Beginners often underrate intangibles in poker



More often than not, poker students who seek my advice are at a level in their game whereby the student has read a few books on poker, understands the fundamentals of hold’em and has become astute.

This player is smart and recognizes he should be earning more profit at the tables. Furthermore, it has crossed his mind that a poker coach just might be a good idea. This player has the potential to join the 10-percent-winners club, players who can make real money in this ever-vexing game. Remember, 10 percent of the players earn 90 percent of the profit, leaving the crumbs for the rest of the players who keep coming back as underdogs.

Again, often enough, players who start with me, are keen to talk about specific hands in which they were involved. Understandably so, these players are eager to improve their game and want to know if they “played it right.”

Unfortunately, covering specific hands will only take us so far. Almost always there are more significant leaks to find. Some are obvious and some are hidden. Just for starters, let’s name a few: playing tired; playing too long; drinking; discipline-related issues, tilt and table selection.

In sporting events, (include poker in this) it’s often intangibles that end up determining the winning or losing team. There have been many studies that bear this out. Having homefield advantage goes way beyond having the energy of the fans. Scientists who study performance, blunders, chokes and errors or mistakes agree with this 100 percent.

“Now British researchers are reporting that what really matters in peak performance is whether the time of an event is in synch with an athletes body clock,” writes Gina Kolata from her study published in the New York Times.

Remember Bill Walsh with the 49ers? The team would miss a day of practice, travel a day early and instead of having a roommate at the hotel, all players got their own rooms. That team for more than five years was not only winning titles and Super Bowls, it was dominating games. Clearly this great coach was thinking about biorhythms. In the study listed above, players were more likely to make mistakes at certain times of the day. And from player to player, there were significant differences.

I have had break-even students turn into winning players simply by examining sleep and playing-time patterns. You, at the minimum, ought to be intrigued by this news. Sure, there’s a vast difference from one player to the next in how sleep and outside, “off the table” events affect winning rates.

I can get you over the hill since 95 percent of my former and current students are winning players. Hire a coach, ya think?

— Mark Brement has spent 15 years teaching and coaching all facets of poker, including at Pima Community College. Email him at

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine