What do you think the mindset of an elite poker player is? Even amongst elite players, opinions vary. Ask 6x WSOP bracelet winner Daniel Negreanu, and he’ll tell you it’s about ‘aggression at the table’; speak to Phil Ivey, with his $30 million in career earnings and ten bracelets, and he’ll mention ‘taking comfort in losing’; even the late-great, Doyle Brunson said that it’s the ability to cope under pressure. So what is the answer? Despite the varied self-analysis, these greats of the game have reached the elite level based on a very similar approach to poker, and here we’ll explore just what sets the industry’s legends apart from mere mortals.
Table of Contents
Basic Skill At The Poker Table
It would be remiss of us not to begin with the fundamental quality all elite players possess: sheer skill. With all the will in the world, failing to put in the work to hone your skills will never result in high-level success. Understanding poker rules, written and unwritten, and knowing how and when to use them to your advantage is fundamental to winning. To do this, top-level players dedicate themselves to the craft, spending hours learning betting strategies, spotting tells, gauging performance, and how the cards may fall. This level of their mindset is down to passion and commitment to the game.
Balancing Emotions Around Money
Beyond the sharpening of skills, instinct, and knowledge, a core difference exists between a great amateur and an elite poker player. This comes down to how they manage emotions when money is involved. Although players of all levels enjoy winning and hate losing, only elite players avoid letting these emotions affect their gameplay. This mindset is crucial when playing high-stakes poker, and all that players focus on is their hand, their opponent, and the cards, not the pot. Once these emotions affect play, they add pressure, introduce nerves, and ultimately, decisions. Staying calm under pressure is a critical component of a great poker-playing mindset.
Understanding The Importance of Bankroll Management
When asked about their winning mindset, each and every high-level poker player will tell you the importance of bankroll management. Now, this may be considered a skill rather than a mindset trait, yet the approach to bankroll management highlights why mindset is so important. It comes down to an inherent understanding of a competition or a particular game’s pace. Many amateurs, and even some low-level pros, don’t have the ‘marathon and not a sprint’ mentality, at least not in the same way the elite players do. Managing bankroll throughout an entire competition ensures intelligent moves at the right time, and that is what makes champions. Those who venture in too soon, usually through lack of long-term planning, typically don’t make the grade.
Understanding The Importance of Everything Aside From The Competition
Another representation of this winner’s mindset is everything that goes on away from the table. Modern-day, elite poker players look after their bodies through exercise and good nutrition. They do this knowing the toll that a potential 16-hour-a-day tournament will take. In addition, these players realize that playing in competitive games is only a small portion of where their success can come from. These players study, in-game and out, using the latest tech and quality coaches. This helps them play better and improve that all-important poker face. Beyond this, they take things further, working on their psyche with professionals in the same way that a pro golfer or footballer would. These are behaviors inspired by that will-to-win mindset that sets them apart.
The Rare Ability of Poker Recall
And finally, we have the uncanny recall ability that these players showcase. This is not just about having a great memory; it is about knowing that memorizing hands and game sequences can help in future games. This focus on remembering games, hands, and tells comes from a winner’s mindset. Perhaps there will be things that they can’t place well in other areas of life, but games, tics, and flops they will not forget. The skill and attitude towards recall is yet another weapon in the arsenal of an elite player’s mindset.
An unwavering love for the game is at the foundation of the mindset of those playing poker at the very highest level. It is this that drives their desire to improve, to gain not only the playing skills but also the layers of thought and emotional balance that create the deep-rooted mental mechanics that see them win time and time again. Ultimately, an elite-level mindset is only possible with love and hard work. These players are born with some talent, but they had to walk a long road before obtaining that way of thinking that could take them to the very top of their sport.