Personality and Poker – What Can Our Temperament and Traits Mean for Our Game?

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Will Kassouf is known for getting under the skin of his opponents 

The booming poker circuit is brimming with an eclectic mix of varied personality types, all striving to be the best and get the better of their opponents. There are cool players, angry players, aggressive players, and tight players, and each personality type has its advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately, personality is something which is ingrained in us, and it isn’t easy to change. But players can try to adapt their behaviour for the poker table in order to achieve an optimum strategy. For that reason, it is wise to look at some of the advantages of various personality types when playing the much-loved card game.

Keeping Cool Under Pressure

There’s no avoiding it. If you want to get deep into poker tournaments, you’re going to have to deal with a serious amount of pressure. Poker tournaments begin as a fairly relaxed affair, and the early blind levels barely affect your stack and allow you to sit back and wait for the good hands. But as the levels go up and the blinds get considerably bigger, the stress levels increase. The blinds rise, and your stack begins to diminish. You are waiting for the good hands but they’re just not coming. What do you do? Some players may be tempted to shove, even when the odds are against them.

It’s times like these when players need to keep their cool, and not do something crazy. Before going into a tournament, you need to have a game plan and stick to it. If things are going wrong and you get tilted, it can be easy to make rash decisions. If you find yourself about to lose your cool, you need to take a step back, sit out a few hands, and come back to the table when you are ready to once again deploy your optimum strategy. One of the coolest players in the business is Phil Ivey, and he is also considered by many as the greatest poker player of all time. The winner of ten World Series of Poker bracelets is a prime example of why poker players need to keep a cool head.

Aggression

Aggression is such a vital trait in tournament poker and arguably one of the most important attributes a player can have in order to reach the final tables at tournaments. Sitting all night waiting for the best hands to be dealt to you just isn’t a viable option, so the best of the best look for moments when they can pounce and force their opponents into a fold through an aggressive play.

One of the most aggressive players in the business is Michael Mizrachi, and he is also one of the most successful tournament pros of all time. The American won the 2010, 2012, and 2018 World Series of Poker $50,000 Players Championship, and has also won two World Poker Tour titles. Mizrachi plays a loose-aggressive style, which is not recommended to beginners of the game. Often he will ignore his probability of winning a hand, and instead try to outmuscle his opponents with large bets. This is a style of play which is much better suited to the real-world poker setting rather than online, because you need to be able to see your opponents and gauge whether they will call you. Players who want to use aggression should realise that they need to gain a reputation as an aggressive player. This can lead the others at the table to make bad calls if they assume that the player is bluffing. Aggressive players should also play a wide range of hands so it’s harder for the other players to put them on something.

Bankroll Management

Players with a spendthrift attitude aren’t going to last long in poker tournaments. Bluffing and betting high can work for a while, but eventually, someone is going to catch you out and call you with the nuts. This is why a sensible personality can be a huge asset at the poker table, as players need to be highly capable of calculating risk versus reward and bet accordingly.

Bankroll management can refer to how you manage your stack in game, but it is mainly to do with the funds you have that you use for poker. Any winnings you accumulate get added to your bankroll, and you can then reinvest the money in other tournaments. Make sure that you use your poker bankroll for poker only, and also use it to dictate your game selection. Your bankroll should allow for a minimum of 30 tournament buy-ins, so if you have $150, you need to be shooting for a tournament entry cost of $5. Having solid bankroll management reduces risk, and minimises the element of gambling. Players with a personality that gears towards gambling aren’t going to be successful in the long run.

Mind Games

A big part of poker is getting the better of your opponent on a psychological level, and some players choose to incorporate mind games to give themselves the advantage. One of the most famous players for doing this is Will Kassouf, who has a tendency to get under the skin of his opponents. Using speech, he confuses those around him and attempts to catch them off balance. Often, he will antagonise the other players so much that they are desperate to beat him, and this leads them to make foolish decisions and go against their normal game plan.

Some poker players may believe that antics like this are uncalled for at the poker table, but there is no doubt that they make for excellent entertainment. Players need to draw on as many different skills as possible to beat the best in the game, and if all else fails, speech play and mind games can be a good way to find the edge.

Those who want to improve their all-round game should seek to create a personality for themselves which they bring to the poker table. If it draws upon all the facets mentioned above, it is sure to lead to an improved success rate when playing the card game.