How do you become a poker master? Well, it takes time and practice, and of course, a bit of luck. Let’s have a look at how the best poker players made it to the top, and what tips you can take with you when you’re playing poker.
Supernatural or Strategy?
Stu ‘The Kid’ Ungar was famous as an aggressive and confident card player who excelled at gin rummy and blackjack, then graduated to the world of poker. He was the youngest ever winner of the 1980 World Series of Poker Main Event. He won around $30 million, and his talent for reading the game and seeing through bluffs was considered supernatural.
However, Ungar’s primary poker strategy was to throw other players off by being unpredictable. He would bet erratically, often betting early and big against opponents he found harder to read. The downside to this is that he didn’t manage his bankroll effectively, and although he won big, he also lost big on the odd occasion that he got it wrong. He blasted his winnings on drugs which ultimately killed him at the young age of only 45.
Aggressive and Cool
Jennifer Harman is one of only three women to win two World Series of Poker bracelet in open events. She was a hobbyist who went on to win against seasoned pros in 2000 after only a five minute lesson, and is today considered the best all-round female poker player in the world. Despite chronic health issues, Jennifer has soldiered on and is now part of the Poker Hall of Fame.
Jennifer is famous for her tight and aggressive style, but watching her play it becomes clear that her superpower is her calmness. She doesn’t posture, and she doesn’t react when things don’t go her way- or even when they do! When sat with a full house at a table of world champions, she bets confidently, but calmly, as if having a quiet family game at home. She appears relaxed and in control at all times.
Figuring Players Out
The youngest ever player to have achieved double figures in WSOP bracelets, Phil Ivey started his poker career playing against work colleagues in the 90s. Ivey wins big at real-life tables all over the world, from Nevada to Hong Kong, but also sweeps up at online poker too. What’s his secret?
Ivey is very good at reading the game and tends to play a low risk game. He will play aggressively for small pots and use that to build his stack gradually. In the early stages of a game he will often back down if others are playing aggressively. However, what he’s doing during this time is analysing the other players’ game and strategy and figuring out their weak spots. He will then use these weaknesses to smash them later down the line. This is why Ivey often starts out looking like a weaker player, but then usually ends up winning.
Keeping it Balanced
Our final poker master in this article is Chip Reese. As a young man he was on his way to Stanford to start a law degree, but stopped off at Las Vegas and never left. He earned $100,000 in his first summer, and went on to be known as the best seven card stud player in the world.
In his mid-thirties, Chip decided to settle down and focus on family life. Unlike others in his profession, he would drop everything to go see his kids do a recital or a baseball game. He was utterly devoted to his family, and this didn’t dull his poker game at all. In fact, he was the youngest player ever to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1991. Chip, now sadly passed, proved that gambling doesn’t have to be all consuming, and in fact having a family to focus on can actually improve your game. Chip also used his gaming skills to gain the position of cardroom manager at the Dunes Casino, proving that poker skills are transferable in the right environment.
Whether you’re gracing the casinos or an online only poker player, these top poker players certainly have something to teach. Be unpredictable, keep calm, learn to read the other players, and don’t forget about the other important things in your life.