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“The Essential Elements of a Winning Poker Player” by Alan25main

August 13, 2020

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If you want to be consistently successful at the poker table, there are some key traits you’ll need to get there. Alan25main shares the most important attributes he feels will help you see regular gains in your bankroll.

Everything that follows is opinion – my opinion – and your opinion may vary and still be valid. In fact, considering there are at least 1500 RP players with more chips than I have, they might ALL be better players than I am. But, I’m the one writing, so I get the kudos when right as well as the slings and arrows when I’m wrong.

Every winning poker player I’ve ever known shares the following characteristics. Their reliance on any one of them may vary from person to person, but some measure of all these are essential:


This is probably the single most important winner’s characteristic. Without patience, you’ll play out of frustration, desperation, or boredom.

The unfortunate fact is that at least 60% of all the hands dealt to us aren’t worth the price of a call. If you do call with it anyway, you’re likely to end up second best, which is far more expensive than simply folding the obvious crap. Can you get lucky? Sure. People win lotteries every day. But, that’s gambling, not poker playing. If you play too often, you’ll waste too many chips compared to what you ought to win. The chip you save on this hand is a chip you can bet later, when you’re stronger.

Remember that almost every chip you bet is an investment that’s unlikely to win; but, if you never play, then you’ll never win. To win, we must risk loss and capitalize when we can.


If you don’t understand the basic rules of the games being played, you’re in major trouble. It took me a month of playing Omaha to remember I ALWAYS had to use EXACTLY TWO hand cards every time, not one or three. Even after playing Omaha High-Low split for years, I still have to put a small sign on my keyboard to remind myself when I’m playing Omaha High only that there is NO LOW. It’s easy to make those simple mistakes, but it’s expensive to discover how wrong you can be.


If you have no idea how often you might hit triplets, a straight, a flush, or better, you’ll pay too many chips to draw to unlikely hands. You’ll also bet too little when you have only a small lead. If you can’t be beaten, you want everybody to call; but, if you can be out-drawn, you need to take that into account when sizing your bets to discourage callers.

Note that you may not be able to discourage all of them, but if you don’t try, you’ll have to beat them all, instead of just a few. Experience says it’s easier to beat one opponent than three.


Every opponent has weaknesses. Some bluff too often, some too seldom. Some call too often, some fold too often. How do we get to tell which ones do which? By observation and notes. No one can remember all the possible opponents. There are tens of thousands of them. Some, you’ll never see or play against because they’re sleeping while you are playing. At any given moment, there are likely upward of 1200 active players on Replay. They may not all be currently in a game, but they’re signed in.

The good news is Replay makes taking notes on other player simple – just click the player and type in your note. Click again to reread the note the next time you see that player. You’ll probably use a lot of abbreviations, just to save time and space, but the note can be very helpful. This one “seldom bluffs.” That one is a “Frequent Raiser.” The other one “Goes all in at random.” Ideally, you would want all three of those players to your right so they will have already done whatever mischief they’re going to do before you have to act. If you do not observe, you cannot learn. 


One of the most common occurrences during a WSOP event happens after the event’s winner is decided and paid: his/her investor-partners collect their share. Why? Because they bought a piece of the winner’s action.

Some of those big name players have zero dollars of their own invested. Instead, they’ve sold shares of their winnings at a steep discount to backers. Someone like a Doyle Brunson may only “own” 25% of himself, but has already shown a profit by selling those other shares for enough to cover his entry and expenses for the event. Think about that. That big name player is basically playing for free with other people’s money and has the potential for a big payday, if he ends up high in the money.

Like the favorite horses in a race, only a few are rated highly enough to be able to do that, but those few are highly sought after. If your opponent is one of those few, you’re going to have to get lucky and dodge and weave successfully. For the rest of us, all we can do is be cautious and careful, read our notes, and squeeze that rabbit’s foot until it screams.


We may not get to pick our opponents, but we do get to pick what stakes we play for. One of the most frequently quoted – and misunderstood – bits of advice is never risk more than 5% of your bankroll. What is missing in that is the time period in which to risk it. If you risk 5% on a single hand, you have a realistic life of only twenty hands that you play and lose the maximum on.

Considering that you will likely fold 10 to 12 of every 20 hands pre-flop – and thus, lose only one Big Blind each plus the 12 Small Blinds that follow them — you’ve only lost 18 Big Blind equivalents, which isn’t disastrous. But it’s nothing to sneeze at, either. So, 5% on a single hand is likely playing too high for comfort. Maybe, 5% daily would be more rational.

If you have a bankroll of 1,000,000 chips, 5% daily would mean you can risk up to 50,000 daily. If you further budget yourself to 10 buy-ins of 5,000 chips each, you can likely play all day at respectable stakes without getting into any trouble and still be within that 5% range. Realistically, if you lose ten buy-ins every day, you’re doing something very wrong. Figure out what it is, fix it, and come back and win.