Making money by playing poker comes down to being better than your opposition. Since poker is all about skill, opponents will never be able to “luck” you into bankruptcy.
That places particular importance on learning as much as possible and becoming the best poker player possible. I can’t imagine many better places to start than professional poker players as we go down this path.
The pros are masters of their craft, and they play the game at a truly elite level. If you could somehow harness their skills, you’d be able to quit your day job and join the lucrative ranks of professional poker.
I can’t transplant Daniel Negreanu’s poker prowess into your brain. However, I can provide you 9 excellent lessons you should take from the poker pros.
1 – Understand the “Why”
Poker pros always have a reason for their moves at the poker table. From time to time, you’ll see pros break from their standard strategy, but only if there’s sufficient reason.
Usually, it can be broken down to value. When players spot a value in a hand, they may elect to deviate from the norm to take advantage.
Recreational players may do this from time to time, but there’s one significant difference between the two. Poker pros always know why they are making a bet or a call.
They are consistently thinking ahead and calculating how to get the most money out of you. Start breaking down the “why” on every decision you make at the poker table.
If you can’t find a legitimate reason for betting, you’re bored. Bored players pay the skilled players.
2 – It’s All Business
Pros understandably treat their poker like a business. When average poker players lose at the tables, it’s inconvenient, and at times it can set the bankroll back.
Neither is a life-shattering consequence of our soft play. However, every expense poker pros have, comes out of their poker winnings.
That includes mortgage, car payment, groceries, healthcare, money for fun, and anything else that pops up. Not to mention their expansive travel budget and tournament buy-ins.
Poker pros must constantly be looking to improve their skillset. If you’re not dedicating yourself to poker 100%, you’re not prepared to move out of the amateur ranks.
Keep grinding away on the $1/$2 tables, but don’t quit your day job. You’ll continue losing money to more dedicated competitors until you are prepared to treat your poker like a business.
One great way to start viewing things differently is to pay attention to everything at the poker table. That means no daydreaming or playing on your phone when you’re not in a hand.
You should spend this time trying to learn your opponents’ tendencies. Make a detailed mental checklist of things to go through to paint a solid picture of how you’re feeling, playing, and performing.
3 – Focus on Opportunities More Than Results
Poker professionals put little stock in the short term. Results are random, and sometimes an opponent will catch a lucky card and bust you.
That’s the nature of the poker beast, and I consider it a part of what makes poker so unique. The goal should be to get your money in the pot as often as possible with a positive expectation.
Poker pros won’t flinch to go all-in with a 70% chance of winning. Even when they lose, they know they’ve made the right call, and I’ll tell you why.
Suppose you go all-in for $5k with a 70% probability of winning on ten separate occasions. The 70% would indicate that you lose three out of every 10 times.
That means a net profit of $20k over the ten hands. Which is the only number you should be focused on.
Measure your poker sessions by the opportunities rather than the results, and you’re on your way to winning more in the poker room.
4 – Don’t Throw Good Money Away Chasing Bad Cards
Amateur poker players will see way too many flops during any given session. Professionals know that when they can get in hands with a better starting hand than their opponent, they’ve got a legitimate shot at winning the hand.
So, you generally see the pros playing much tighter than amateurs. Yet, they still make a profit.
Another famous mistake novice players make is staying in hands long after they’re beaten. They continuously chase draws or carry a weak pair to the river, spending money to ultimately fall short.
Learn the standard poker odds and use them to your advantage. If you’re not wholly prepared to dedicate yourself to learning the poker odds, don’t expect to become a profitable poker player.
5 – Learn How to Spot the Games with Potential
None of the elite poker skills possessed by the professionals would be worth a lick if they weren’t playing the most suitable games. Pros know that to make a sustainable profit, they must consistently find games with weaker players.
Fortunately, this is relatively easy for the top players. Yet, it’ll prove more challenging for the rest of us.
There are two main ways to out skill the table. The first is to become a better poker player than a vast majority of players; we’re working on that.
The second is to learn to spot the fish and take advantage of their weak poker game. There are several ways to approach this.
If you are consistently playing in the same poker room, make detailed notes about less skilled players and their tendencies. Look for these players when you enter the poker room and sit with them whenever possible.
A lot of poker players will merely walk into the poker room and grab the first seat available. I’ve done this myself, but I was leaving money on the table.
Scout the poker room where possible and take a seat with the fish. You’re never going to make a long-term profit by playing poker against better poker aficionados.
6 – Never Quit a Good Thing
Becoming a profitable poker player requires long sessions at the tables. The get in and get out approach may work for the table games, but poker is much different.
I’ll sit in the Las Vegas poker rooms and watch the tourists play for two to three hours, then call it a day. I’m sure most of this can be attributed to losses, but winning amateurs will do the same.
When a pro finds a good table, they will ride that pony until it keels over dead. I know some top pros that will spend 24 hours at the poker table if the money is right.
7 – Avoid Going Off Your Rocker
Pay attention to the top pros, and you’ll notice that you can never really gauge their demeanor. I’ve got a natural disposition for poker because of my stoic nature.
I rarely get too excited, nor do I become a total grump. It keeps me on an even plane whenever I’m at the poker tables.
Professional poker players refuse to go on tilt; they don’t take bad beats personally. Because of this, they save themselves a lot of money.
Losing your cool in the casino is a rookie mistake that leads to unnecessary mistakes. Avoid going off your rocker, and you’ll start having much more productive sessions.
8 – Think Long-Term Success
I touched on this only briefly earlier, but I want to expound on the topic. The career of a professional poker player is stuffed with opportunities.
If they get caught up in the individual results of a hand or a single session, they become paralyzed. So, elite players only concern themselves with long-term results.
Even when you have a 99% chance of winning a hand, there will be that 1 out of 100 that you lose. The pro players are able to shake it off and move on; you should do the same.
9 – Bankroll Management Drives It All
When everything else fails, your bankroll is what can make the difference between success and failure. If you don’t have proper bankroll management techniques in play, you could bankrupt your gambling career and be forced to sit out until the funds are restored.
Much of this can be avoided by understanding how to leverage your bankroll for optimal benefit. Still, you need to study bankroll management and place as much emphasis on your money as you do any aspect of the game.
These 9 lessons you should take from the poker pros can take your poker game from busted to booming. Make the most of every opportunity you see in the poker room to maximize profits.
Most importantly, eliminate the fear from your poker sessions, and you’ll begin to play like the pros.