There is a quote from Brad Gilbert´s book “Winning Ugly” which all poker players should take note of:-
“No matter how hard you work, no matter how great your talent, your mind is the ultimate weapon. Most players use it against themselves… when you are the master of your mind, you will master the art of winning more… And always remember, it’s better to win ugly, than to lose pretty.”
Although Gilbert was a professional tennis player, and coached the likes of Andre Agassi, there gets to a stage in poker where being “the master of your mind” is a more valuable asset than the cards which are dealt to you. If you can go beyond thinking of what you are going to do with your cards, and focus on what your opponents will do with theirs – and also what your opponents think you will do with yours – you will get a distinct edge in poker psychology.
Here is an example:-
You and one other player are still in a hand post-flop. The flop shows a pair and, even though the pair does not help your hand, you bet five times the blind. Your opponent, knowing that you are likely to bluff at this point, raises your bet. However, you know that your opponent was expecting you to bluff, and the likelihood is that he is trying to out-bluff you. Therefore, you can raise once more and even after the turn if necessary to ensure you win the hand.
The psychology of poker becomes more integrated into the game the higher up the ladder you climb. Whereas the above example is not a ploy you would attempt with five players in a hand on a $0.10 / $0.20 ring game, once you get into games with blind levels of $5.00 / $10.00 and above, the percentage of players seeing flop struggles to get into double figures – implying that the hands are being won more by psychology than fantastic opening hands.
So, use your mind to identify other players´ traits, and make it your “ultimate weapon”. Once you eliminate the cards, you eliminate the luck, and that is why poker is a game of skill and strategy rather than a sweepstakes. Phil Hellmuth is recorded as saying “If it weren’t for luck I’d win’em all” and the eleven times WSOP bracelet winner (who is incidentally married to a psychiatrist) should know.
When it comes to “winning ugly” (and Phil´s no picture), what´s luck got to do with it?