How to Play Perfect Poker

This episode is a trick question. Of course, there is no such thing as perfect poker. But if you identify as a poker perfectionist, you are going to want to listen closely to this podcast.

If you don’t identify as a perfectionist (and if you don’t, we’re jealous, congratulations) there is still a lot of relevant info in this episode.

Featuring: Sweeney


SplitSuit starts off our tenth podcast with the big news that Red Chip Poker has moved to an unlimited access model for its PRO membership. Learn more, learn quicker.

What is Perfectionism in Poker?

perfectionism n. – refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.

SplitSuit would add “to a detriment” to this statement, because, as he points out, there is nothing wrong with striving for excellence. But perfectionism can get in the way of you making important things happen, because you’re trying too hard to be perfect.

Perfect doesn’t really exist in poker.

Even to this day, coaches and pros make mistakes. And not just small ones. It happens. An obsession with perfection can be deleterious to your morale amidst the inevitable blunders in playing hundreds of hands. Looking at these mistakes as a learning opportunity is key, and must be practiced with consistency.

Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good

SplitSuit presents some real-world examples of perfectionism getting in the way, starting with a story about unfinished books. His personal experience taught him that an endless pursuit of perfection is a perfect way to guarantee you won’t make progress. At some point you have to let things go and understand imperfection is universal.

He relates another story about trying to switch profitably from TAG to LAG. He studied the strategies in-depth but failed to play up to their LAGgy design. He got through it by putting himself in a position where he was forced to make LAG plays, and the rest is history.

Related Link: SplitSuit talks about being an INTJ personality type. Check out the totally free personality test at 16Personalities.

It’s easy to get stuck in the theory of it all. Don’t get stuck. Be cool with being imperfect. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy or dumb. It means you’re human.

You can be a profitable poker player and still be far from perfect.

Theory of Perfection

SplitSuit talks about the publisher model of perfection. When a work is permanent, the pressure to be perfect is most present. Books. Skyscrapers. Certain kinds of work do demand perfection in some capacity or another.

The other framework he discusses is the developer framework. Under this model, they strategize, execute, iterate, analyze, and cycle through an evolutionary process of optimizing results.

By far, poker more closely follows the developer framework. Your work is never done, there is always room to grow.

So if you’re a perfectionist, you may be making the assumption that you’re limited by the publisher model. You don’t have to make a perfect play every time. You learn, you iterate your strategy, and you get back to work.

Related LinkForum discussion on resiliency and perfectionism with RCP mental game coach Dr. Tricia Cardner

Three Doses of Realism for your Game

1. Your strategy will never be perfect. Hold ’em is simply not a solved game. If you strive for perfection, you will drive yourself 100% mad.

2. You will rarely have perfect information. “I would do this if I had this exact perfect information…” you don’t have that information, and you almost never will.

3. Make some assumptions. Pull some triggers. Reflect and adjust. Think of a business. If they tried to make every single product or service absolutely perfect upon release, revenue would never have time to accumulate. The minimum viable product (MVP) is a popular model for startups, particularly online businesses. It’s the barest minimum needd to start making money and getting feedback. Poker is the same way, you go through a cycle of taking a strategy, and then executing it at the table to optimize your decisions. Rinse and repeat.

You’re on a pursuit of excellence, but perfection is not the goal. Your goal is to always improve.

Related LinkThe Last Poker Edge: Mental Game Strategy