The Perfect Poker Player

Believe it or not, you're already the perfect poker player - you just don't know it yet. What you do know is that you love the game, and want to learn more. Thankfully, that's all it takes to start the process of bringing out your one-of-a-kind, killer edge.


Using the term 'perfect' to describe anything - let alone anyone - can seem more than a little heavy handed, especially in a game like poker, which is - as you know - a game of imperfect information. This said, attributing the quality of perfection to a player is not as lofty a claim as you may think. Yes, players make mistakes and yes, we can't always make an informed decision based on what little we know, but the 'perfect' poker player doesn't let this stop the gravy train. 

Confused?

Let me break it down for you another way: xerophytes are plants that have gradually adapted to survive in the desert. During their painful evolution, they ditched the energy-sucking leaves and instead grew spines, which they use for defence. Not all xerophytes have adapted to their environment the same way: some have developed long roots that help them take up water from deep underground, while others sport short and savvy roots that suck up and absorb water with impressive alacrity after even the most meager rain. Sure, these hardy plants may not be pretty to look at, but they survive - nay thrive day after day, month after month, year after year in the most inhospitable of places. If you've ever sat through an eight hour game on a hard, metal chair beside a player who could stand to buy stocks in Irish Spring, then you may have had a taste of what I mean. The 'perfect' poker player is that xerophyte. 

By the very definition of the game, a game of risks and rewards and flubs and full-on comebacks, being perfect simply means thriving in hostile environment.

And I should know. I've been lucky enough (and let's face it, worked hard enough) to be able to play with and learn from some of the best poker players of all time. Each has their own, kick ass spread of strengths - those things that make them stand out and above the rest - and these attributes are what I am going to be talking about today. 

The Commonality

Out of the myriad of things that makes my mentors different, there's also one pervasive similarity: they refuse to become complacent. The desire to learn more, be more, be better and never accept their status quo no matter how successful they've been is a driving force in their lives. This is what makes them champions.

Think Greg Merson, who after winning the $10K 6-max for $10 million dollars got right back to the grind once he got back to Jersey. He was 6 tabling $1/$2 to $5/$10 NL, just to stay sharp, stay in the game and keep fine tuning his craft so he can keep doing what he loves for as long as possible. 

Of course, as I said, perfection - as that unsullied, polished force - is an illusion. Perhaps an attractive one, but an illusion nevertheless. If you are trying to sell clothes, cars or swag, you might buy into this illusion. If you want to make money at the tables - if you want to win in life - if you want to keep your little boat afloat, you're going to need to jetsam that shit.

Portrait of the Perfect Poker Player

I’ll paint you a picture. The perfect poker player has:

  • The work ethic and execution of Greg Merson
  • The presence and one-track focus of Tony Gregg
  • The fearlessness and creativity of Calvin Anderson
  • The fundamentals and consistency of Dan Smith
  • The self-awareness and intuition of Andrew Lichtenberger
  • The perfect poker player has mastered the art of scheduling and leads a balanced life like Grayson Ramage
  • The natural talent and the 'absorbability' of Griffin Benger
  • The gamble and versatility of Ankush Mandavia
  • The heart and will to win of Simon Charette
  • The confidence and the table talk of Charlie Carrel
  • The hunger and the openness of Ali Imsirovic

All these players share a devotion to the game and trust and confidence in themselves. Perhaps most of all, as I've mentioned, they also possess the knowledge that while they are enough as they are, their game will never be enough, and to succeed, they have to grow and adapt, or die. 

I invite you to engage in an exercise. 

Write down your version of the perfect poker player. One person, twenty. Whatever it is.

It's better to take traits and qualities from players/people that you know in real life as you will have a clearer and more accurate picture on what exactly those traits feel like. Media is great at manipulating our perceptions. 

This said, it's fine to include some poker celebs and some role models, as it gives us something bigger to aspire to. We can't look up to all our friends; all our equals. Hell, it's even of value to include people who you consider to be worse players than you but who you think do one or two things extremely well.

The point is to create a portrait of an ideal player; it's not about the full picture of one person, it's picking only the traits that make them excellent. This is the poker player who you are aspiring to become every single day.

Call on these attributes in yourself as you need them. Emulating one person will only help you in one circumstance. These are a reflection of you in, as your best self. You already have all this in you. This hero, this archetype you create, these championship skills, you already have. We are all human, cut from the same cloth.

Your job is to nourish, develop, realize and then actualize to become the END BOSS of poker.

Photo Credit: Drew Coffman | Flickr