Why Are Some People Naturally Good At Poker – Is It Down To DNA?
In the past couple of decades, many people have turned to poker as a career.
Almost limitless potential to make money coupled with the free lifestyle has been one of the main reasons behind this phenomenon.
However, while there are dozens of thousands of people playing poker for a living today, it’s quite clear that a select few have been a lot more successful than others.
Players who manage to turn the game into a profitable endeavor spend a lot of time learning the ropes.
Most go through many ups and downs before finally finding their comfort zone, but some seem to skip this whole process almost entirely and go from learning the rules straight to winning.
This naturally brings up the question of why.
What is it that makes these players master the game with such ease? Are they somehow naturally predisposed to excel in poker?
Is the game somehow a part of their being, and, more importantly, is poker in your DNA?
What Makes Someone Good At Poker?
If you’re a poker fan of any kind, you must have pondered at least once or twice what it would be like to play the game professionally. Even for the calmest and most rooted of spirits, the idea has some appeal to it.
But, there is always the big question that comes from these thoughts. Do I have what it takes?
1. A Mathematically-Inclined Brain
First and foremost, poker is a game of numbers.
You’ll hear many different opinions on the topic, but the bottom line is that if you don’t understand the math behind the game, you won’t do well in the long run.
Have you always had a knack for numbers, graphs, and percentages? If yes, there is a good chance you could do well in poker.
Many of the players who you see on TV and who built their bankrolls from scratch enjoy numbers more than most people can fathom.
It’s one thing to understand how percentages work. Reveling in them is a different matter entirely.
If you’ve read the last few paragraphs shaking your head, don’t worry: Not all is lost. Being crazy about numbers can be a great asset for a poker player, but it’s not essential.
That said, if you hate math and don’t want to be anywhere near it, poker probably isn’t in your DNA.
One of the things that makes poker a game of skill and strategy is its mathematical aspect. Without it, it would just be another game with cards in which the luckiest person wins.
2. Good Instincts You Can Trust
Another personality trait that could indicate poker might be in your DNA is good instincts.
Now, all of us have instincts, but not everyone is as confident about them.
If you’re someone who has very good instincts and intuition, you probably know it by this point in life. You’ll have been in situations where you relied upon them, and they helped you out of some difficult spots.
At the poker table, good instincts can be truly invaluable.
As much as the game is about odds and stats, you rarely have the full scope of information to work with. A part of it is guesswork.
Of course, math wizards rely on complex GTO calculations to figure it out, but good instincts can also be very helpful.
So, if you’re good at “reading” people, i.e., figuring out when someone isn’t honest with you, you’ll find that this skill will be of great use, especially in live games, where people often can’t hide their emotions or do a very poor job of it.
3. Risk Tolerance
At the end of the day, poker has a gambling element to it in the short run.
Even the best of the best have often been in the position where they came close to busting their entire bankroll (or actually did), either due to really bad luck, poor bankroll management, or, usually, a combination of both.
But when you listen to them talk about it, you can almost hear the excitement in their voice. You don’t get the feeling they’re talking about something unpleasant.
This is because people who have poker in their DNA have a much higher tolerance for risk and don’t see this aspect of the game as tragic.
If you’re truly naturally predisposed for the game, you’re going to enjoy every aspect of it in some way – even the not-so-pleasant parts.
You’ve probably heard poker players refer to themselves as “degens” (abbreviation of degenerate gambler, meaning always broke because of gambling).
Now, you might think, in what world can this word have any positive connotation?
The answer is – in the poker world.
You don’t want to be a “degen” or reckless, but, at the same time, you kind of do.
Playing poker isn’t just about making money. It’s about having fun and experiencing everything it has to offer. The good, the bad, and all that comes in between.
You might be reading this and thinking – that’s not right, there are so many great players who don’t behave like that.
You’re absolutely right!
This isn’t a mandatory personality trait to excel at the game. There are many great players who observe it purely as a business and have had consistent results for decades.
These players have usually built their bankrolls over long periods of time, and they’re very unlikely to go bust. Their calm, calculated, and systematic approach to the game has served them well over the years.
Those who made their seven-figure bankrolls in a matter of months are also much likelier to take big risks in the future and bust. Just think about someone like “Isildur1.”
He could go through seven figures in a matter of hours without blinking.
And when he’d bust, he’d go back to grinding lower stakes and rebuilding his roll, just to do it all over again.
This isn’t what you’d call “normal” behavior, but up until recently, poker hasn’t been considered a normal profession, either.
4. Not Caring Too Much About What People Think Of You
Given the fact that poker is still not that widely accepted, to fall in love with the game, you probably have to think outside of the box.
In a society established this way, how do you come up with the idea of playing cards and shuffling chips for a living?
What happened to good, old-fashioned hard work and ambition?
What most people outside of the poker world don’t understand is that playing poker seriously is hard work. It’s not just about learning to play well.
It’s hard to put your best effort every time you sit down at the table and to repeat it session after session.
It seems easy to someone looking from the outside, but it’s anything but easy, even if poker is in your DNA.
Considering all these things, you have to be the kind of person who feels comfortable stepping outside traditional social boundaries.
Unless you’re very fortunate, your loved ones will be at least mildly shocked by the idea you find poker a viable career choice.
It takes a special kind of a person to resist all the negativity and stand their ground.
But, if poker is something you truly love and enjoy and if you feel naturally good at it, it won’t matter as much.
It’s weird, really, but it’s one of those things you’ll probably know after playing in your first cash game or a tournament.
Even with very limited knowledge about exact strategies, the game will just make sense to you.
You will feel like you belong at a poker table despite being surrounded by players much more experienced than you having a feeding frenzy on your stack.
You’ll know that there is a way to get better and return the favor, and you’ll be eager to learn about the game.
If you find poker boring or not too exciting, you might still become a very good player, but you’ll never enjoy it as much as someone who cherishes every moment of it in some way, including mandatory bad beats and coolers.
Hard Work vs Natural Talent – What Matters Most?
I’ve said repeatedly throughout this article that you don’t have to be naturally talented at poker to succeed in the game.
Like with most things in life, a natural inclination is a good starting advantage, but it doesn’t guarantee you anything.
Having poker in your DNA alone won’t make you one of the top players, especially in this day and age.
In fact, it can even be a bad thing sometimes.
Naturally talented players often experience a degree of success at the start of their careers. Combined with some good runs, their talent is enough to make them winners at lower stakes, where the competition isn’t as fierce.
As they move up the stakes, though, they come across much tougher opponents, and find that talent alone is no longer enough.
It’s at this junction where poker players are made or broken.
Players who realize that they need to put their talent to good use and apply themselves to studying the game to keep growing will thrive and go on to achieve success more often than not.
Those aren’t prepared to put the hours in will either abandon the game or become the “reg fish” type that games are formed around.
Hard work beats talent 99 percent of the time in the long run, and we all know that poker is all about the long run.
So, Do You Have Poker In Your DNA?
The fact that you’re reading this article suggests that you have some degree of love for the game.
Otherwise, I don’t see how you’d stumble upon it, let alone get all the way down to these final passages.
If you’ve recognized yourself in some of the points I’ve made here, the odds are that you have at least a bit of poker in your soul.
Whether it’s just traces or a serious part of your entire genome can’t be determined without further testing.
On a more serious note, you shouldn’t focus too much on this idea.
You don’t have to be a genius to be a great poker player. If you enjoy the game and don’t mind learning about it, you’re already halfway there.
The biggest pitfall you can fall into is thinking you’re too good and too talented to take advice from anyone.
If you aren’t beating the games consistently, it doesn’t matter if you have poker in your DNA or not. It’s a clear sign you need to improve – and you won’t achieve that without putting in serious work.
Take every opportunity you can to study and get better, and it won’t be long before you’re watching all of the “talented” kids in the rearview mirror as you move up the stakes!