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Poker tips: Patience remains the secret key to success

Sep 04, 2013

Hey, you take your wisdom any way you like. But me, I’m not particular.

I was eating at my favorite Chinese restaurant when I decided to read my fortune from the fortune cookie that came with the bill. The little piece of paper read, “A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.”

I have been playing a lot of Hold’em lately, and this wisdom reminded me that, aside from a keen understanding of the game, patience is the most critical criteria in winning.

Call it discipline, tightness or whatever, but tight is right in all Hold’em play, and the foundation of tight play is patience.

Many players fail to demonstrate this trait, and just can’t wait to get their chips in play. They’ve heard the accolades regarding aggressiveness, or just have too much gamble in them.

Either way, while aggressiveness is rewarded, it needs to be tempered with selectiveness in order to have any value. Unbridled aggressiveness may work on occasion but, when overused, it will melt your bankroll like ice cream in summer.

I’ve always believed that those action junkies who need to play every hand should really be at the craps table instead of the poker table. To play poker well and win consistently, one needs the down time of not playing hands in order to study the competition.

Most losing players waste their time watching TV, chatting, reading or doing a multitude of other non-profitable things. The best thing to do is to observe who is paying attention when not in a hand. You can be certain that those who pay attention are thinking about the game and how they can outplay everyone in the lineup, including you.

The evaluation of patience and brains has already been summed up in a great song lyric, “Wise men say… only fools rush in.” I have seen some very smart players who just can’t seem to exercise self-control and patience, and lose money regularly, while less knowledgeable players who embrace patience book regular wins.

Patience might not be the most important weapon in your arsenal but, without it, you are doomed. Don’t think of patience only as the ability or discipline to wait for premium hands. How about not falling prey to “chair glue?” If you determine that you’re not in a good and beatable game, then here is the best single word of advice I can offer — leave.

Have the patience to wait for a better, more exploitable game, even if it means cooling your heels on the rail for a while.

We don’t have to wait for a fortune cookie to awaken us to the fact that, without patience, our poker game will definitely suffer. But it’s probably the simplest, truest and most-often-ignored advice.

Take stock of your play and, if your results have not been what they should be lately, reflect on how many hands you’ve been playing. It’s especially easy if you’re playing online because the sites keep those records for you.

Opening up your game by playing too many hands can be a slippery slope that we all slide down once in a while. Just be a little more patient and watch your results improve.

Mike Gainey works as the poker host at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa. Follow the poker room on Twitter @AtlantisPoker.

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