So you’re planning to leap into competitive poker play. That’s great! However, before you do, you need to ensure you have the right ideas about what it takes to succeed. Here are some of the things many aspiring pros wrongly believe about competitive poker play:
You Need to Be Good at Math
Mathematics is one of the most important poker skills. You can only go so far in competitive play if you don’t understand how to use basic math, like pot odds and expected value (EV).
But, many aspiring pros mistake this for needing an advanced understanding of math or even a degree in mathematics. While these can be helpful, the reality is that a basic knowledge of mathematics is often enough to give you an edge over opponents who don’t understand the math.
It also helps that apps and tools that can quickly calculate all the math for you are now readily available. So, while a strong math background will certainly help, it is not a hard requirement to be successful at competitive poker play.
You Always Have to Play Tightly
It is true that playing tight and avoiding risks can help you be successful in the short term. But, it is also true that many of the most successful players today are fearless in taking risks and making large bets when appropriate. So, while being able to play both tight is an important skill, aspiring pros should also be willing to take risks when warranted.
You Have to Play for Hours Every Day
Many believe the only way to succeed at competitive poker is to devote much of your waking hours to studying and playing the game. However, this does not apply to everyone. Depending on your skill level, you may find that just a few hours a week to study and practice can be enough to make progress in the game.
Of course, if you are trying to reach the highest levels of competitive play, you will likely have to devote more time to the game. But, for many aspiring pros, even a few hours of play each week can be enough to make steady progress.
You Don’t Need Good People Skills
Whether poker is more of a game of math or people skills is debatable. However, reading your opponents and understanding what they are trying to do is an important skill. Engaging in the game without tipping your hand, bluffing convincingly, and manipulating the pot size can all be valuable strategies when playing against skilled opponents.
Therefore, aspiring pros should know the importance of good people skills and understanding other players’ thoughts. Even if you don’t need to be an expert in people skills, a basic understanding of psychology can go a long way toward improving your poker game.
It’s especially true for players that think being good in online poker is enough. While online poker has advantages, it can also be challenging to read your opponents like in a live game. Aspiring pros need to understand how people skills play into online and live poker games to maximize their chances of success.
You Have to Play Every Hand Perfectly
Many aspiring pros mistakenly believe they must analyze all poker hands to perfection. While aiming for perfect play is admirable, it is only possible to do so in some scenarios, and this can lead to tilt if you are too focused on this lofty goal. Given your current situation, the goal should be to make the best play possible.
Sometimes this means folding a hand even if you think it might be good. Other times, it could mean calling an all-in bet on a draw, even when your odds of hitting are slim. The key is understanding why these decisions make sense in certain scenarios and how they can help you win the pot.
You Need to Be Solely Focused On Poker
Many aspiring pros believe they must dedicate their life entirely to poker to succeed. While it is true that professional players often spend a lot of time at the tables, this does not mean you have to do the same. In fact, many successful professionals still have other jobs or hobbies outside of poker, and these can be beneficial in helping you stay fresh and focused when playing.
Ultimately, having a break from the poker table can help you come back with a refreshed mindset, allowing you to make better decisions at the felt. So, while there is no doubt that success in competitive poker play requires dedication and hard work, it does not mean that your entire life has to revolve around the game.
You Should Always Be in Tournaments
Playing in tournaments can provide an excellent way to build up your bankroll and develop skills as a poker player. However, this does not mean that you should play exclusively in tournaments.
Cash games are still the best way to make consistent money in poker, and aspiring pros should strive to be well-rounded players who understand the differences between tournament and cash game play. It’s also the best way to get that much-needed practice, as cash games play much faster than tournaments.
In addition, there are many other types of poker games and formats that aspiring pros should consider exploring. From SNGs (sit and gos) to abnormal variations like short deck hold’em, having deep knowledge of multiple forms of poker will help you become a better-rounded player.
Time to Get Your Poker Brain Right
These are just a few common misconceptions about competitive poker that many aspiring pros often need to correct. Remember, having a strong understanding of mathematics and poker strategy is essential for success, but it is far from the only requirement to make it as a professional player. Ultimately, the key is to find what works.