When the old school players ruled the game, they preached discipline. Discipline to not overplay hands and not pile in chips with any Ace on an Ace-high board. Today, as I return from a poker excursion with my crew of poker friends, I find the need to shine light on this word again, as it pertains to the game we love. However, not in your typical strategic way, as you may be accustomed to hearing. Maybe the correct term for what I want to put forth today is soft skills.
If you want to truly excel as a poker player, improving your strategy is a must, but you’ll also need soft skills. The mental fortitude to not go up in stakes after you lose a buy-in at your normal game. You’ll need discipline to scout games prior to sitting down (no matter how ridiculous you look to common folk) and not jump into just any game because you have an itch to play. Not vanishing to the casino pits after a bad session, as that will quickly do even more damage to your poker bankroll.
Old school players chanted discipline
I believe us new school players have a responsibility to acknowledge that it takes more than strategy to excel in this game. I briefly mentioned some pitfalls pertaining to my own poker friends. However, every day I see young kids at the table who are advanced strategically belittling weaker opponents for bad play. Moreover, and even worse, I see players talking strategy at the table, discussing where a player made an error. This is a leak in their own game. The older generation understood how money circulated in poker, how to keep poker games alive, and knew better than do things like this. These occurrences make players who are not in-the-know feel dumb and unwelcome.
When I bring this subject up to young players, their response seems to always be, “Who cares? They are going to do it anyway!” The truth is no one wants to be made to feel dumb, especially not a rich businessman who is successful in other walks of life. We don’t know if he will make those mistakes again, or, worse yet, we don’t know if he will even want to play with us any longer. There are countless other things businessmen can be doing that do not include playing poker with over-confident, hoodie-wearing, headphone-sporting kids who belittle them.
“Who cares? They are going to do it anyway!”
While the new generation fights for their right to the throne, we must acknowledge that the older generation, even when strategically weaker, held soft skills which allowed them to make a living off this game. They also kept their respective games flooded with soft opponents and helped develop the game into what it is today.
Truthfully, we have had it easy; too easy. There are training sites, like the one you are on now, where players openly teach others to get better. Poker software has forever changed the landscape of the game, and we would have never arrived this far strategically without it. We should consider ourselves lucky to have these tools at our disposal and not degrade our opponents for not being in the loop. The next generation will be tougher to beat, and unless I continue to improve, they will wipe the floor with me too. However, I would hope, for the good of the game, they do it nicely.
In the corporate world, soft skills are valued more than technical ability. Anyone can be taught a skill in the corporate world, and the same holds true in poker. However, it is the soft skills that make you indispensable to a company. These soft skills will also make you rise to the top of the poker landscape faster. More importantly, it will also keep this game alive and bring back the fun we all remember this game to be.
As a whole, this generation of poker players needs to respect the older generation for being able to accomplish everything they have done without the tools we are lucky enough to have. From Doyle Brunson to the old school grinder who comes in day in and day out, deserves respect for being able beat the game for so many years. The businessman who comes in on weekends to blow off steam from the boardroom deserves to be able to have a good time without being made to feel a fool.
We all love this game, and it is now our responsibility to keep the game alive. If none of this is making sense to you, I will try and put it in simpler terms. Let’s imagine playing basketball with Lebron James for money. Sounds dumb right? Well, this is similar to what your weaker opponents are doing sitting with you! However, imagine that every possession Lebron James windmill dunks on you, yells in your face, and shoves you in the chest. How long until you quit?
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