Personal Development

13 Secret Skills of the World’s Best Poker Players

Greg Dinkin
Written by Greg Dinkin

What are the secrets to success? It’s a perfectly naturally question. We all want to know how to get to where we want to be in life. It’s also a question many of us ask ourselves at various points throughout our lives, especially the times when setbacks occur, or when our motivation is running low. Doubt creeps in about our methods, our beliefs and effort. Sometimes it’s good to take stock of how we are working towards our goals; self-reflection is the starting point for self-help, which will hopefully lead to self-fulfilment.

Sometimes all that’s needed is a bit of downtime, rather than a wholesale change, followed by a reboot to kickstart our enthusiasm and efforts again. Other times, we might need to look for inspiration from an entirely unexpected source; bring in new tools, evolve our attitude, and develop new skills to help us on our way. Why? Because as Henry Ford once said:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

New ideas can invigorate and inspire us to imagine new ways to solve our problems and reach our goals. Sticking with the same old approach – without good reason – is more a sign of stubbornness than determination. If you’re not getting to where you want to be, it might be time to look for alternative sources of inspiration.

One such source could be the world’s best poker players. No, this isn’t a suggestion to head off to the casino. Neither are we suggesting it’s time to start crossing your fingers or knocking on wood; this has nothing to do with luck. This is about learning how other people are succeeding and seeing if their skills and attitude can be applied to your life.

So what can we learn from them? Here’s   a list of the 13 skills the world’s best poker players have that the rest of us don’t. Or if we do, we’re not using them to the same extent. Do they work? Yes.

1. Winners are considerate and walk in the shoes of other

2. Winners think “win-win”

3. Winners think “it depends” rather than rely on rules

4. Winners choose the right game and are market-driven rather than ego-driven

5. Winners pay attention and can identify “tells”

6. Winners think several moves ahead while anticipating their opponents’ actions

7. Winners are forward thinking, recognize sunk costs, and take small losses

8. Winners master the inexact science of measuring expected value

9. Winners start from a position of strength by playing at the right stakes

10. Winners have tools to deal with emotion and manage tilt

11. Winners are selective, aggressive, and plug leaks

12. Winners know when to keep their cards close to the vest

13. Winners are life-long learners

What’s encouraging to see as you read down the list is that those skills aren’t so secret after all; they’re not restricted to poker players. These are skills we can all learn. It’s not sorcery, witchcraft or snake oil. Think of business mogul Richard Branson, he has pretty much all those skills. He’s a shrewd decision maker with a positive attitude that enables him to bounce back from mistakes or external events that don’t go his way. Think of any other successful entrepreneur you care to name and they too will share those skills.

The world’s top entrepreneurs and poker players are more alike than we might have realised. They look at the decisions which led to an outcome and think about what might have gone wrong. They don’t get hung up on the outcome itself. When the cards aren’t in their favour they don’t quit or curse their luck either. They stay cool, calm and collected. They think about their competitors too, trying to imagine how they are seeing the same set of circumstances and the decisions they might make. It wouldn’t be a surprise to learn if the world’s greatest chess players also share this same set of skills and mental attitude.

So the simple answer to the question “what are the secrets to success?” is this: it depends… on your attitude, your skills, and your knowledge. If the ones you have right now aren’t getting you where you want to be, it’s time to breathe new life into them

About the author

Greg Dinkin

Greg Dinkin

Greg Dinkin is a TEDx speaker, author of four books, and highly respected decisions coach, he has compiled a list of the 13 skills the world's best poker players have that the rest of us don't. Or if we do, we're not using them to the same extent. Do they work? Yes. As a winner of more than $100,000 at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, Greg has watched, learned and developed these 13 skills himself!