12 Signs You Are A Bad Poker Player

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Posted on Oct 21st 2010  -  Subject: 12 Signs You Are A Bad Poker Player

We all desire to play great poker.  The reality is a only a small minority of players have the necessary combination of discipline, strategy, and patience to be a long term big winning poker players.  There is a larger middle category of small winners and near break even players who battle the rake, have most of the necessary elements mastered, but are weak in a few of them. The last category is one you want to avoid. If you are a noob (i.e newer player) it is a stage you will hope to go through quickly. Your goal should be to avoid being in this long term losing bad poker player category for very long.  Bad poker players are characterized by many of the following 12 traits.

1) Not paying attention to the math of the game

Poker is a game of percentages and probabilities. How many outs do you have? What pots odds are you getting? What is your pot equity? How much should you bet to make it unprofitable for your opponents draws to call you? What are the chances of being dealt a particular hand? What is the probability of making your hand by the river?

While it’s not necessary to memorize all the math or know the formula for certain advanced calculations, one needs to understand your general equity in a hand.  Can you determine if a call is profitable by determining how many outs you have? Ignoring the math will only cause you to have huge leaks in your game.

2) Impatience

People are naturally impatient.  They are impatient to become a winning player.  Impatient in wanting to play instead of studying.  Impatient to make a decision. Online poker sites use clever marketing to convince new players that the keys to being successful at poker are not math, discipline and experience, but bravery, guts and an ability to read people. Because most people think they are brave, gutsy and good at reading people, lots of people assume they can be successful at poker, and get rich quick.

The play online also exasperates that impatience. The decisions keep coming.  Our natural tendency is to make quick decisions, be decisive and move on to the next hand.  But we give away too much information when you act quickly.  You become too robotic, without considering the individual hand dynamics.  Taking an extra couple seconds before you click an action button each time can make a big difference.

Success in poker comes from tremendous hard work. It starts at the lower limits, reading poker theory and strategy, building a bankroll, reviewing hand to find out how you can improve. It’s a long journey. People who start playing poker in the hope of achieving overnight success inevitably leave broke and disappointed. They will play above their bankroll, play loosely and overestimate their own ability.

3) Being tense

Learn to relax at the table. Take each decision individually.  Take each hand separately.  No one hand will win you the session. Don’t weigh your current decision by what went right or wrong earlier in your session. Consider the probabilities and percentages.  Focus on taking your time and remembering to breath as you make your decisions. This is just one hand of hundreds and thousands you will play. Everyone makes mistakes, so don’t be so hard on yourself.  Do your relaxed best now and then look to correct where you went wrong afterwards.

4) Not forgiving yourself

Everyone makes mistakes.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.  Make an effort to learn from your mistakes and not repeat them when you see a playing error you made.  You will face many thousands of hands, let go of the frustration associated with a prior hand once it’s over.  After your session you can go back and revisit the hand to determine what went wrong. Players who don’t forgive themselves get very agitated at the table and make additional errors and go on tilt.

5) Blaming others

Learn to take responsibility for your results.  You are responsible for creating a proper playing environment to play your best.  Don’t blame the fact that you were distracted. Don’t blame that you were upset or drunk. Don’t blame online poker as being rigged. Don’t blame other players as being donkeys as they continue to beat you.  The only person responsible for your play is you.

6) Lack of discipline

One of the essential keys to winning poker is having considerable discipline. Knowing which hands to play is worthless if you aren’t disciplined to wait for them.  Knowing which moves to make post flop is worthless if you simply disregard the right situations or signs because you simply want to bluff. The edge for the winning poker players is only a few big bets per hour. Making just a few undisciplined plays (e.g. a loose call there, a minor bout of tilt somewhere else) is enough to push you into a losing player. People who are easily bored, action junkies or impulsive are likely to struggle at poker if they don’t implement considerable discipline at the poker table.

7) Can’t separate the value of the chips from their real world value

Poker has you play with chips.  While they have a real world value, it is a a negative distraction to associate the real world value of the chips when you are making decisions at the table. The exchange of money for chips and chips for money comes at the beginning and end, but play as if they are simply units of measurement.  Make the moves that make the most sense for the units and percentages of the hand.

8) Can’t let go of your ego

Learn to admit you don’t know everything. Sometimes you will get outplayed at the table.  Sometimes your opponents will play better than you.  Don’t take it personally, but look at it as an opportunity to learn from them and help you improve as a player.  The game isn’t about you.  It is about winning and losing hands based on your cards and play. Don’t get caught up in trying to outplay everyone with fancy play.  Winning hands with bluffs doesn’t make you a better player.  You don’t have to gamble and bluff constantly to play winning poker.  Disciplined, solid and aggressive plays are usually the correct combination for coming out ahead.

9) Not seeing the big picture

Playing successful poker is about making the correct decisions over the long term. The results of any one session matter little. In fact, your results over 100, 1,000, or even 10,000 hands mean little. It can take 20,000-100,000 hands before you can get a realistic win rate and determine if you are a winning player or not. Bad players focus on the here and now, or the recent frustrating past, negatively impacting their play.  

Playing poker is an emotional roller coaster. There is considerable variance associated with poker that will cause you to experience numerous downswings and upswings even when you are playing well. Gaining a proper long term perspective is essential so you can manage decisions like when to move up a limits, changing your game, or over or undervaluing certain hands or holdings based upon your short-term results. Poker is a game where you can make and lose significant sums of money. It is necessary to see the big picture and manage your playing to handle the swings inherent in the game. Many players will voluntarily play low limits to avoid dealing with the bigger swings.


10) Emotional Imbalance

Tilt is a very big problem for a lot of poker players. Weeks of hard work can be undone by few hours of tilting. Understandably, every player can’t always play their A-game all the time, but it is important to be able to, recognise when you are tilting and know when to take a break. Disciplined players will establish stop loss limits and other protections for when they are tilting. Unfortunately, bad players allow their emotions to take over.  They literally steam, getting all hot, and don’t think clearly at the table. They make even rasher decisions for larger amounts, chasing their losses.  Poker players who tilt regularly and show no signs of getting it under control should likely find a new game to play. If losing at poker makes you so miserable it starts to interfere with work and your personal life then it is probably not the game for you. There are far less stressful ways to make money.

11) Can’t handle the luck factor

No one controls what cards will come on a flop, turn or river.  There is a random factor that people associate with luck. People who like to be in control and predictable results to their actions will be frustrated with poker regularly. The cards you receive in any given hand, session or even series of sessions are random. You can play extremely well and lose, or you can play extremely badly and win. Poker players call it variance, but luck is a part of the game. Your results will vary in the short term due to this luck factor. Good players accept the randomness of the game and make decisions that will most likely make them a winner in the long term.  

12) Unethical

The idea of making money easily and quickly attracts a lot of people to poker.  Unfortunately that greed leads many players to abandon their ethics and morals in the pursuit of money. Poker is a game of edges and some players will ignore written and unwritten rules of poker to establish any edge they can.  Collusion and fraud are significant threats in online poker.  Each poker room establishes firm and fair rules for conduct and play that each player should become familiar. Because online play feels anonymous, it can encourage people to loosen their ethics and standards that they wouldn’t in a live setting.  Realize that any ethical slip up gives tacit permission to every other poker player to do the same to you.  Rise to your highest standards to play the game the way it was intended.

Every poker player will struggle with some of the aforementioned 12 areas. Being vigilant in your self awareness and determined in your efforts to improve your areas of weakness will help you develop from being a bad poker player to one of who is profitable and confident.

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