Sunday, November 2, 2008

Attributes for a successful poker player

Thought I might just copy, paste and modify my response to one of TiocfaidhArLa comments as it might be useful to come back to one day. Basically the question was:

"if someone wanted to emulate your success what are the key attributes they need - discipline, attention to detail, study, natural talent for games etc?"

So in answering from my perspective and what works for me -

Conservatism - (this probably sounds weird as an attribute for effectively gambling, however I don't really view poker as a gamble - to me its more like I have a small edge so the more I play the more likely I am to win). I am not at all worried about dropping down levels when I have a cool run. I'm a bankroll nit to a high degree ... i like to have several 1,000 BBs in my bankroll. (ie bearing in mind i've lost 300BBs once before, that would be a disaster to say a 500BB bankroll which i'm not prepared to go through). I guess this relates to bankroll management most directly, and as they say if you don't manage your bankroll correctly you are going broke. I don't want to go broke.

Discipline - includes a) not tilting, and quitting immediately when seeing it coming on. b) the ability to actual notice tilt coming on. c) always table selecting and quitting tables as soon as they turn poor.

Preparation - Study I am admittedly a bit lazy on however I read the stox book and the boerer book early on and occasionally hit up 2p2 but I don't do as much as I should. Yes I use their basic charts for starting hands, and used to have a hard copy out whenever I played. Now I would play basically to those charts adjusting for opponents off the top of my head.

Self Analysis - I review my own stats regularly, particularly after a bit of a losing run. I find that I sometimes become a bit too showdown bound which I have to reign in. Most of the time though its just variance and running super cool at showdowns. Hot runs tend to be the reverse.

Opponent Analysis - The use of software tools is invaluable. I use Pokertracker2 for my database and Gametime+ as my HUD although i'm fairly sure i'd do better with pokerace, but will wait till PT3 is compatible with all sites before I get it. The key thing here though is to be able to adjust my play slightly depending upon opponent tendencies. On sites that don't allow Pokertracker I make sure I take notes and rate every single opponent.

Confidence - When i'm confident I can beat any given level, and not play scared i'm generally the most successful. (Although overconfidence might lead to playing too many hands which would be very bad). For me the confidence baseline is still probably at $1/2 where i'm sure I can clean up over the long term. I'm fairly sure I can do the same at $2/4 and $3/6 but when in doubt I still drop back, although admittedly most of my $1/2 play is on Bodog which doesn't have $2/4 or $3/6 6 max and I will now be playing more 2/4 and 3/6 cake and interpoker.

Perceptive and flexible - this can be as simple as being aware of someone's stats, and how you should play against them. For example if they rarely showdown you know to put real pressure on them on early streets. If you get resistance from one of these players you'd know to throw it away unless you have a strong hand. Also if you notice someone times out when you're heads up against them and you're the next to act, you want to isnta-raise and hope they don't have any disconnect protection to take an easy pot. Some people may think this a little unethical, but I figure it happens to me sometimes so it would all even out. In my last session when the guy reconnected he said he had flopped a boat versus my 3rd pair ...

Adaptable - if you're playing relatively small stakes and want to get the best returns you need to be able to sign up at multiple sites to gain the best deals. For example, many of the one off PSO sign up bonuses offer returns far in excess of 100% rakeback, so its often in my best interest to play on new sites. I also find myself often playing on multiple sites at the same time due to limited traffic or fishy tables on the individual sites. Takes a little getting used to, but I have adapted. Will I adapt to other games or NL? Maybe. One day.

Concentration - if you cant concentrate on the action and the tables then poker would quickly become a losing venture. Making a mess of a single hand for say 10BBs by misclicking the fold button undoes 750 or so hands of good solid play.

Self awareness - you need to know your own strengths and weaknesses and in particular your limitations. For me, i'm generally only able to concentrate for maybe a couple hours max, and the majority of my sessions are probably more like half an hour to an hour. This means i'll often take a break and do something else after a session before coming back to it. It also means that i'm probably never going to get huge value from a MTT as I just end up losing concentration and making some bonehead play when I just make it into the money.

Inquisitive - A desire to know the ins and outs of any rakeback or bonus deals is important in being able to assess how good a particular deal is. Also realising that rakeback figures alone don't necessarily tell the whole story on how good a site is, particularly where rake taken can vary significantly. For example 27%RB of a 2BB/100 rake is far better than 40%RB of a 3BB/100 rake.

Patience - even after beat after beat, you still need to be patient and wait for the right hands. Sure I have runs of playing less than 10% of hands, which is extremely low at 6 max, but other times you hit premium hand after premium hand and more than make up for it. (Provided you don't run out of patience, tilt, and lose a stack of BBs)

I might add some if I think of anymore ....

All that being said, i'm still not 100% sure i'm a winning player, although have done okay so far. I guess though the key thing to note is that total return is far more important than actually winning at the table which is why rakeback and bonuses are so important to me. Will be interesting to see how the next few months go.

I'm sure others would have advanced through the ranks quicker through much less conservative bankroll management, but i'm comfortable with my progress. I might actually be a bit further along if the share market wasnt killin me at the moment and i hadn't withdrawn quite as much of my bankroll, but thats another story ...


Ukgatsby said...

great post :)

Gavin said...

Totally agree with Ukgatsby.
Can learn from that