Underrated Poker Virtues

Poker Virtues

One of the reasons that I love poker is that it's such a personal and mental skill game. It is a microcosm of our world in so many ways. In poker, you have to have discipline, be patient, take the right opportunities, be aggressive but not reckless, know when to take a chance, know when to bluff, and know when you're beat. These are not only good poker skills, but good life skills as well.

Discipline and Patience

For example, take a look at a day in my skin. I have to have discipline and patience when I hunt for my breakfast, take the right opportunity to find a potential meal, and execute a coordinated plan. I'm aggressive in my hunt, but not reckless. I also know when I'm beaten by a fish that can outrun me, so I give up on that situation. I'm sure you can find many parallels to your own everyday routines. Not only are discipline and patience essential virtues in life, they're also essential poker virtues.

If you don't consistently have discipline and patience at the poker table, you're not going to be a winning poker player in the long run. Even if you somehow manage to squeak out some profits, you're not winning as much as you could. My goal in my poker game is to crush my competition and make the most clamshells… sorry, scratch that… money that I can. I've learned to do that by trying my best to master the psychological aspect of poker. I'm not talking about getting inside your opponents' heads in this instance, but rather your own head. You can memorize every poker strategy trick in the book, but it won't help you if you don't take control of your own mental habits.

For example, a major leak for most poker players is their starting hand requirements. They get antsy to play, so they take chances and play hands that they know they shouldn't. This shows a lack of self-control and patience. I'm not going to pretend that any of us can completely eliminate the urge to play trash hands from the wrong position. Sometimes, we all do it. But you should try to minimize how often it happens. Why? In the long-run, it's costing you money. Most players have hand guidelines for a reason: certain types of hands are profitable from certain positions, and other types of hands are unprofitable from any position. Of course, you're occasionally going to hit that two pair on the flop with your 7-4 offsuit, but don't forget all those times that you missed completely or the times when you sort of hit the flop and made a questionable call to stay in, costing yourself even more money. This is where discipline enters the equation.

If you're in that pot with your 7-4 and you're not on the big blind, you probably threw patience to the wind. However, since you can't take that back, you're going to have to show discipline throughout the rest of the hand. A huge reason why you don't play trash hands is that you're often going to be stuck in a tough situation on the flop. It's easy when you don't pair up or make any sort of draw on the flop, and you throw your hand away. However, what do you do when the flop comes out 7-J-2? If you have good poker discipline, you throw this hand away if your opponent bets unless you have a perfect read on him and know that he's bluffing. Most of the time, it's just not worth the risk. You made a mistake by being in this hand at all, so try to atone for it and resist throwing more good money into this pot. If you call that bet on the flop with middle pair, you usually won't improve on the turn. You can't call another bet, so you've just chased part of your stack away. Sure, it might seem insignificant at the time, but these lacks of discipline and patience will add up over your poker career.

Whenever I find myself in a poker rut, I remember that I can control every aspect of my own poker game. The only thing that you can do at a poker table is make good decisions. Many of your opponents, especially online opponents, won't have the patience and discipline that you have. They're going to draw out on you with hands they shouldn't be in the game with. You can't control that, and that's just part of the game. You can control every move that you make with your game, however. If you play how you know you can and should play, you're going to minimize the draws that your opponents will make by making them pay to do it. Part of having discipline in poker is not getting greedy and slowplaying hands where there is an obvious draw out there.

More often than not, I like to stay in my home lagoon and just catch my choice of games online. I don't know how the swordfish and tuna got high-speed internet wired to their homes too, but they're online and spreading to every possible limit. You aren't safe from suckouts at even the highest stakes these days. Inevitably with all of this reckless play, you're going to run into a lot of bad beats. Having discipline means that you don't go on tilt when you run into one, or you at least cut down the time it takes to bounce back. Going on tilt is a tragic way to lose the winnings that I'm sure you've worked hard far.

Suffering from tilt is natural. You're steamed that the guy across the table from you hit a 3-outer to take $2,000 from you. Who wouldn't be? But you also have to expect this to happen once in a while and prepare for it. Avoiding tilt is another aspect of poker discipline. While it's easier said than done, just keep repeating the mantra, "All I can do it make good decisions," before every move you make. It isn't a good decision to personally go after the guy who put a bad beat on you, and it isn't a good decision to play recklessly with every hand dealt to you just because you're upset about losing that big pot. Just remember that another hand is coming up in 2 minutes and that you're going to make the most of it. If you're playing no-limit, you're only ever one hand away from doubling up your stack. If you can realize that you're too upset to play, just sit out and take a little walk for a few minutes. If you still don't feel better, it's probably a good idea to call it a night and come back when you're in a better frame of mind. You play better when you're in the right mood and you know it.

I can't stress enough how essential discipline and patience are to your game. In hold 'em, you're going to exhibit your patience most often preflop, waiting for the right hands to take advantage of. Your discipline will kick in as you play the hand right and don't throw extra money in with a mediocre holding. Finally, you must learn to deal with tilt in order to play poker, especially online poker. Bad beats are out of your control. How you deal with them is entirely in your control. Just remember, the only thing you can do in poker is make good decisions. I like that line - I'll remember that when I'm deciding between the octopus or the school of piranhas for a late-night snack.

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