Quotations can be a great source of both entertainment and education, and the subject of poker is no exception. Sometimes the utterances of those with experience and wisdom serve to keep us on – or even lead us to – the right path. With this in mind, here are some words of wisdom that should resonate with every player, from beginner to veteran.

When it comes to No Limit Hold’em, the most popular format for both tournaments and Cash games, the great Tim McEvoy summed up a typical session perfectly: “No Limit Hold’em: Hours of boredom followed by moments of sheer terror”. 


The chorus of the classic Kenny Rogers song, The Gambler, goes:

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em”.

The second line tends to be the most important, yet it’s the least respected, as the vast majority of players have a problem folding their hands.

However… “Fold and live to fold again” Stu Ungar.

“You will show your poker greatness by the hands you fold, not the hands you play”Dan Reed.

But… “The majority of players are looking for reasons to fold. I am looking for reasons to play”Daniel Negreanu.


What about the fact that poker is undeniably a game of skill, with a luck element? We’ll start with a funny one from the Poker Brat himself, Phil Helmuth:

“Poker is 100% skill and 50% luck”.

“If there weren’t luck involved, I would win every time” isn’t just a Phil Hellmuth quotation, but a line that his tablemates may well hear more than once.

“Poker is a skill game pretending to be a chance game”James Altucher.

“Poker is a combination of luck and skill. People think mastering the skill part is hard, but they’re wrong. The trick to poker is mastering the luck” – Jesse May isn’t considered one of the game’s best-ever commentators for nothing!

“Serious poker is no more about gambling than rock climbing is about taking risks” – Al Alvarez. This is one of my favorites – of course, poker can be defined as gambling, but there has to be a distinction made in the context here: we compete with each other in poker, as opposed to playing against the ‘house’ in a game such as roulette, where the odds are stacked against us and we have no input or impact on the outcome.

“We’ll end on this subject with these wise words: In the long run there’s no luck in poker, but the short run is longer than most people know”Rick Bennet.

The Poker Mind

“Poker reveals to the frank observer something else of import. It will teach him about his own nature. Many bad players do not improve because they cannot bear self-knowledge”David Mamet, Pulitzer winning playwright, and poker veteran.

“Poker is a fascinating, wonderful, intricate adventure on the high seas of human nature”David A. Daniel, poker author.

“What’s true of the poker game is true of life. Most people are suckers and don’t realise it”Michael Faust.

“The strong point in poker is never to lose your temper, either with those you are playing or, more particularly with the cards. There is no sympathy in poker. Always keep cool. If you lose your head you will lose all your chips” – William J. Florence, author of The Handbook of Poker (1892). Note that this advice came as far back as the 19th century, and almost 130 years later we’re still not taking it…

Poker is not simply a game of odds, moves and calculations. It is a game of controlled and exploited emotions including greed, fear, over-confidence and anger – Steven Lubet.

Finally, this unattributed gem might initially seem like a riddle, but it’s an alt description of our fascinating game: Sometimes doing the right thing loses you money and the wrong thing gains you money. The trick is figuring the right time to do the wrong thing and the wrong time to do the right thing”.



AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 29.03.2021 · last updated 29.03.2021