What Separates Strong Poker Players From Weak Ones

Bethany Jones
by Bethany Jones  |  Reviewer and Columnist
Although weak poker players may think that simply improving their strategy is the key to start dominating the tables, strong players use several “hidden” methods to gain an advantage.

While many poker players like to believe that they are strong players, the reality is that there are significantly more weak players in the game than truly strong ones.

If you look closely, the strong players stand out for more reasons than consistently winning at the poker tables.

Strong players do more than make the right play or incorporate the best strategies. They also do a lot of things away from tables that ultimately impacts their game in a positive fashion.

Let’s take a look at a few key (but often overlooked) aspects that separate strong poker players from weak ones.

Changing gears at will is essential to strong poker play

A lot of weak players stick to an ABC style of poker or some simple variant of that style.

Other players can play one style well but are unable to change gears when necessary. For example, a player that is normally very loose may run into trouble against tough opponents with well-balanced strategies.

Strong players can change gears to better exploit their opponents. They are usually able to hold their own regardless of whether they are playing loose or tight.

Studying the game takes up as much effort and time as actual play

While it is common knowledge that you have to study in order to improve your game, many players either don’t study enough or study the wrong things. Strong players are constantly evaluating their own play and studying strategies from other players in order to improve their game.

This type of study goes far beyond evaluating individual poker hands but also includes study in the areas of psychology, game theory, mathematics and even philosophy. Learning more about how other players think and react to situations will allow you to develop a more complex, winning strategy.

Strong players also develop significant time to study. You’ll often hear of strong players putting in one hour of study for every hour of time they play at the tables. That type of time commitment is something that many weak players aren’t willing to make.

Strong poker players are unrelenting in their post-play study and review, with many actually putting in as many educational hours as gameplay hours.

Strong poker players allow their game to evolve and improve

A byproduct of regular study and improvement is that your game will evolve. Strong players continually evolve their poker game and can stay ahead of the changing trends in poker.

There are many weak players that refuse to change their style of play or to try new moves because they believe that what they know is enough to consistently win.

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All you need to do is look at the players that were winning in the years leading up to and directly following the Poker Boom to see that this style of thinking is flawed. Many players from the years surrounding the Poker Boom era stuck with the old school style of playing and their stats slowly began to decline.

Players that were able to learn the new ways of thinking and were able to incorporate new strategies into their game were able to evolve and survive.

Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton is a perfect example. He admitted that watching players on the World Poker Tour inspired him to work on his game and this ultimately led to him becoming a World Poker Tour Champion prior to leaving the tour.

Poker is ever-evolving. If you can’t evolve with the game, you will never advance in your game and many players end up becoming long-term losers.

Winning players no longer ignore their physical well-being

Strong poker players take care of themselves away from the table both physically and mentally. Over the last decade, you’ve noticed a trend of top players trying to improve their lifestyles through diet, exercise, meditation, and other methods.

Strong players tend to:

  • Eat right
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stay away from excessive partying and drug use

Sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but overall we have seen that players that take care of themselves are able to enjoy more stamina at the tables and are putting up consistent results.

In addition, strong players develop relationships with positive people and largely stay away from those that can have a negative impact on their life or their poker game. Having a positive mindset is important for poker and putting people in you life that reinforces this is a +EV move.

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