Always continue to learn the game

February 28, 2018, Brent Philbin  

One thing I constantly see among some of the greatest players I’ve met is complacency. This is an extremely dangerous thing in a game that’s so full of uncertainty and constant evolving. It may appear opponents are incapable of rational thought at times when you’re at the poker table, but if you make that assumption about everyone you put yourself in a dangerous position of hubris.

Opponents may well be incapable of rational thought and if that’s the case you won’t be getting increasing returns on your learning. However, many opponents will be continually trying to learn about the game.

You might laugh at the person across the table with a highlighter in hand reading Phil Gordon’s Little Green Book, (whatever happened to that guy anyway? I bet he stopped learning) but they’re actively increasing their knowledge and slowly closing the gap. If you allow enough of these opponents to become better than you, your hourly rate will suffer and may evaporate.

Hubris is a dangerous thing. Most winning poker pros will have thousands of hours of history showing them that they’re a winning player. It could take a long time for a genuine leak in the game that causes you to fall behind opponents to show up on the stat sheet. I’ve always been a huge proponent of stats, but once you have the sample size to determine you’re a winner, you’ll need a much larger portion to see yourself become a slightly losing player.

You need to stay ahead of this game all the time. SnapShove has been out for years and basically allows anyone who’s downloaded it to play unexploitable poker in the later stages of a tournament. But if you stopped looking into new poker software before it came out, every one of those players would have an edge on you or be break-even if you were also playing perfectly.

All of this is especially true the older you get; I’ve noticed it in myself at the ripe old age of 33. I’m finding myself becoming complacent in my poker knowledge and my life knowledge as a whole.

If you’re older than me, admitting there might be something you don’t know and going after that knowledge is even harder. It’s also significantly more rewarding when you do discover the new knowledge and open your mind.

— Brent Philbin is a poker pro who lives in South Florida. You can reach him at Brent.Philbin@gmail.com.