Poker: Learn Before You Earn

In the beginning, we were all bad players - you, me, the guy winning all the money at your table tonight, as well as every player who has ever won the World Series of Poker. We were all bad. Once upon a time David Beckham couldn't bend it, Lance Armstrong couldn't ride, and Kobe Bryant couldn't dunk. They were beginners too, and guess what: they were bad - terrible, even. Raw talent? Sure, they were blessed with an abundance of raw talent, but they all had to work long and hard to refine it.

So don't bemoan your current skill level as a poker player. You can improve, and you will if you're willing to learn. Every good poker player has been where you are now, and they've improved. To be sure, some accomplished their goals faster than others; some progressed by leaps and bounds, while others have taken baby steps, one after the other, until they reached their goal.

You can do the same thing. You do have some innate potential as a poker player, and if playing winning poker is important, you need to build a foundation that will help you reach your potential as quickly as possible. Everyone who has progressed from neophyte to journeyman to expert to superstar shares one trait in common. They built a solid foundation, and that foundation allowed them to spread their wings and fly. If you're still grappling with fundamentals, you're not yet ready to fly. Once those fundamentals are imprinted on your poker consciousness and you can execute them instinctively, then, and only then, can you think about digressing from these basics and improving.

When you see an expert make what you consider to be a bad, even amateurish mistake, consider this: he probably knows the book move like the back of his hand. Why did he deviate? While he could be on tilt, it's more likely that he is deviating to practice deception. His take on that confluence of events - the players, the action, the cards, the texture of the game - convinced him that the move he made was for the best. However, he had a rock-solid base of technique to fall back on - then deviate from - based on his assessment of the situation at hand. Without learning the mastery of basic poker skills you have no assurance that you are making the best play. In fact, most of the time you will be making a bad play, or at least a play that has a poorer expectation than the textbook play.

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