“Poker’s a day to learn and a lifetime to master” says Robert Williamson III, a well-known nowadays poker player. This may look like a little bit exaggerate given the fact that poker is a game with only 52 cards and 9 hierarchical hands. It is true that you can fill your book shelves at home with all the poker books out there but why do you need a lifetime to master it?
The answer to this question lies in today’s competition which is so fierce that the poker theory alone is no longer enough to win. Nowadays you need extra skills if you want to succeed and make a living from poker. Back in the 70′ s when poker started to become more and more attractive, players such as Chip Reese, Doyle Brunson and David Sklansky made their money more easily than they could in the current poker world. That was possible because they were smart people (Sklansky was a well-known backgammon player, Reese had studied economics at Dartmouth) and understood the mathematics of poker game. Playing according to mathematical probabilities was a huge advantage against their opponents who were either uneducated or played for entertainment.
The difference nowadays is that almost every player knows the mathematics of the poker game so it is no longer a competitive advantage. So what elements can make you a big winner nowadays? It may be the smart aggression and no respect for money characteristic of Tom Dwan’s playing style. It may be. To my mind, the most important element is riding the weak opponent and neutralize whatever aggression he manifests. Another successful skill is to become a great reader like Daniel Negreanu. To do this, you need hundreds of thousands of hands and many years of opponents’ game observation that allows you to distinguish between the logical and illogical behaviour of your adversaries from the multitude of situations that occur during each poker game.