What Separates Pro Poker Players From Amateurs?

There are hundreds of millions of poker players around the world, each hoping to get a piece of that chip-filled pie. Many moved from the real-life game to the digital version during the pandemic. Even for those playing online, however –– perhaps especially in some cases –– wins and losses are very real.

Every player involved in competitive poker is dreaming of that mountain of chips roped in from laying down the perfect buff, or drawing the perfect cards. But there is of course a huge gulf between this fantasy and most players’ reality –– and ultimately between pros and amateurs. Here’s the thing though: Provided you do the work and training, poker is pretty accessible to most people.

It’s not like certain sports, where you’ll need to be somewhat physically gifted in order to compete with the best. Granted, a fairly mathematical brain is helpful, and certain personality traits may help you as well. But the line between a pro and an amateur is perhaps a little blurrier in poker than it is in sports and other competitions. Still, there are many things that separate pro poker players from amateurs, and in this article we’ll seek to identify some of them so that you might narrow the gaps.

Stop and learn

While amateurs just start playing without giving too much thought to the game and its processes, the pros stop to learn from what’s happened. They’ll take a break from time to time to think about how a certain game went, and will sometimes even record notes so that they can go back over important moments.

Timing and dedication

It is said that amateurs play when they are just bored or feel like playing one a whim, whereas the pro poker players dedicate themselves to playing when the tables are hot. In fact, it’s considered one of the key aspects of becoming a professional poker player to be able to let the game dictate schedule, and to play odd hours. It’s not always apparent how long a live tournament might go or when the tables might get most active on a good app or website. The pros dedicate themselves to finding the hours when they can best take advantage of circumstances –– no matter what those hours might be.

The setup

There’s not much you can do about the setting for real-life poker, although it often lives up to its billing as an adrenaline-fueled hub of grit and iron wills. But if you’re one of the millions who play online poker –– which is being made across more and more of the U.S. –– then you’d better get your room into shape. Pick up some cool lights to get you in the mood to win, purchase a large monitor so you can lay your spread out across the screen, and get hold of a comfortable ergonomic swivel chair. Amateurs will tend to simply load up a site or app and get to it. More serious players optimize their setups, controlling lighting and temperature, getting the right computer equipment and gaming headphones, and even investing pretty big chunks of change into those gaming chairs.

Play without ego

If you worry too much about being bluffed, then you’ll never reach the heights. You have to check your ego at the door if you’re to make it to the top. This means taking the game seriously, but never taking yourself too seriously. If you worry too much about being bluffed by someone or otherwise making a foolish play, then you’ll react conservatively On the other hand, if you get too excited about your own play in a positive way –– too hopped up on your own ego –– you may begin to play recklessly. It’s best to find a balance in the middle, and the way the pros do it is by setting ego aside as much as they can (even if the game’s self-proclaimed greatest tournament player is somewhat famous for his own outsized ego!).

Following these tips won’t make you a pro poker player. But it will certainly elevate you above amateur status, and from there you can only keep growing and improving.

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