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Good Players Have...

This is what I think about as I drift off to sleep.

A successful poker player must have (pick 3 primary traits, and 2 secondary traits):

A. Math Skills/Knowlege
B. Bankroll Management
C. Creativity
D. Discipline/Patience
E. Empathy
F. Focus
G. Game Theory Knowledge
H. Memory
I. Natural Intelligence (high I.Q.)
J. Competitiveness
K. Confidence
L. Studied Poker Books and Literature
M. Fearlessness with Money
N. Experience
O. Keen Observation Skills
P. Personality/Personable
Q. The Ability to Play a Large Variety of Games
R. An Ample Bankroll
S. Luck
T. Ruthlessness
U. Other ___________

My picks- A successful poker player must have Focus (F.), Confidence (K.), and Keen Observation Skills (O.), with a touch of Bankroll Management (B.) and Experience (N.).

Really, I'd like to include Math Skills and/or Game Theory Knoweldge, but I think that a confident player that can focus and read players is at a natural advantage. Bankroll Management will keep him from going bust. Experience is only as good as the player. Memory should probably also be in there, but I have to limit it to 5.

Jump on it and tell me what you think. Either post a comment here or make your own post.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 11:41 AM,


At 12:11 PM, Blogger CJ said...

Hmmm... I don't have any of those... but I'm one lucky MoFo!!!!!!!!!!

At 12:30 PM, Blogger HighOnPoker said...

I've added Luck. Duh to me.

At 1:07 PM, Blogger PhantomMut said...

From observation only...

D. Discipline/Patience
I. Natural Intelligence (high I.Q.)
K. Confidence

E. Empathy
C. Creativity

(Seems to me math skills would become MUCH more important in limit games, where the opportunities to manipulate your opponents' perceived risk are more, well, limited.)

You probably should have included ruthlessness (or some cousin to it) in your list....

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd say Bankroll Management (B), Discipline/Patience (D), and Confidence (K). Secondary would be Math (A) and Keen Observation Skills (O).

I think poor bankroll management cripples more people that wanna play poker than any of us will ever understand. I had no idea how important it was until I had absolutely none at all. And I couldn't become a winner until I had it.

Discipline/Patience is an absolute must. This game involves a lot of waiting and wanting to play. And also, you have to be confident in your abilities to play the game, otherwise you'll weak/tight your way into oblivion.

Secondary skills are Math and Observation, because they both lend toward understanding where you're at now, and how to react going forward.

If I had to vote one off the list, it would be Memory, because I have the worst memory possible, and I'm managing to be a successful player. However, that doesn't mean I don't wish I could recall a hand that took me out of a tournament 8 months ago that is a lot like this one I'm in now. I just can't. And I try and compensate for that by taking/making every move one card at a time.

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Primary - Confidence, Focus, Keen Observation Skills

Secondary - Memory, Fearlessness with money

I leave off creativity since you can be a skilled limit player and not need to be creative.

I leave off Math Skills because several successful players (including Gavin Smith) have professed to not know the odds on most things in poker.

I leave off bankroll management because a lot of successful players didn't grind. They took a shot and played beyond their roll, then scored a big hit and went from there.

And so on.

Confidence is an absolute must, obv. Focus and keen observation skills go hand in hand, and they are a must.

I wish I could pick more than 5. Some of these can be left off completely, but to be a complete poker player, you need more than just 5 items from this list.

At 1:43 PM, Blogger SoxLover said...

Interesting thought experiment.

I suspect you can't just pick 3 and 2, since I think one could get away without having some on the list by having others.

Two things I think you can't get away without however aren't on the list:

T. Willingness and ability to learn from your mistakes.

U. Emotional control.

I think you can play good poker from time to time without these, but really doubt you can be a good player in the long term.

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Buffalo66 said...

Q,Q,Q,Q,Q, and Q.

Seriously, you need a little of everything but what made me a better player was learning different games.

Stud helped my attention span at the table (remembering dead cards).

Omaha helped improve reading the board texture.

Hi-Lo games helped improve my bluffing and made me less rock-ish.

Winning at other games helped my confidence and turned me into a winning hold 'em player.

At 2:38 PM, Blogger doubleas said...

O, D and B

G, F

I think J and M are also important.

If it weren't for S, I'd win every time. :)

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I don't think any of your last few traits are necessary to be a great poker player. That is, I don't think you *need" luck, an ample bankroll, ability to play a large variety of games, or any particularly personable personality in order to be good. I believe you can have just average luck, a small roll, play only holdem and be the biggest dickhead this side of Bill Frist and still be a perfectly good poker player. So those are out.

I also don't think you *need* to have studied poker books, have "fearlessness" with money, a high IQ, high confidence or have any real experience in order to be a good poker player, although there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that these will all help significantly. And while a thing like "Memory" can be very important in stud games, I don't think there is much *need* for that in holdem either, other than perhaps remembering other players' tendencies which is much less doable in online play.

I agree with your comment generally in your post that Bankroll Management will help you but is also not necessarily a prerequisite to being a great player.

The rest of the traits on your list I think are all important to being a good poker player, in various degrees. To follow your rules and pick 3 primary and 2 secondary traits is hard.

Keen observation skills has got to be one of the primary traits. If you're not a great observer of people then I don't believe you'll ever become a great poker player.

Discipline and patience is also absolutely key, because with almost all poker games, to play them right means to be folding an awful lot at the beginning, and then even more folding later in the hands when it's clear you have nothing or are likely beat. Anyone who's played a lot of holdem will know exactly what I mean here -- it is impossible to do well in either cash or tournament games if you play too many hands. Period.

I guess I'll go with Competitiveness as my third primary trait of a great poker player. All of the greats have this quality, and it kills all of them not to win whatever poker game they're playing. It kills them. This is one I can definitely relate to. Any stoopid blogger tournament, when I don't win, I get really annoyed with myself. I think this drive to win is definitely common to all great poker players, although it is not a trait that is necessarily tied directly to any specific poker skills.

Empathy I think is one of the secondary traits you need. Again, if you're talking about being a great poker player, the ability to get inside your opponents' heads and think like they are thinking will be crucial to getting paid off on big hands and to avoiding losing big pots to your opponents. I don't think you can understate the importance of this quality among great poker players, as I'm sure it's something all the great ones have a lot of.

Personally I also think math skills/knowledge has got to be one of the secondary traits, because pot odds and similar situations arise constantly in games like holdem and omaha, and you have to be able to quickly evaluate where you're at in the hand, how many outs, what your odds are of hitting one of your outs, etc.

Again, a lot of the qualities you mentioned I think are very important to being a great poker player, but to narrow it down to 5, that's my list.

Fun exercise, Jordan. Interesting to read the results as always.

At 2:44 PM, Blogger slb159 said...

I laughed at A's comment about "S". I originally thought that Hellmuth started reading your blog.
Nice post.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Btw, any professional poker player who's been at it for a while and claims not to know pot odds is full of proverbial shit. Don't think for even half a second that I believe that Gavin Smith doesn't know the odds of a flush draw on the flop filling by the river. That is just idiotic and smells to me like pros trying to sound cool and be all "I don't know any math, I'm just great at poker anyways. Na na na na boo boo!"

Ima have to call bullshit on that one.

At 2:51 PM, Blogger chipper said...

I'd pick:
O, F, J, K and of course some S.

And let's add U. Other: Balls

At 3:09 PM, Blogger Drizztdj said...

"Ima have to call bullshit on that one."

If Gavin's singing ability is on par with his math, I'd believe it.

Q, A, B with D and F being two things I work on.

At 3:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eh. You can call BS if you want, but I've listened to every episode of The Circuit and seen Gavin play a lot, and he doesn't put much stock into pot odds and poker math.

I'm sure he does have some kind of rough concept as to what the odds are by virtue of playing for 7 or 8 years, but he's definitely a 'feel' player and not a math player when he's looking at a flop.

He'll call a pot sized bet to chase a gutshot if he has chips, in other words.

Maybe I'm partial. He's my favorite player and never tries to have an air of coolness about him.

At 3:59 PM, Blogger Fuel55 said...

You have Creativity, but where is Madness?

At 4:03 PM, Blogger Pokerwolf said...

I'm going to irritate you with my response:

Any combination of the listed traits.

Some have only one or two. Others have multiple choices. A rare case or two might have them all.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger TripJax said...


Gread Idea for a post.



At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to throw something out there, there's a difference between a "good poker player" and a "successful poker player". Some people are answering one question, and some others. There's plenty of successful players out there who aren't good, and plenty of good players out there who aren't successful.

At 4:59 PM, Blogger HighOnPoker said...

Overall, I'm very glad and impressed by the amount of varied responses. Keep them coming, and I encourage you to post on your blogs with your reasoning. Thanks all.

And just to clarify for all you nit-pickers. It's 3 primary, 2 secondary, and while you may need a combination of them all, that is why this is an exercise. Choose the most important, split into primary and secondary. If you think that any of the options are stupid, well, most have been chosen by at least one person and they are there for a reason. Don't focus on the one's you don't agree with. Focus on the ones you do agree with. Good poker player, successful poker player, whatever. I say successful, because I don't mean some proverbial concept of good, but rather an objective standard of success, i.e., profitability.

Finally, I'm surprised that Experience is not getting more credit.

At 7:04 PM, Blogger CJ said...

I'm fascinated by the fact that all Double As needs is Old Dirty Bastard and a girlfriend.

I'll have to try that the next time I'm playing online poker.

At 2:14 AM, Anonymous dbirider said...

The recipe for an awesome player.

A. Math Skills/Knowlege
B. Bankroll Management
D. Discipline/Patience

F. Focus (what I need)
N. Experience

At 4:24 PM, Blogger SIF said...

You need all of these things, almost in equal measure. The only ones you don't need in abundance are: native IQ (with hard work and average intelligence, you can become an excellent player), and luck (you need only average luck).

I would make one point on playing lots of games, which is not that you need to be able to play them regularly and win, but you have to be able to play them enough to learn new concepts from them and take those concepts to your own game.


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