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.

-EV poker decisions

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.

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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?

If you have any questions or comments, you can leave them here or on twitter @ChristianPoker.

Showing 15 comments
  • Bib

    Look I guess we should all just be nice in life to any human being, but in reality if u berate a player they are more likely to play with you then leave. Look at phil hellmuth,,,,, people want nothing more then to beat him so they can hear him go nuts. That is why he is good for poker and tv. People want to play him more. The main Problem with poker is most people are so sensitive. So a player has to think how he talks or reacts to how his opponent will take the comment. Some people will just want to play u more some will become hurt and leave the table but they will still probably play. The main thing that draws fish away from the game is just losing over and over. Most humans just give up at some point. But if u can show me evidence that berating a player hurts the game I would live to see it. I jus has not seen anyone quit due to being berated.

    • Maybe “quit” is exaggeration…but if a player plays 1x/week and is berated often during those session, why isn’t it reasonable to assume they will reduce their play to 1x/month over time? Sure they haven’t fully quit the game, but a 75% reduction in play is close enough to quitting.

      The ego maniacs and the grinders won’t care about the berating…but those two player types don’t dominate the global player pool by any stretch.

    • Ed

      People don’t just want to beat Hellmuth because he’s obnoxious. They want to beat him (and play against him) because he is a world champion with 13 WSOP bracelets. it’s part of the total package. And Phil usually only goes off when he loses. He tends to win with a good deal more class (but I am not saying he never gloats).
      taking crap off of some “nobody” is not nearly as enjoyable or interesting.

    • Christian Soto

      Hey Bib,

      Thank you for the feedback. I appreciate it for sure.

      Overall, I think the poker environment can become a little toxic at times.

      I do not believe berating or speaking openly concerning strategy on the table does any good for person putting it forth.

      On top of making the weaker players feel uncomfortable, these actions decrease a player’s “fear equity” on the table. This is never good for Hero.

      It’s possible that some players may be sensitive as you mentioned. However, if they are of the weaker kind, I would still want them to be as comfortable as possible and having fun. Getting berated is not fun. I’m sure we’ve all been on the receiving end at some point.

      We all know that the game is getting harder everyday. To keep the game alive, we will need to foster a better environment for recreational players to play in. I think this article puts forth some steps that we as a community can implement in help doing so.

    • bocky7

      I totally agree…I have seen many of my favorite “fish” (that were reg. fish) leave and never come back at my favorite casino, because of the verbal abuse, that some young (dumb) player would say to them and it kills me to watch it.Two of my favorite fish would dump thousands of dollars just to have fun (until someone had to ruin it for us and the 2 fish never came back)…I see it all the time online and see how the “fish” are showing up less and less online because of a chat box saying “how could you play that?…you got to be the stupidest player i ever saw!”…the stupid one is the abusive chatter….i always chat back to the abusive jerk “what do you want him to do? Play better? So he can beat you?”…please…think before you let out your frustration on a lesser skilled player!

      • bocky7

        BTW…SOTO…great article!

        • Christian Soto

          Thank you Bocky! I really appreciate the positive feedback. Helps me keep going.
          And I’m with you when you say that you’ve seen some weaker players leave the game because of the berating.
          It’s unfortunate. We have to begin to change the current culture of poker and call players out who go about doing all these things.

          Bring the fun back! 🙂

  • Ed Roker

    You are not using “whom” correctly in this article. It should be replaced by “who.” “Whom” is for objects. “Who” is for subjects. Grammar police. Sorry.

    • Christian Soto

      Ed Roker,

      Haha, Grammar Police to the fullest. But thank you, must have missed that in editing. I fixed it. Appreciate it though.

  • John

    While the fish may not quit the game, he or she may very well leave your pond to go and play in another pond, taking his money, that will be lost to the players in the new pond, with him. Just a thought…….

    • Christian Soto


      Exactly John! 🙂

      Whether this weaker player quits or moves to another game, it is not good for us.

      We should try to keep these guys in the game. Sometimes they even enjoy losing to us, and chalk it up as entertainment value.

  • Milton

    For most of us (without six figure cashes), our lifetime of poker profit averages out as the sum total of the skill differential between ourselves and our opponents. Decreasing the skill gap is -EV for a lifetime. It’s like a cancer on your equity. Don’t berate you opponents, and don’t discuss strategy at the table. Thanks CS for the soft skill nudge.

    • Christian Soto

      You’re welcome! 🙂

      And thanks for the comment. I completely agree with your statement, and that’s what we are trying to put forth (fun poker). Glad to have you on my side lol.

  • Bill Conklin

    Absolutely no case can be made for mistreating players, dealers floor people or anyone else in our place of business. Soto, I congratulate you for a very good essay, and even more for the good thinking that went into it. I don’t tend to say a lot most times I play, but once in a while there may be a nice conversation, so between hands I may get into it on sports or music or food, or something. But I never say even a word about poker, how I play it, or how I am doing.

    Actually, a case can be made for not only treating the players decently, but doing what little you can to make sure that even though they may have lost some money, they had an enjoyable time. We tend to forget that the majority of people who enter a casino “have $200 to Lee,” but they want to relax and have some fun. That’s true in the pit, the race book and the poker room.

  • gbkpoker

    It’s possible that some players may be sensitive as you mentioned. However, if they are of the weaker kind, I would still want them to be as comfortable as possible and having fun. Getting berated is not fun. I’m sure we’ve all been on the receiving end at some point.