Patience, self-discipline necessary for winning poker

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If you really want to be a winner, there are two essential traits. If you don’t already possess patience and self-discipline at the poker table, you better develop these ASAP – or else.

As emphasized in my first poker book, “The Greatest Book of Poker for WINNERS,” there are three factors essential to success:

Patience! Patience! Patience!

You must “be prepared to sit out many, many more hands than you play.” In fact, in response to a query from one of my students in the Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group, I calculated that, on average, from an early position you would play fewer than one out of six hands dealt based on the Hold’em Algorithm.

“Without patience, you will play too many hands that are poor investments,” making it almost impossible to be a steady winner. “You are bound to end up a loser!” But you came to play poker, not to just sit there and wait. You must dismiss that notion if you really want to be a winner.

As we have previously emphasized, it is wise to play only those starting hands that have a reasonable chance of ending up the best hand at the showdown. (Indeed, that is the essence of our Basic Poker Rule No. 3, as described in Poker for WINNERS.)

To emphasize this point, we coined the saying: “Patience is like the flour that is used to bake bread: You will not be successful without it.” – from Poker for WINNERS.

The second essential trait is Self-Discipline – sometimes referred to as will-power. How often have you told others: The key to going home a winner is to quit while you are ahead? This applies in any game of chance. In poker, we must recognize that variance – ups and downs – is inherent to the game.

There will be times when luck is with you; the poker gods smile down on you. But, sooner or later, your good luck will turn to BAD luck. Who doesn’t get rivered now and then? Make your open-ended straight on the river – only to find the same river card gave your opponent a flush. Happens.

According to Poker for WINNERS, it is a good idea to have a goal when you sit down at the poker table. How much do you hope to win during this session? Be realistic. Perhaps it’s to double your buy-in. That certainly would be a good investment. (How often do you double the price you paid when you buy shares on the stock market?)

The problem is, to some extent, we are all greedy. It comes naturally. The more we have, the more we want. Just look at the really wealthy people in our society. The multi-millionaire seeks to become a billionaire. (Sure, there are rare exceptions – such as Dave Gold, founder of the 99 Cents chain of stores.)

You could use a money management scheme such as the two described in Poker for WINNERS: Essentially, set aside a portion of your winnings and use that as your “play money;” the rest of your chips are your “money in the bank,” which you would rather not touch.

When you win a pot, replenish your “play money” chips and add the rest to your “money in the bank.” Quit the game when your “play money” is gone.

But, in the final analysis, this takes considerable self-discipline. Are you up to it?

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

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About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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