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Most of the population believe they’re above average in all areas when asked. This number is staggering because by definition 50 percent are above average and 50 percent are below. However, people consistently rate themselves above average. Don’t make this mistake in your poker game.

THERE ARE BETTER PLAYERS OUT THERE: It’s important to realize no matter how good you are and no matter how many hours you play, there are better players than you.

It’s important to avoid playing with these players if possible, but realize they’re not always easily identifiable.

Approach a table with the understanding that it’s likely one or more of those players have a more developed skill than you.

DON’T ASSUME A BAD PLAY IS MADE BY AN IDIOT: Phil Hellmuth loves to assume the opponents are idiots and bad at poker. If you have a massive ego, I can see how this is necessary. But if you don’t, you’ll see some players are better than you, and that’s OK.

IT’S EASY TO ASSUME SOMEONE IS BAD: There was a \$2-\$5 NLHE game I played in once that had one of those fish you don’t see too many times a year. He had \$5K-plus in front of him. I decided the proper opening raise preflop was \$100. This person always called if he already had called \$5 and he was on my immediate right. As word spread of this guy, the better players in the room started to come to my table.

I LOOKED LIKE THE IDIOT IN THAT GAME: If you come to a \$2-\$5 game and the first hand you see one player limp and the next player make it \$100 to go, that looks really bad. You easily can assume I’m a bad player.

The good players that sat in this game asked me to raise the max buy-in. At that point, it was really important I had significantly more than the max buy-in.

I wanted to be the only competent player at the table with enough money to bust this gigantic fish, so I said no and my reason was “It’s out of my bankroll, sorry.”

I wasn’t trying to look bad in the game, I just wanted to move along. At the end of this session, where I won more than I thought was possible, one of the good players said to me, “Dude, when I sat down, I thought you were an idiot; you were literally the only one that knew how to play against that guy.”

You probably are better than your competition, especially if you read this magazine, but be ready to be humbled at times.

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