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Top 10 traits that make a good poker player

25 Jun 2018

By Tadas Peckaitis
Poker coach Tadas Peckaitis says that some of the key traits that make a good poker player are intelligence, focus and patience.

Poker coach Tadas Peckaitis says that some of the key traits that make a good poker player are intelligence, focus and patience. (photo by Flickr)

Back in the day, not many people talked about poker and poker players in a serious way. For the most part, they were perceived as gamblers throwing away their (or someone else's) money. However, things have changed quite a bit, and these days we have people who have proven that you can actually make a successful career out of playing the game.

You may or may not know some of these players, but names themselves aren’t that important. What’s important is what makes them successful in what they do. So, let’s take a look into top 10 personality traits that make a good poker player.

10. Money management
Money management is very important — perhaps even crucial — for poker success. And it isn’t hard to learn, as long as you’re willing to commit. There are many good resources explaining how to best manage your money with regards to the stakes and games you play, so you just need to stick to this advice. Of course, don’t think this is something that's optional. It is absolutely crucial to have a good bankroll management, because if you don’t, you’ll be significantly lowering your chances of success.

9. Fearlessness
Although you don’t have to be the bravest person to have walked the earth to be a good poker player, the game does require a certain amount of recklessness (for the lack of the better word). What I mean here is that you can’t be afraid of losing — ever — if your fear is based on anything outside of poker. This means that you need to be capable of always playing the hand the best way, even if that means you might bust out of the tournament before the next pay jump, or lose a big portion of your session earnings. If a certain move is correct from a game perspective, you need to be able to make it and not think about any outside factors.

8. Adaptability
Even good poker players often fall victim to their inability to adapt. Poker is a game that’s all about being able to figure out the situation you find yourself in, sizing up your opponents quickly and putting them in certain mental categories. There is no one right way to play the game. There are certain fundamental rules and principles, but to be a really good player, you need to think outside the box and adjust those principles according to what’s going on around you.

7. Controlling emotions
Poker has nothing to do with emotions, and yet, there are very few games or sports where emotions run as rampant as in poker. Once you start to learn the game beyond poker rules, you develop certain expectations. These expectations are often crushed due to variance, bad luck and even your own mistakes. The mix of all these things can make for a strong cocktail of emotions, and the only way to succeed is to stay fully in control of these emotions and keep your head cool. If you let your heart make your decisions at the tables, you’ll be going down a very dangerous path.

6. Ability to learn from your mistakes
This is a tricky one, as we’re usually very defensive about our mistakes and not happy to admit them. However, in poker, this is one of the essential traits, and if you don’t have it, you are almost guaranteed to fail. While other lines of work may be much more forgiving in this regard, poker can be brutal as your mistakes can cost you a lot of money over the months or years. If you aren’t open to finding a fix, you’ll be banging your head against the wall. Just grab my free poker book and it will be a great first step, one which will help you identify your mistakes and learn from them.

5. Intelligence
Poker is a game that revolves around numbers and calculations, so being intelligent will certainly help you become a good player. This isn’t to say you have to be super smart to get there; a person with an average intelligence and enough willingness can become a very good poker player if they set their mind to it.

4. Focus
During all those times you’re card dead at the table, there is a way to keep yourself occupied – and that’s staying focused on the action and learning as much as you can about other players at the table. Losing your focus online is especially easy, with all the distractions at your fingertips, but you should make a conscious effort to stay focused and use the poker tools available to you to make most out of the time you aren’t actively playing.

3. Patience
If you want to play good poker, online or live, you’ll spend a lot of time doing nothing, folding your hands and waiting for good spots. In all honesty, this whole routine can become quite boring rather quickly, especially on days when you’re getting almost no playable hands whatsoever. The easiest thing to do is to start playing when you know you shouldn’t, because you can’t take it anymore. But to be successful, you’ll need to stay patient at all times and wait for your spots. Start splashing around, and you’ll be looking for that exit sign in no time.

2. Dedication
Succeeding in poker isn’t much different to succeeding in any other competitive environment. To reach your goal, you need a lot of dedication. The best poker players didn’t get there by luck – they got to the top by learning new things and always looking for new ways to improve their poker strategy. Becoming a good poker player takes a lot of sacrifice and determination, and without them, you won’t get too far.

1. Good judgment
Different people emphasize different traits when talking about poker players, but I believe good judgment is the essential one. It links to so many other important traits, and without it, all other ones become less relevant. A good poker player needs to be able to judge their situation on and off the table, be realistic about their skills, be capable of setting realistic yet challenging goals, and much more.
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