Friday, January 28, 2005

A Good Poker Player

There have been a couple of well written posts about the insights of a poker session. It got me to thinking about what a good poker player is. This has been discussed at all the popular forums and there are as many different views as there are posts. Like many poker questions the answer can be summed up as “it depends” but to me, there is a quantitative value that helps define a good poker player.

The two post that I am referring to are from -EV and from Mean Gene

In tournament play, you can measure how good you are by how many final tables you are in. You can conceivably make money and never be in a final table but to measure greatness, which has to be part of the equation, how many final tables is an important measuring stick. Let’s be honest, if it wasn’t for back to back final tables there would be no Dan Harrington book.

What about us grinders, ring gaming “x” hours a day, “x” days a week. How do we know we are a good poker player? We all have read over and over that you shouldn’t be results oriented and should concentrate on making the right decisions and playing the right cards in the right position and making the most of it. There has to be, in the break down of things, a quantitative value that proves you are a good poker player. Basically a good poker player is a winning poker player over time and that boils down to money.

A respected poster at the ITH forum once said the size of your bankroll has nothing to do with how good a poker player you are. I believe that whole heartedly. Case in point is bonus chasing. A good bonus chaser can expand is bankroll on a monthly basis and be a break even or even a little worse poker player. Going from site to site, reloading and chasing monthly crypto’s could find a player with a roll big enough to play at higher limits but not be good enough to survive there. I’m not saying bonuses are bad, as a matter of fact, I believe –EV hit it on the head when he said they are an important part of the game. To a good poker player, a bonus is just that, a bonus….free money. It not only adds to a winning session but also lessens the effect of a bad run. It’s like a safety net, you don’t want to use it, but glad it is there.

I believe, for us grinders, a good poker player has to have the stats to back it up. The most useful stat to show you are winning would be BB/hour. That’s were a program such as Poker Tracker comes in handy. Numbers don’t lie and if your BB/hour is not where it should be you have an issue that needs to be addressed. No matter were your bankroll is. In my opinion, ~2 BB/hour is a good number for low limit games and 1 BB/hour for the higher limit games. I do not emphasis this number on a monthly basis buy I do track it quarterly to try to identify trends in my game and it helps me spot a leak that may be creeping up. (There are many). This number keeps me honest. If it is extraordinarily high, I am running well, I have to watch for overconfidence and make sure that I am still playing the right starting hands and making the right decisions. I do not want to bleed off any of my profit because I start chasing the good run. The same goes with extraordinary low bb/hour numbers. Is it time for a break, or am I chasing good cards I know I should be folding, forcing my hands and the like.

Though it may seem like it, I am not focusing on the results here but tracking trends to make sure my game stays on track and moving forward. Poker, as it has been said many times, is two steps forward and one back, you just have to keep the step back smaller than the steps forward.

It seems that all things great have some sort of measurement with them. Good players have their records, good teams have their championships and good poker players make money.

The other thing they have is longevity. The stand the test of time and are still talked about year after year. Marino, Elway, Montana, Gretzky, Jordan, Magic, Byrd, Ruth, Mays, Williams, Yankees, Braves, 49’ers, Steelers, Cowboys and the list could go on and on. A good poker player is also measured by time. A good poker player understands the variance and concentrates on the long haul. Not session to session or even month to month. To come out on top, in the positive, year after year….now that is a measure of greatness.

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