7 traits of a winning player

Many people can be referred to as regular online poker players, but when can you call yourself a winning player? Even better, when can other people call you a winning player? That is indeed the perfect compliment for any poker fan.

Of course, not all the regulars are winning players – some, despite the time they spend at the tables, are losing players, while some play occasionally and break even, and there are those who concentrate on volume with a view to breaking even in the actual games but making money generating Rakeback. This last strategy is quite common, and of course it’s a feasible way to make decent overall profit, but that still doesn’t constitute an actual winning player, poker-wise.

Yet this should be everyone’s ultimate target, their long-term goal. Poker mastery, should we succeed in attaining it, means being a player who, over time, expects to come out ahead. Obviously it’s all relative, and some will win at a greater rate than others but, generally, there will be certain characteristics or traits that tend to be shared by all winning players.

Here are some important points to put you in the right direction to poker masterdom. Some might seem obvious, but we often say that when confronted with facts which we might have neglected to properly consider in the past.

A real winning player:

  • Proves to be a winning player in their long-term results
  • Looks at the game as a job
  • Knows how much volume they can realistically manage
  • Understands and accepts variance and swings
  • Regularly works on their game in order to further improve results
  • Leaves their poker ego at home
  • Constantly strives to maximizing profits with the best cashback/rakeback deals

#1 – Proof of being a Winning Player

A genuine poker grinder, with sufficient profit from a meaningful sample size, can be considered a proven winning player. This is easy to understand but in practice can be quite difficult to demonstrate. The question is: How can I prove that I am a winning player? In addition, how big is a meaningful sample size?

At what point am I a winning player?

This depends, of course, on your main game. An MTT or SNG grinder, for example, measures their win rate in terms of ROI (return on investment), whereas a cash game player tracks profit in Big Blinds win per 100 hands. As long as the ROI or BB/100 is positive – no matter how high the value is – you are a winning player. Of course, it is not enough to prove that you are a long-term winning player. The higher the value and the sample size, the more likely you are a winning player, and the more reliable your win rate is.

For SNG players, Holdem Manager, for example, has an all-in EV display. This indicator calculates your luck in all all-in situations by comparing your pot equity with the result (for ICM). This produces the famous “Red-Line EV”, indicating your adjusted win rate. It would be wrong to say that this red line indicates your correct win rate but it definitely helps you find your true ROI.

How big is a meaningful sample size?

A solid SNG player playing 10max with 5% ROI can occasionally have a breakeven period of 1,000 and more SNG’s. Similarly as a cash game player you can have swings of up to 50,000 and more hands. The chances are low but we can’t ignore them. Poker is a gamble in the short-term and a winning player must accept that as well as have a bankroll (and bankroll management) that can sustain such periods.

#2 – Consider poker as your job

Poker absolutely can be like a job. A winning player looks at a session as a typical worker views a shift. They know their ROI and focus on making as many correct decisions as possible. That is the only thing that a good player can do in terms of engineering a win rate. They know that they continue to make optimal decisions they will consequently make money in the long-term. Obviously hands will still be lost after making accurate decisions, but the point is to continue in the same vein regardless, consistently playing optimally, time and again, so that variance/bad luck evens out over time. This is the secret to maximising a long-term win rate.

With this mindset the game is a job, albeit one with unpredictable swings, and the only way to compensate for variance is high volume in terms of hands/games played. Thus, we need to play a lot of +EV poker to make money in the long-run.

What happens if a winning player has a losing streak?

Here is where bankroll management and savings come into play. Every genuinely good poker player who makes a living from poker needs to have enough savings to withstand downswings. After all, such a negative period could last as long as three or four months – that’s a lot of living expenses!

Many aspiring Grinders don’t think about the following aspects:

Do I make enough profit to be able to keep my bankroll at the same level (after regular payment/cashouts)?

What do I do if I lose half my BR? Is my mindset good enough?

Do I still play my A-game during a downswing?

Do I behave negatively towards my environment (family, friends etc.)?

A healthy financial backing helps you easily address these issues. Moreover, it is a shame when a good player has to end their professional career just because of an early downswing. For a long career as a professional it is an imperative in the initial phase to both have excellent bankroll management, a big enough bankroll, and to generally have in place a sufficient safety net.

#3 – Know how much volume you can play

It is vital to think realistically when determining the hourly rate in terms of profit and what is a feasible level of volume. The idea of ‘grinding’ elicits a sort of romanticism in that an ideal scenario would involve playing many tables simultaneously at a high level of performance, making loads of money, and even generating oodles of rakeback for good measure.

But it isn’t as simple or easy as that! Some players are both more comfortable and able than others, and it’s important to find that appropriate level that is just right, when adding one more table is detrimental. Good poker players calculate their hands/hour or SnG’s/hour realistically, and with that a more or less accurate indication of their hourly rate.

With this in mind, here are a few points that a would-be online poker grinder should consider:

Is it realistic to play so many Sit & Go tournaments/hands in an hour?

Can I really play my A-Game for X hours per day?

Do I earn enough money if I play X hours per day?

Are X hours per day still doable even if I sometimes have to end a session earlier to avoid tilt?

There is no right or wrong figure of how much a winning player needs. Win rates, multi-tabling skills, stamina and desire and so on are different from person to person. There are players who make the most profit in a 4-tabling cash game session because they can concentrate better. Other players can grind 10+ tables comfortably without losing too much of their edge.

Furthermore, a player with an hourly wage of $120 will not grind as much as someone who earns $30/hour. It depends on your living standard and the expenses a poker player has to cover. Some professionals are not motivated to play more than 2h/day because they earn enough money in this relatively short period to pay for everything they need. In contrast, there are those from countries where well paid jobs might be hard to come by who consider themselves very fortunate to be able to make a living grinding six hours per day. Indeed, for professionals from economically poorer countries it is much easier to be a pro at lower limits and to find the necessary motivation because their cost of living is substantially lower and thus their win rate or their limits played can be lower, too.

#4 – Understand and accept Variance and Downswings

A winning player has to study poker psychology very intensively in order to accept the sometimes harsh realities of the game. The occasionally cruel irony of poker for the full-time player – indeed, for every player – is that it is a game of small, cumulative advantages, yet variance is very high. We might be aware of this poker truism, but it’s the way in which it is dealt with when it manifests itself that separates the merely good players from the good players who also have the right mindset to play professionally.

Winning players always play their A-game and don’t let themselves be influenced by their short term results. Sometimes they lose a very large pot but, as long as they are sure that they have made the right (+EV) decision(s) they will do the same next time, and the time after that, and so on, safe inn the knowledge that over time their sound strategy will pay dividends. This is the mindset of a good winning player. Being result-oriented and prone to tilting is a recipe for disaster.

#5 – Work regularly on your game

Successful, winning poker players ask themselves every  hand if they could do something better next time. Success comes only from a driven, disciplined work ethic, ongoing analysis and the introspection and honesty necessary to develop and improve. Poker, after all, is the kind of game that we can never perfect but must anyway continue to work on, just as Tiger Woods or Nadal never stop practicing.

Constantly striving to expand our poker horizons requires hundreds of hours of manual analysis in addition to investing so much time actually playing at the tables. It takes a lot of time and hard work and dedication to become a winning player.

#6 – Leave your ego at home

Your ego has no place in poker. Even a good player with the time and ambition to devote day after day to online poker will see their edge reduced significantly – or wiped out altogether – if they don’t have control over their ego. There simply isn’t any room for our ego if poker is to be optimally profitable. An unchecked ego is tantamount to tilt. You do not play your best game if you lack the ability to self-reflect and critically analyze your mistakes.

#7 – Maximize overall profits with cashback/rakeback

A prudent, profit oriented winning player is not only concerned with their results, but also invests time and effort contemplating which of the latest offers, deals and VIP opportunities that are available might generate additional income. Indeed, for someone whose livelihood is determined by time spent playing online poker, making sure to take full advantage of what rakeback deals are out there is an absolute imperative. And it’s this that we endeavour to hep players with at YourPokerDream!

As an example, let us take a player at Titan Poker on the iPoker network, who has played 1,500 $10 Sit & Go tournaments. With a $1 fee per game, that’s a total of $1,500 paid. Therefore, it makes a big difference if rakeback is 50% or 80% which, in this case, is a whopping $450.

A winning player checks such key factors as VIP offers and promotions provided by various poker sites every month.

N.B. YourPokerDream offers the highest rakeback/cashback in the world. With great offers from our partner online poker rooms and the additional advantages of joining via YourPokerDream, our players can get a cashback of up to 100%.

Summary

Not every winning player meets all the criteria above. The more you follow the advice in this article, the more likely you’ll become a winning player. It is not always easy to consistently play your A-game – in fact, it requires a lot of work.

A successful winning player devotes many hours not only at the tables but also working on their game and even contemplating the psychological and mental health implications of making serious money from online poker. If you can address all the key issues, from practical to strategy to psychology and so on, then being a winning player is absolutely achievable.

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About the Author

Daniel Berger

Hi Guys, I am Daniel the chief content manager of YourPokerDream.
I have been working in the poker industry for almost 10 years now.
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The last changes of the page “7 Traits of a Winning Player” was made by Daniel Berger on December 13, 2020