It is almost impossible to win consistently without discipline.  It is of the utmost importance at any level of play. Being flat broke is no fun.  And the way a poker player gets there most often is by giving up his discipline.

When you’re doing something that’s wrong, even though you know it’s wrong you’ve lost your discipline.  Usually you tell yourself that you’ll do it this time, but next time you’ll be good then you’ll play solidly again.  You’ve given up your discipline.

It can happen in a hundred different ways and they’ll all cost you money. Now here’s the good news. The more you exercise your discipline, the easier it becomes to exercise it the next time. Discipline does strengthen as you practice it.  So the first time you consciously maintain your discipline, it strengthens it for the second time, when strengthens it for the third time- and it builds.

The more you maintain your discipline, the stronger it becomes. If you think about discipline before entering the game, it becomes easier to exercise during the game.  If you lose your stack enough times, your desire to exercise your discipline will increase and your conscious desire is a major factor.  But why wait to go broke?  Start now.  Yes, now.

You are most likely to give up your discipline when you’re upset.

If you maintain your discipline now, it will grow and make it easier for the next time you are tempted to abandon it.  And the next. Practicing discipline makes it stronger. This all ties in with Rule # 1: “Play Happy Or Don’t Play” because your discipline goes when you’re upset.

So get away from the table. Get back your composure.  It will then be easier to get control of your discipline. You don’t have to become completely disciplined right off the bat.  Easy does it.  Practice it for an hour at a time at first.  Determine that you’re going to play with absolute discipline (perfect poker) for one hour.

Repeat that exercise, lengthening the time span at each attempt.  Soon your self-control (discipline) will be automatic.  At those times when you do lose it, will be able to instantly recognize what has happened and take steps to bring it back.

You might be the most knowledgeable poker player north of the Hoover Dam but if you don’t put that knowledge to work at the table, it is of no value.  Many players study the poker game, but when they get to the table, they make the same mistakes over and over.  They don’t play as well as they could.  They don’t play up to their potential.

It takes only one or two mistakes to book a losing session.

Most players are looking for reasons to play, to get into a hand. Don’t you be looking for reasons to play. Look for reason to not play.  Example: I have a starting hand of a split pair of sixes with a nine kicker, and there are big cards on the board behind me. Or maybe my kicker is bigger, but one of my sixes is out.

To make it worse, I’m in early position. I don’t mind playing a split pair of sixes in late position with little chance of a raise behind me. But with such a hand I’m looking for reasons to not play. Let me remind you of an old saying I just made up: “Gamble comes along with every hand value doesn’t come along that often.”

The quality that makes the biggest difference between a winner and a loser at the game of poker is discipline.  To win the most money, you must discipline yourself to throw away the majority of third-street hands dealt to you.

Remove from your mind the idea that the big wins go to the players who have created the most brilliant strategies. The consistent winners are those who play solid poker with the fewest mistakes.  They are the skillful players who have, in addition to their skill, developed their discipline.

Therein lies one of the major “secrets” to winning poker. The application of all other facets of poker will require discipline.  Without discipline you might as well not take the time and effort to develop your game.  Application requires-demands-discipline.


Most average or weak poker players who sometimes win, sometimes lose, in these medium and lower-limit games are passive poker players. Most of the better players who win consistently in the medium and higher-limit games are aggressive poker players.

There is an obvious lesson for you in these two paragraphs.  You can pick up extra bets and extra pots by playing aggressively.  You’ll win more often with your marginal hands.  and as an aggressive player, you’ll win more money with your good hands than a passive player holding the same hands.

Now before you go barging into every pot, putting in the maximum number of raises on every betting round with marginal hands, let me add a word: selective.  I’m talking about being selectively aggressive. A solid, skillful player might not play a lot of hands. But when he does play, he plays aggressively.

He gets maximum value for the hand.  He is selectively aggressive.  You’ll see what I mean as we go along. Aggressive play is your best chance to win, in the short run or in the long run.  Playing passively-consistently checking and calling, for example-just won’t get the money.

You’re playing someone else’s game. You’ve turned over the tempo and control of the game to your opponents. Anytime you bet, you put the burden of deciding to call or fold onto your opponent.  He might fold, giving you the win right there.  But when you check and he bets, the burden is now on you.

You have given him the extra chance  to win that would have been yours if you had bet instead of checked.

But again, a word of caution.  Don’t go off half-cocked, betting every hand, mindless of its value or the situation in which you find yourself.  Stay with me as we progress down the path to poker money. What makes the top players aggressive is the knowledge or talent to realize that aggressiveness is the way to win at poker.

They didn’t just sit down one day and say, “I think I’ll be aggressiveness is the way to win at poker. They didn’t just sit down one day and say, “ I think I’ll be aggressive.”  They played enough poker to learn that playing aggressively is a successful way to play.

One of the world’s top players told me, “When I sit down at the table, I want to have the other players respect.  I want to be in charge of that table.  So they can expect  a raise from me at any time.  I want them to be aware that I’m in the game-to be looking to see what I’m going to do before they act, to be checking to me.

Then I’m in control.” But even here, the key is selectively aggressive. This world-class player continued: “I might raise on Poker fourth street in a seven-stud game with a four flush. Or maybe I don’t actually have the four flush.  I might have the six and seven of hearts showing, but two black deuces in the hole.

If I put in a raise against a timid opponent and then buy a heart or an eight on the next card, there’s a good chance my two deuces, and now I have a value hand.” Here’s another example of being selectively aggressive:  You start with 5-9-Q of spades.  Your opponent starts with 5-9-Q of diamonds.

The next two cards you catch are the four and five of clubs.  Your opponent catches the four and five of hearts.  You both started with the same hand, and you both broke off.  So who wins the pot?  The aggressive player will win the pot.

In the marginal situations, where both hands break off, the aggressive player will get in a bet that the passive player won’t be willing to call.

That will amount to a fair amount of money for the aggressive poker player over the long run.  But again, I stress being selectively aggressive. Let’s go back to a four-flush situation.  Many times you’ll see one of the better players checking a four flush.  Not very aggressive, you say.

But most likely, our better player is checking a relatively “dead four flush. Let's say that he has four diamonds, with four other diamonds having shown on the board. He knows that he doesn't have a big opportunity to make the hand, so he doesn't have a big opportunity to make the hand, so he doesn't have a big opportunity to make the hand, so he doesn't push it.

But if no other diamonds have shown, he'll probably start pushing the hand, with a high probability of catching. The same would apply to a straight draw. Is it live or is it dead? Most good players play aggressively with a hand that is already made, or a hand with good possibilities. But remember: selectively aggressive.

Previous            Next