Star Qualities of Poker Players
1) Focus. You must constantly be concentrating on the game you're in whether or not you're in a hand. You must always be paying complete attention to everything going on around you. Sometimes when you're playing, you might find yourself "in the zone", where your mind is just taking in everything it can get it's grasp on. During these surreal times you might find yourself making absolutely poetic plays. Amazing lay downs, perfectly timed bluffs, or just a great call that you think you may have missed if everything hadn't been just so.
If you ever find yourself in such a "Zen" state of playing poker, you can be sure you're a player. It's an absolute high. I've even heard professional T.J. Cloutier say that when he's in the zone he has been amazed how many times he was able to actually predict the exact card that would come off the deck next, rank and suit. Phil Hellmuth claims that he can predict when a player is holding aces with greater than ninety percent accuracy and has correctly folded pocket Kings a multitude of times before the flop in tournament play. Once the fundamentals are laid and the math becomes automatic, the star quality to poker is almost definitely focus. That may seem confusing, but it's what playing profitable poker is all about. It's easy to lose, and anyone can just give it a whirl and gamble, but if you want to be a winning player, it is challenging and taxing. It also just so happens to be a great deal of fun with the potential to become supplementary income in the form of something you love.
2) Emotional discipline. You cannot be susceptible to getting rattled or perturbed when playing. If you're losing you must not allow it to affect your play. Just as important, you can't allow yourself to get reckless because you're ahead. You must always play one hand at a time. It's easy to become bored after folding nine crap hands in a row and decide to play a bad hand out of position just because it's the best hand you've had in awhile. You must resist the temptation. That mediocre A6o doesn't know it's the best hand you've had all night, and it's not going to perform any better for you now than if it'd been your first hand of the night.
2) Reading skills. All the really great poker players are able to get a good idea of the quality of hand you might be holding by combining what they know about body language and psychology, along with analyzing your betting patterns. Also, using good memorization and deductive reasoning, they play back the all the prior action in the hand (and even in other hands they've seen you play) in order to unravel the mystery of your hole cards through the process of elimination.
4) Observance and recall. You must pay close attention to each player at your table, especially the ones closest to your right and left. Good poker players pay a lot of attention to how you play and they pay special attention to what starting hands you will play in what position. Then they are able to use their recall to make decisions during game play based on what they've previously learned of you. Some of the truly greats say that they don't even have to do this consciously anymore. That is definitely something we should all strive for.
5) Creativity. Sometimes the standard play isn't the right play. Crafty players have the ability to create traps that have even the best of them scratching their heads wondering how they fell for it.
6) Passion and commitment. No one can become a world-class player overnight. You must be willing to put the time and energy in. It requires many hours of studying and playing. Mostly it requires a love for the game.
7) Energy. In order to win a big one, you may sometimes play for hours a day and even several days in a row. It can assuredly become physically and especially mentally taxing. There are more than a few pros who work out at the gym on a regular basis to keep themselves sharp.
8) Bankroll management. There are probably more would-be-pros that washed their hopes and dreams down the drain by not effectively playing within their means than by any other way. You have to learn how to effectively manage your money because anyone can go on a losing streak. You have to budget yourself in a way that your bankroll is able to handle the swings.
9) Table presence. Some players just have it, some don't. If you are able to effectively present yourself in a way that gives you an edge, you are automatically starting the game in a favorable position. Some players have spent years manufacturing a table image that projects exactly the ideal of themselves that they want people to believe, all the while playing in a way that is very much the contrary. This is a skill or talent that few players ever master, but it is the hallmark of a true rounder.
10) Humility. You must be more concerned about your profit margin than what people think of your ability to play. By broadcasting how good you are, you may not only give away too much of your playing style but you also run the risk of turning other players who had been just there to have fun into serious threats by reminding them that this is a game that some take seriously. Humility also allows you to learn from players who are better than you or at least have something to teach you. If you already think you know it all, you will most likely stop growing as a player. Not a wise decision because those around you will likely continue to learn, before you know it you're no better than anyone else.
11) Meticulous attention for detail. When you're in a game and when you're not, this is a very necessary character trait. If you don't have it, develop it. Besides making mental notes during a session, actual physical note taking and tracking of results is definitely a star quality that can be learned or developed. I don't know the exact statistics as to how many professional poker players track their play and how many don't, but I can guarantee you the correlation is completely substantial.
12) Energy sensitivity. I don't know another way to describe a player's instinctive ability to bluff and call with expert timing. I would also use energy sensitivity to describe a star poker player's ability to fold a hand where all the math and hand history seems to point towards a call. I've seen players make incredible lay downs that I could not put into any terms my mind could grasp. Some players just seem to be able to smell strength and weakness in a way that seems almost supernatural.
13) Patience. Patience may be the single most important quality to learn as a poker player. In every form of poker the most fundamentally correct playing style is tight and aggressive. You have to have the patience to wait for great hands to push with. Many players know this and yet lack the discipline required to hold off when they experience a run of bad cards. Maybe if you've drawn bad hands ten times in a row, that A9 starts to look pretty good. That is a really good way to lose money. You can't manufacture a good hand, so sometimes the best you can do is limit your losses. Remember, money saved spends just as well as money won. You have to wait for the correct opportunities. Patience is a characteristic that sort of melts into a lot of the other "star qualities" we've discussed. As a matter of fact, patience may even form the foundation of some of the others such as emotional control and focus.
♣ Continued at: Exceptions to the Rules in Poker
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