You’ve Got To Keep Fighting

You’ve Got To Keep Fighting

Searching for light at the end of the tunnel...

There are many skills required to be a professional poker player (or even to be a profitable amateur).  While there’s no doubt that skills such as an understanding of poker math, knowledge of game theory and the ability to think quickly and execute knowledge in real time are essential to poker success, there’s another valuable skill that often gets over-looked.

And that skill is good-old-fashioned stubbornness.

The game of poker will mess with your head.  As you continue to do everything right only to have your heart shattered by bad beats and coolers, you’ll start to question if the variance is just too high and wonder if maybe the game just isn’t beatable.

A personal example:

A few weeks back I had a pretty decent tournament cash.  I withdrew a nice chunk of money from the poker site and joked with my girlfriend about the ‘cashout curse’.  It’s something of a semi-joke in the poker community, about the fact that you always seem to run horribly bad after you’ve just taken money off the site.  Well, it may have been a joke (and for the record I don’t actually believe in curses) but what followed was the unluckiest two weeks of poker in my life.  Everything went against me.  From losing every flip to bad beats that will make your skin crawl. (I was even eliminated from one tournament holding AA against 98 on an A99 board.  Take a guess which card fell on the river.)

These are the moments when a reasonable person might just give up.  But if you want to be successful at this game you have to keep fighting.  You have to keep playing well despite the terrible results.  Variance is a bitch, and the short-term can seem like eons, but if you’re truly playing profitably then you will win in the long run, if you’re willing to fight for it.

Almost every successful professional poker player has a story about going completely broke after amassing a considerable bankroll.  Without the stubbornness to keep fighting, to keep enduring the pain of variance, those players would have moved on to safer careers a long time ago.

Possibly the greatest example of the volatility of poker and the stubbornness required to succeed, can be found in this thread from in 2007.  In the thread a micro stakes player expresses his frustration about the ‘roller coaster’ ride of variance and how it has him down to his last $30 again.  He’s questioning his own abilities, as well as whether or not the game of poker is actually beatable on a consistent basis.  This player was Doug Polk, currently considered one of the best players in the world with several million in online and live winnings.  Just 10 years ago he was ready to give up.  The ups and downs of variance had him on the ropes and he could have easily moved on to another career.  But he didn’t.  He kept fighting and eventually rose to the top.

So if doing everything perfectly for long stretches only to lose constantly and question your sanity is not something you’re prepared to deal with, then serious poker is probably not for you. If  you truly want to make a living or have success in this game, you have to be willing to keep banging your head against the wall.  Eventually, that wall’s going to break down.  Let’s just hope you’ve still got a bit of your sanity left when it does.

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