The difference between a winning poker player and a fish is that the fish does not anticipate winning at all. A good poker player will have personal standards of how to play the game – self-discipline and discipline of strategies. A fish is content to play the slots, or craps – just hoping to get lucky and win a big payout – or any payout at all. A well disciplined poker player doesn’t hope to get lucky. A good poker player hopes other players won’t have all the luck.
A well disciplined poker player knows when to play and when to walk away. A good poker strategist understands when they are on tilt, and is well aware when the game is too tempting with juicy drippings to quit while out in front. A disciplined player also realizes they are not going to be perfect, nor is any game going to be perfect. When a good player happens to make a mistake, they learn from it and move on without regret.
A good player is not so introspective as to be aloof to the particulars of the game in play. Well disciplined poker players will empathize with their opponents. Good players will put themselves in the place of their opponents – try to think as they think, and understand why certain plays are being made.
A real poker pro will always try to have an answer to the questions: What is my opponent holding? What does my opponent think I am holding? What does my opponent believe I think they are holding?
Step one: knowing the answers to these questions. Step two: being able to manipulate those answers into one’s favor. Perhaps, you are holding a pair of kings and you know your opponent has a pair of aces. If both of you know what each other is holding, and both of you know that you have this information – then why go on with the hand? A well disciplined poker pro will manipulate the situation to their favor by means of fast or slow play action and bluffing to throw off the opponent and win the hand.
A good player also recognizes that these psychological battles are much more important during a no-limit game rather than one with a limit. Limit games can often develop into heated math strategies, while the no-limit hands carry the importance of watching for tells and psychological battles.