, but this guy is a respected coach, so what he is telling me must be true”.
The elite player will watch a training video and think...
“That’s rubbish. I don’t care whether this guy is a respected coach, this is clearly not the strongest line. I have analysed the spot using various software and can pretty much guarantee that my line is stronger”.

As a result, the elite players think outside the box and come up with lines and strategies that the average player has never even considered. In fact the average player will continue oblivious to these advanced strategies until someone points it out to them in a training video.

Mental Resilience


Poker is not for the weak-minded. There is a great documentary that you can find on Youtube. Search for “class 234”. It’s a documentary about the training process that navy SEALs go through in order to make it as part of one of the most elite military forces in the entire world.
Watch it, and then you will know what poker takes in terms of mental resilience. Poker is tough, and if you want to make it, you are going to need to be tough also.
There is no point in sugar-coating this. Most people don’t have what it takes. And we don’t necessarily mean that some people are born with it and some people aren’t. It’s a skill that can be learned like any other. But at some point in your career you are going to go through a low that you never thought was possible. The only thing going through your mind will be how much you hate the game and how much you want to quit.

To keep the clichés rolling, it’s often said that the quality of a poker player is not defined by how he performs on good days but how he performs on bad days. It’s not that hard to have a great mindset when everything is going well. But when the going gets really tough, now we get an opportunity to find out what we are made of.


business London Skyline

Sometimes we forget that there is so much more to poker than just what happens at the tables. Throughout our poker career we will inevitably be involved in various off-table decisions which can in some cases make or break a player.
This can include activities such as staking, being staked, hiring a coach, deciding which limits to play, organizing our grinding schedule, sorting out bankroll management, selecting computer hardware for our grind station.
We could be the world’s greatest player but if we neglect the business side of things we are not going anywhere. There are guys with a lot of innate talent who are really doing themselves a huge injustice. Here are some examples.
  • Money TagGenius poker player who is playing from the world’s oldest computer and doesn’t know anything about tracking software or HUDs.
  • Genius poker player who has never really grasped the idea of bankroll management and has a gambling problem.
  • Genius poker player who is very lazy and ends up spending most of his time playing Starcraft when he is supposed to be grinding.
  • Genius poker player who is scared money and wants to play 2nl despite having $20k in his roll.
What we are trying to say is that there are a few Phil Iveys out there who will never make it because they can’t make proper business decisions off the table!

Putting it Together

We’ve looked at 5 areas that set apart the average players from the elite. It’s recommend that you carefully consider all 5 to see if any of the areas apply to you.

The saddest thing is that there is so much untapped potential out there. Hopefully after reading this article this won’t include you!

Other Top Recommended Content By Adam Jones

If you enjoyed reading this article, take a look at some other top recommended articles by Adam Jones!
Or why not take a look at some of Adams PokerVIP coaching videos?



I am of British nationality and go by the online alias w34z3l. I am considered one of the top consultants in the field for technical analysis (i.e. database work) and application of game theory concepts to various card games. I make a ... Read More


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