What does it take to be a winning poker player?



Now that I’ve been writing this column for a while, I find I’ve developed a kind of following and lately several of my loyal readers have written to ask me what I think are the three most important qualities it takes to be a consistent winner.

Disclaimer: There is no “following” that I know of, and no one has asked me any such question. As far as “loyal readers,” that’s just something I hope could happen some day. The fact is that I made all of this up to get your attention.

If you’re still with me, let’s pretend it did happen so I can tell you what it takes to end each year with more money in your poker fund than you had 12 months earlier.

However, I don’t want to imply that my answer is the only one that matters. There are so many factors that go into making a player successful and I suspect that no two poker authors would choose exactly the same three factors as I am about to list. But I’ve given the matter a lot of thought.

• You have to continually learn more about the skill level of your opponents. If you don’t notice which player raises too much, tries to make too many draws, plays too many hands, makes plays that are contrary to the odds that the pot is offering or perhaps bluffs too often, you are missing out. Knowing where you fit in at the table in terms of skill level and how to use that knowledge to your benefit, is more important than most players realize.

• Understanding the importance of position and what to do about it definitely ranks in the top three. If you call a raise in early position with ace-rag, you will be fighting an uphill battle.

But that same holding when you are on the button and several players have limped in presents a different opportunity.

• You need to understand pot odds and how to use the concept to your advantage. There are times when you should be drawing to a four-outer (not too often) and you should be able to tell when that is.

Also, you should be aware of what the pot odds are likely to become as the hand develops, often referred to as implied pot odds.

And there you have it. Maybe some of you were thinking of asking this question and, if so, I’m glad I could weigh in.

— Willy Neuman divides plays at Hollywood Casino in Aurora, Ill., and Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz. Email editor@anteupmagazine.com.

Chris Cosenza

Chris Cosenza