Leave your poker ego at the door

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Keeping the ego out of the game of poker was the hardest lesson I had to learn. We know we’re winning players and we’re treating our play like a business, so we need to set aside our egos. Failing to check an ego can lead to a multitude of poor choices. Here are a few:

STOP TRYING TO BE THE BEST PLAYER AT THE TABLE: The most important thing in being a pro is winning, not creating the perception that you’re a pro. There’s no need to actively put yourself in higher variance spots against other competent players at the table.

It’s perfectly acceptable to let the table think someone else is the best player, as long as you’re making a steady hourly rate. This, of course, doesn’t apply to tournaments; you need to attack everyone in those. We are cash-game pros, so we aren’t playing many of those anyway, right?

DON’T BE ASHAMED TO STEP DOWN IN STAKES: Maybe it’s variance, medical bills or your country left the EU, but your bankroll is no longer sufficient for the game you usually play. Since you play so many hours, everyone who recognizes you will wonder why you dropped down.

Dealers, players, floors, even your Twitter followers will question the move. Lie if you need to, but don’t fall for the trap of staying at the limits where you were playing and going broke.

SOMETIMES YOU’RE PLAYING BAD: This is always the hardest thing for a pro to notice. Most of the time you’re playing great, but there are times when you need to pack it in and get out of the poker room.

You need to look back on sessions and try to identify bad plays and establish rules for avoiding them. Maybe you only let yourself lose three buy-ins. Maybe if you lose a pot over a certain size, you leave. Take a week off after three consecutive losing sessions. Find a way to keep your ego out of that decision.

As someone with one of the biggest egos on this planet, this is one of the most important concepts I was able to figure out early on. Do not fall victim to your hubris.

— Brent Philbin is a poker pro who lives in South Florida. You can reach him at Brent.Philbin@gmail.com.