What Life and Poker Have in Common

What Life and Poker Have in Common

Life, business, and poker: beating these games require the same skillset.

You must select your starting hand carefully. If it’s worth playing and the situation is right, see the next few cards. A good rule of thumb is if you can get in cheap and win big, it’s usually a good place to start.

Aggression is foolish; it’s selective aggression that wins. Play carefully once you’ve seen the flop. It’s here where most of your decision is made. Most hands are straight forward, won or lost with a simple bet or two.

The correct play, at any given time, depends on your opponent and the particular situation.

No one has more information than you do, because you see the action unfolding at the table.

Trust yourself.

If you go with your hand, it should be a strong one or one with potential; otherwise, throw it away, the next hand comes in a few seconds if you wait.

It’s also on the flop where many people make big mistakes, committing to hands they have no business being involved in.

Most of what you lose—in either time or money—is lost bluffing or playing too loose. It’s reckless aggression. Too many people get caught up in emotion when simple fundamentals often win the game. Play strong hands and you’ll win.

It’s rare playing a hand to the end when all the cards are face up on the table. There are only two reasons to make it this far: either you already have a monster (which is a rare, beautiful thing), or it’s because you’re drawing to one.

While we all hope for the best, most of the time, we will miss that draw. That’s just the way it works.

Much of the time you have to fold. Even if you do make a strong hand, there’s a chance your opponent has a stronger one. Maybe the market conditions prove to be too competitive. Folding is often the best play.

It’s painful, but you can’t throw good money after bad just because you’re invested.

It’s on the river where the best players make the most money. All the cards are dealt. You have all the information.

Your most important decision is on the river, because it’s for the most money. The stakes are high, the pot is big, and Lady-Luck cannot save you: either you have the best hand or you don’t.

It’s the river where experience and intuition pay serious dividends—where great players separate themselves from good players.

Great players don’t get married to their hand. They know that, in the end, their hand is irrelevant; indeed, the only thing that matters is how their hand matches up to the competition. Sometimes you put all your money in with a weak hand, other times you fold a monster.

If, after consideration, you do have the best hand, you go with it, getting the most value you can, even if that means going all-in.

If there’s one rule to follow in poker, it’s that there are no rules. No two hands are the same, which is what makes the game unique. It keeps us coming back for more.

Some hands you win others you lose. The game may be cruel. You may do everything right, set up the hand brilliantly, only to get a bad run of cards and lose all your money.
Weak players throw in the towel.
Strong players come back smarter, wiser, more adept.

Strong players don’t focus on the luck; strong players focus on what they can control and how they play the hand. Losing or winning in the short term is irrelevant because they know, in the end, those good decisions will pay off and show a profit.
They don’t focus on short-term gains or losses because those don’t matter. They could be the result of mere luck.

Instead, strong players keep grinding it out, day in and day out. They manage their bankroll correctly because they know that, at the end of the day, what truly matters is the end result.

There are no individual sessions, and any measurement of one’s success is simply arbitrary. It’s our made concept of time which we use to divide our wins and losses. To give meaning or place importance on this arbitrary divide is futile, an endless game of torture.

It’s prudent to remember that whatever upswing or downswing you’re experiencing, presently, will likely be forgotten in the future.

There’s more luck than people think. If you’re in a favorable position be grateful to the forces that be. Stay humble; it could turn in a second.
Realize that receiving a strong starting hand in life was your biggest asset, and you cannot control luck.

life and poker

While no one hand matters more than another does, some stick with you forever. The mistakes you make may hurt for a while; however, you learn what you can from them and move on.

Different hands leave you with different emotions. Some hands you played on a level that surprised yourself.
Others you weren’t your best.
Others were bitter sweet.
Some hurt and stung, an opportunity missed at the turn of a card.
Some were hands of wild fortune, where it just dropped in your lap.
Others were terrible luck leaving you wounded and broken. Sometimes there’s nothing to do but wait, as time heals all wounds, even egos.

The bad hands are always easier to remember than the good hands. Bad hands hurt more than the good ones are enjoyable. We have the tendency to overestimate the bad and quickly forget the good.

When you truly look back and reflect on it, you realize how fragile the whole thing is, how dramatically different life might be if you played a few key hands differently or if the cards fell in a different way.

Even more reason to be grateful each day.

The game of life is a continuum and what matters in the end isn’t the result, but that you enjoyed playing. Don’t play the game to win, even though that’s often one’s sole focus and source of stress.

The idea of winning and losing distracts us from our true purpose, to improve ourselves, to get a little better each day, to enjoy the ride, and to take everything in stride.
In the end, what ultimately matters has nothing to do with the final score but everything to do with how we scored.


Alec Torelli
Welcome! I'm Alec Torelli, founder of Conscious Poker, a training site dedicated to transforming good players into great ones by providing the best poker strategy and mindset content. I've been a professional poker player for 15 years and have over $1,500,000 in tournament winnings and millions more in both live and online cash games. On this site, I share the lessons I learned during my poker career to help you crush the games, optimize your bankroll, make winning decisions and achieve your poker goals.

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