Recognize that Poker is not for everyone.
Uh, that came out wrong. Let me re-phrase: In my humble opinion, there are 10 key attributes that the majority of poker winners have in common. Do you have all of these in your arsenal?
- Intelligence. Poker requires analytic thought. Every hand of poker is essentially a logic puzzle to be solved. Brain power is required.
- Passion. You have to love this game to get better at it. It can be so damn aggravating and frustrating that you have to sometimes rely on that inner passion to muscle through the tough times and continue getting better.
- Discipline/Persistence. Getting better takes hard work. Study, post-mortems, active learning... Get used to it.
- Greed. Maybe a better word/phrase for this would be Want-to-Win. It's that fire in your belly that makes you need to take your neighbor's stack from him/her.
- Insensitivity. If check-raise bluffing your sweet old arthritic grandmother is what it takes to win a big pot in the middle, you have to be willing to do so. Away from the table is the time to bring her tea and cookies. On the table is the time to attack her frailties and weaknesses.
- Patience. Poker is about maximizing EV, and so much of that means just waiting for good opportunities, and passing up marginal ones. The best players are incredibly patient. Tight is Right.
- Aggressiveness. This one is the twin of (6) above; together they form the winning formula of TAg. Aggressive is Good-- correction, make that Great.
- Empathy. The ability to get inside your opponent's head is what separates the wheat from the chaff in this game at the higher levels. A corollary to this one is being observant and focused
- Stability. As mentioned above in (2), this game can be brutally "unfair" at times. You have to be able to shrug off the bad beats and coolers as just a normal--and necessary!--part of the game. Emotional stability is fundamental to winning.
- Fearlessness. In order to win at this game, you have to be willing to die. Can you pull the trigger when it counts? Can you trust yourself? Your reads? Said another way: do you have enough "heart" to win?
Some (but not all) of these can be improved upon with work. Hard work, that is. And like many things in life, it's important to do an honest self-assessment to identify those things that need improvement. In fact, the eleventh item on the list should be:
11. Honesty. Are you truthful about your abilities, skills, and weaknesses? You can't fix a problem until you recognize it. Regular, honest, brutal self-assessment is required to succeed at poker. Period.
All-in for now...