Why do great poker players lose?


Let’s assume for a second we’re referring to a player who is well-read, understands position, does not tilt and understands bet-sizing. How is it possible this described player is booking losing months?

Strong players can have subtle leaks. Players who contact me for coaching always have books on the game. Furthermore, they have read them and done their fair share of studying. So where are they going wrong?

There’s a strong chance this player is not bringing his A game to the table every hand. When we play and time passes on, it’s a normal occurrence that our brain slows down. As time passes, we get tired. If you are reading this and keep records of your wins and losses, try dividing your sessions in half. So if you play for eight hours, log a first four hours and second four hours of play. Invariably, your results are better in your first half of play.

Said player understands position and opens his range up in later position. This is a hallmark of winning players, right? You bet it is. Here’s the thing that makes poker so simple but yet so complex. It’s the “minute to learn, lifetime to master” game. It’s a game that requires so much skill that many strong players leave the felt shaking their head and bemoaning an imaginary thing called luck.

Do not change this part of your game. That said, it might be possible you’re taking raises with strong hands with your mind muddled and somewhere along the line you blurred the distinction between a trap hand and a hand that can sustain a raise. Taking a raise with K-J from a tight solid player from early position is a leak. Time to plug this leak quick before it floods.

Many players imagine they do not tilt. Sorry to disappoint you: If you believe this about yourself, then you are on tilt right now. All players tilt. Tilt in poker does not mean anger. It means you’re not playing your best. This can be abstract. One might be distracted. If you’re missing things you normally catch at the table, there’s no blinking red light to inform you of the event. There are also countless off-the-table tilt-proof methods that are part of a super-winning player’s makeup. Take note that today’s most successful players often hire coaches.

If you’re not winning consistently and you have the poker blues, there is a chance you’re pricing in opponents in multiway pots and therefore turning a positive EV into a negative-EV situation. Bet your hand; bet that top set; bet, bet, bet.

— Mark Brement has spent 15 years teaching and coaching all facets of poker, including at Pima CC. Email him at brementmark@gmail.com.