Being a Dominant Poker Player

Whose Game is it Anyway?

Poker Experts"It was times like these when I thought my father,
who hated guns and had never been to any wars,
was the bravest man who ever lived."
-- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I don't normally talk about poker "experts" as it's not a very good way to describe how to be a winning player. In poker you just need to create edges over opponents, so one player with less card skills could win more money if that player has better game selection, for example. And thus different circumstances make some skills more valuable than others. A clear example is a juicy home game -- if a winning player is too annoying to get invited back to the game, those interpersonal skills are a thing to worry about that a casino player barely needs to think about. The point of this article though is to emphasize the need to be an expert at being adaptable, and thus maximizing your edges, regardless of what they are at any specific moment.

I previously wrote about how like the movie To Kill a Mockingbird a complete poker player needs to bring together many solid, quality assets to their overall game, so they can thusly create a greater a masterpiece of a poker career.

That is the big picture. But let's look at the little picture. The individual moments of poker playing.

As I mention in the Mockingbird article, the American Film Institute named Gregory Peck's character the #1 film hero of the first 100 years of film. Not Luke Skywalker or James Bond, but Atticus Finch is the #1 alpha male of the movies. Now think about that in light of the Harper Lee quote at the beginning of this article. Notice how she says "in times like these" -- meaning in multiple difficult situations Atticus Finch exhibited his courage (as well as his judgment, reliability and integrity).

And that is what poker is: a series of individually very difficult choices. Game selection, bankroll management, tell-reading, what to do with JJ if reraised, inducing a bluff when you have the nuts, value-betting nut low and a pair of sevens in Pot Limit Omaha High Low, managing sleep time during multi-day tournaments, dealing with abusive players and crybabies, negotiating deals, moving in with the fourth shortest stack when you are one out of the money, when to eat before a tournament, and so on. Big decisions and small ones too. The skills needed to make these decisions often have almost nothing at all in common.

Despite that, you still have to make the decisions. You have to have skills to handle a little bit of everything. That is what sets apart dominant, expert players from limited players who can sometimes do well, and from the cannon fodder who barely think before acting. The flaw that afflicts most incomplete players is a lack of discipline, either poker discipline (going on tilt) or personal discipline (drugs). But there is far more to it than that. Dressing warm because a casino is cold (or vice versa) will put you in a better frame of mind than just blundering into a freezer in your shorts and flip flops. You have to be prepared in general, but you also need to identify your specific circumstances.

So, "experts" are not necessarily the "best" at anything at all. Expert players make the most informed decisions as they can at any moment, and have given prior thought to what they may be facing. There are entire levels to the game that most players don't consider, but there is also a dominant sense of purpose that should exist in a top player at every moment. We can't manipulate everything, but we can make the most informed, most reasoned choices we can under the circumstances we face -- and have the confidence in our skills to do just that. Expert poker players have confidence. Limited poker players have arrogance.

Expert players excel in the circumstances they are in. They excel in preparation, and they excel in adaptation. They are experts in reading opponents, and experts in making themselves difficult to read. They are expert at taking advantage of the multiple weaknesses of their particular opponents. Expert poker players are like Atticus Finch -- smart, brave, confident and reliable whenever they need to be.

The alpha male and female poker players are expert at being experts.

Also see: Poker Beginners, YA Tittle and Losing Poker and Sponsored Poker Players