You can’t equate poker patience with passivity



I started this column by rethinking the value of patience in poker: “Is patience really important in poker?” I understand everyone says patience is important, but when I watch winning play I begin to question that premise.

At one point, patience was the poker mantra as tight-aggressive play was thought to be the winning style. But now I’m not so sure.

The Internet brought out hyper-aggression and agro poker. When Black Friday hit, that style flooded brick-and-mortar rooms.

Then came a time when, if you were patient, you were called a nit and wouldn’t be playing much at all.

Light three-betting and four-betting became the modality.

Can this last, or will patience make a comeback? Or, did it never leave, but just morph into a different type of behavior? Should we look at patience differently?
I watched a great deal of play and had the realization we shouldn’t confuse patience and passivity.

Patience is “the ability to endure waiting, delay, or provocation without becoming annoyed or upset, or to persevere calmly when faced with difficulties.”

Passivity isn’t acting when one should to exact the greatest potential.

In addition to patience being called a virtue, it also has been said poker constantly changes and evolves. One style begets another.

At the simplest level, if the table is tight aggressive, it may make the most sense to play a wider range of hands and play more aggressively, more loosely aggressive. Then, as the game becomes looser and more aggressive, it makes sense to play a tighter aggressive game. It may make sense to use other techniques, too.

But it seems the era of hyper-aggression may be coming to an end.

I played in several tournaments lately and have noticed players who have been aggressive are smooth-calling, limiting the size of the pot.

It may not be poker evolves, but instead, cycles. You have to be able to read the cycle and the situation to play the most optimal style. To be a high-level player, you need not only to know the math and be able to read the player, but be comfortable with all styles of play. You need to look passive, play tight and come out aggressive as much as you need to play hyper-aggressively when the situation calls for it.

Think of the various styles and adjust. Patience is good, but may not always be the best answer to the situation.

The old quadrant of tight-loose/passive-aggressive has evolved into a cyclical game. You may want to use those dichotomies to put players on a style, but don’t let yourself be boxed in to any style.

Patience is an important part of play; patience is not passivity.

Patiently keep your head in the game to perform at your peak.

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. His column will give insight on how to achieve peak performance using poker psychology. Email questions for him at

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine