Since poker is a game that has so much luck involved there is a fine line between being a good player and being a great player. What makes Daniel Negreanu, John Juanda, Chris Ferguson, Josh Arieh, Howard Lederer, and others great rather than just good? Well, it’s not that they know the odds – those are easy to learn.


I mentioned that knowing the math behind the game doesn’t make someone great. Knowing the math can make a terrible player good, but it will never make a good player great. I memorized the odds for most of the hands and situations in Texas Hold ‘Em in about a month. I know pot odds and drawing odds by heart. Counting outs is second nature. If understand implied odds and I understand how to bet in relation to the pot. I’m not great. To know the math and apply it should not be something you think about – it should be second nature. After you master the mathematics behind the play you can start focusing on instincts more and more.


It starts with your emotional state. If you watch pros, they don’t react much to anything – obviously that’s a generalization, but my point is this: professional poker players don’t let previous hands effect the next hand. If their A♥K♥ runs into A♠A♦, they won’t play AK weaker next time they get it – it’s still just as good as it always was. They realize that each hand if independent of any other hands.


Obviously the best professional poker players are great at reading people. It’s not necessarily their ability to look into your soul that is impressive (in fact, most players don’t give much information away no matter how long you look into their eyes), it’s their ability to pick up betting patterns and capitalize on mistakes. They rarely throw money into the pot when they’re behind and they maximize their profit when they’re ahead. This is where they pick up the most chips. The good players focusing on the math behind the call can be easily deceived by a professional playing on instincts.


A third item that makes great poker players at so dangerous is that they are always mixing up their play. They might min raise with KK and overbet the pot with A♠8♠. It is difficult to put them on a hand, particularly preflop, when they may play it in any number of ways. They are great at mixing up their play because they don’t have to focus on all the other items that come second nature to them, mixing up their play is one of the few things they really need to work on.


I’ll explain the mistakes of bad players in a later article. There are lots of other idiosyncracies that make great players so much better than the good player. I’m sure I could write thousands of words on the topic. But no one wants to read that. So we’ll leave it at the fact that great players focus on much more than math. Previous post Multi-Player Advanced Poker Hand Odds – The Magic Formula Next post Macau boss fends off Vegas tycoons with