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Old 01-27-2018, 02:51 PM   #1
rigdam3nti0n
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Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

This could apply to any field from boxing to theoretical physics. What makes someone like Daniel Negrenau or Phil Hellmuth the player they are? Is it genetic factors or do they create a drive within themselves to improve constantly?
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Old 01-27-2018, 03:16 PM   #2
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

It's pretty obviously a combination of both.
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Old 01-27-2018, 03:21 PM   #3
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

There was once a mantra that anyone could become a surviving poker player with hard work. I always thought this was bull**** and underselling the processing skills of quality players.

The real answer is luck and dedication. Although chances are good that if you don't already excel at numerous factors (puzzles, games, math, emotional control...) then pursuing poker to make money is not going to end well.
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Old 01-27-2018, 04:19 PM   #4
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tuma View Post
There was once a mantra that anyone could become a surviving poker player with hard work. I always thought this was bull**** and underselling the processing skills of quality players.
I guess back when the big sites offered the possibilty to short stack, rakeback was good and there were always promos, players could survive by doing nothing else but following their hand charts to know exactly what to do in every spot.

But I highly doubt you could train a mentally disabled person like Forrest Gump to be a successful high stakes player, even if you spent 100.000 hours on it.
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Old 01-27-2018, 04:35 PM   #5
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

Most people could be taught enough technical skills to beat up on casual players but to earn even a meagre living requires meta skills which only a minority of people have.
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Old 01-28-2018, 12:10 AM   #6
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

Great question but who of us mere mortals here can give a satisfying answer.
Like werebeer said, most people can learn enough to beat the regs, but to be like the likes of a Helmuth or Negreanu, if we knew, we'd be those guys.
Having said all that, I, a self admittedly, not so sophisticated, reg.
Know a guy who has tournament results posted on Handmob, who never in his life read a poker book. How does he do it? He's been playing poker for 30 years.
But, he'll never reach the elites.
So, the top tier players, in my opinion, have 2 things that's set them apart from the pack.
Both Helmuth and Negreanu, as our two examples, from what I know, got lucky and at the same time, had vision.
They both were driven to make it, and both were lucky enough to win a big tournament early in their careers.
If the big score didn't happen, who knows where they would have ended up.
But both also had a vision of how to go about to realize their goals.
My friend also wants to, even in his middle age, be big time, but, he doesn't really have a plan, a clue, in how to go about it.
His biggest win, for perpective, was a 7k, first place finish.
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Old 01-28-2018, 01:59 AM   #7
rigdam3nti0n
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

Good answers everyone. I tend to agree with them all.
Except that if Forest Gump were capable of playing such a high level of ping pong through sheer repetition it would transfer over to poker.
In fact sometimes when I go all in I say "I'm all in" imitating Forest Gump just to get my opponents confused.
So everything is pre-determined and no one has a choice in what heights they achieve?

I don't think Hellmuth or Negreanu have some innate genius level iq that other's don't possess.
Luck - Being in the right place at the right time. Winning key tournaments.
Intelligence - Above the median but not at the very end of the spectrum.
Balls - Taking shots going to vegas - in a new environment - learning new skills that can only be obtained by going out of your comfort zone into a completely foreign environment. That helped their meta life skills which translated over to poker.
Determination - Not giving up after going broke, you're greatest successes are one step beyond your greatest failures
Passion - A drive that can anyone can create within themselves with concentration, focus and setting goals etc.
So I think it could be attainable for more people that you would imagine. If they had the right mindset, attitude and were willing to do anything to make it work.
That's my two cents.

Now you're probably thinking, you're probably right but what's your point?
My point is most people are their own worst enemies in preventing themselves from succeeding.

Last edited by rigdam3nti0n; 01-28-2018 at 02:14 AM.
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Old 01-28-2018, 06:18 AM   #8
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rigdam3nti0n View Post
Good answers everyone. I tend to agree with them all.
Except that if Forest Gump were capable of playing such a high level of ping pong through sheer repetition it would transfer over to poker.
In fact sometimes when I go all in I say "I'm all in" imitating Forest Gump just to get my opponents confused.
So everything is pre-determined and no one has a choice in what heights they achieve?

I don't think Hellmuth or Negreanu have some innate genius level iq that other's don't possess.
Luck - Being in the right place at the right time. Winning key tournaments.
Intelligence - Above the median but not at the very end of the spectrum.
Balls - Taking shots going to vegas - in a new environment - learning new skills that can only be obtained by going out of your comfort zone into a completely foreign environment. That helped their meta life skills which translated over to poker.
Determination - Not giving up after going broke, you're greatest successes are one step beyond your greatest failures
Passion - A drive that can anyone can create within themselves with concentration, focus and setting goals etc.
So I think it could be attainable for more people that you would imagine. If they had the right mindset, attitude and were willing to do anything to make it work.
That's my two cents.

Now you're probably thinking, you're probably right but what's your point?
My point is most people are their own worst enemies in preventing themselves from succeeding.
I'm not sure what you mean by the bolded sentence. You don't think that smarter is better in poker? I beg to differ.

Phil Ivery won a high school math competition.

Vanessa Rousso graduated from high school early. She was also the first person to graduate from Duke in less than three years.

Vanessa Selbst has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Yale, she excels at poker and she now has a job managing hedge funds.

Phil Hellmuth devised a way to win millions by making plays that the poker cognoscenti thought were horrible. It takes a special brain to think outside the box like that.

When I see a final table on a WPT episode, as far as I'm concerned I'm watching a MENSA meeting.
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Old 01-28-2018, 09:24 AM   #9
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

It starts off with luck. If you aren't lucky when you start playing, you lose badly. Most people find poker boring. If you are losing and it is a boring game, you move off to BJ or the pits to playing something that is more fun.

For the two people you mentioned, both had great success before this decade due to their high EQ skills more than technical skills. DNegs freely admitted when he finally started getting some coaching that he didn't realize how much it was costing him when he'd decide to play something like Q4 in position.

Finally, one area not mentioned is the ability control addictions, especially with the examples mentioned. If you hear someone say they "love" poker, what they are saying is that they love gambling. That leads to playing too many hands to get the gambling high and therefore losing money.
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Old 01-28-2018, 07:27 PM   #10
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

I really hope I am better than Daniel Negreanu or Phil Hellmuth because if not I am going to need a lot of luck.
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Old 01-28-2018, 09:46 PM   #11
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

Phil H. has had other revenue streams, which were certainly earned. To compare him to actual grinders is a little misleading, even if he’s more succesful than all of them.

Last edited by Tuma; 01-28-2018 at 10:04 PM.
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Old 01-29-2018, 10:55 AM   #12
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

grunch

I asked this question about 5 and a half years ago and it spawned what I thought was some interesting discussion:

https://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/3...+great+players

I find it interesting to go back and read what I wrote 5 years ago in light of my improved overall understanding of the game 5 years later.

Poker is all about making the right decision - is the right decision to call or fold, or bet or raise, and (if you play PL or NL) how MUCH to bet or raise? So any poker "talent" that someone may or may not have has to be a "talent" for making the right decision. Being good at math is a "talent" that can help you make the right decision. Having a great memory is a "talent" that can help you make the right decision because the more information you have available the more likely you are to make the right decision. Having great emotional control is a "talent" because it stops you from doing stupid things when you're mad or bored.

I'll make a derail for a moment and talk about chess. About 14 years ago I became addicted to chess. I bought books, I took lessons, I played in the Dallas Chess Club yada yada yada. I routinely got beat by kids, some of whom were as young as 9 years old. I guarantee you I outworked and outstudied a lot of the people who were beating me, and I can guarantee that no matter how long I worked or trained, I would never be able to play blindfolded chess on even one board. I simply didn't have a "talent" for calculating a whole board on the spot the way the people who were beating me did. My mind just didn't work that way.

The point? For a game like chess, the people with natural talent, i.e. for memory, for calculation, for patience, are ALWAYS going to have a HUGE advantage over the people who are just driven to study a lot.

Back to poker. Where poker differs from a game like chess, IMHO, is that in poker it's simply never necessary to think more than a few "moves" deep. Your opponent just raised you on the river - should you fold, call or reraise and how much? Well, think back through the hand - what were his actions on each street, what are the hands he would do these with, what are the probabilities he has each hand etc. and make your decision.

IMHO, in a game like chess, no matter how hard an average player works, he will never be able to compete with a talented player who can play 3 simultaneous blindfolded boards. But in a game like poker, if a player works, studies, plays hundreds of thousands of hands, and diligently works to plug holes in his own game and exploit holes in the villains' games, then at the moment it's time to make a decision, that player will have "almost as much" information upon which to make the decision as the android described above who is a human calculator with perfect memory and total emotional control.

Hope that made sense and actually answered the OP's question.

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Old 01-29-2018, 11:09 AM   #13
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

With all of that said, it is true that luck definitely plays a factor, but IMHO the more skill you have the less luck you need.

Making a big score early in their career can HURT people more than it helps people if they're not careful. It can cause them to dramatically overrate how "easy" it is to win a tournament, causing them to take way too many "shots" they aren't actually rolled for. It can also cause them to get overconfident and dramatically overrate their relative skill level to the other players. That big score can dwindle down to nothing in less time than it takes to spell t-i-l-t.

When I say "poker is a game of decisions", I'm not exclusively talking about decisions within each hand. I'm also talking about decisions about which games to play. If you have a "talent" for keeping your ego and greed in check, you are more likely to sit at games you're fully rolled for. And decisions aren't just about whether or not you're rolled for a game, it's your relative skill at the table. Early on in a player's career, the player won't necessarily know how to tell whether or not a game is good, but once a player develops the ability to look around the table and think, "You know what? There are at least 4 people at this table who are better than me - I need to get up and find a different game", the aforementioned talent acts as an ejector seat to get the player away from the bad game.

With all of THAT said, the CONVERSE is that if a player hits a big score early in their career but is SMART about moving forward, it can definitely accelerate the path to professionalism.

Hope that also made sense.
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Old 01-29-2018, 03:32 PM   #14
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

It depends, in the past I don't believe you needed as much talent as you do today, not to say you can't beat low stakes which are still garbage (excluding cash which is generally solid even at "just" 1/2, especially factoring in bots), but the antes have been raised.

I started playing last year and I've been pretty comfortably beating $5-10 MTTs and the more training I get, the better I do, so if that was what general poker was like 20-40 years ago when Hellmuth and all the other legends came up, then I could imagine them doing just as well if not even better.

I think poker is a lot different than other activities because generally the answers are VERY set in certain situations, but also exploits can also be a factor, so basically once you factor in the following:

1.Knowing the general idea of starting hands by position (just need to memorize the bottom of your range really) and how wide you should defend in bb

2.Knowing how many boards there are (only about 100 when you factor in similarity)

3.Having some grasp of ICM

4.Understanding the idea of exploits v general player types

You should be good, intuitive levels of mastery and proficiency will likely depend on your IQ, the lower it is, the more you will have to study, the higher it is, the more it is likely you will naturally understand these things.

I think also because we have better information today, there is a fetishization of the info as if past pros weren't able to come up with similar conclusions on their own and thus on some level we believe that because players are obviously better as a whole, that the past crushers were worse than they were. Alpha Zero proved this in chess, a lot of past openings that were learned through TRIAL AND ERROR were actually INTUITIVELY (the algorithm only played itself) found by the computer proving that human trial and error can come up with great results. Same thing applies to poker, while at the start it may have been hella janky, I bet the smarter individuals were able to essentially create complex strategies that are at least 75%+ of what we understand today as "GTO."
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Old 01-29-2018, 10:43 PM   #15
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

Hard work is necessary to be really good at almost anything.

Pro (American) football players spend more time studying film, running drills and working out than they spend playing.

Yo-Yo Ma is one of the most successful and popular classical musicians in the world. He has played at the White House and been a character on the Simpsons, among his many accomplishments. He really enjoys the glamorous life of a touring musician. Dr. James Dobson reported that he heard someone playing scales in the hotel room across the hall for six straight hours and was curious about who it was, so he found out.

The Beatles performed or rehearsed several hours a day, seven (or maybe eight) days a week.

Doctors go to school until about age 30 before they actually start working and making any money.

Whenever someone comments about his success, Phil Ivey mentions how hard he works at it. Jonathan Little runs a coaching site, but he also subscribes to seven other sites. A friend said that poker pro Andrew Robl is "fanatical about studying the math."
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Old 01-29-2018, 10:58 PM   #16
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

I just realized that no one has mentioned money management.

In poker and in life, if you can't manage your money, you're in for a rough time. One can affect the other.

if you don't spend the time and effort to build a big poker bankroll, for example, over 100 buy-ins to play MTTs, negative variance can kick you in the butt and keep you from ever playing high enough to make any serious money. If it's all about poker but you don't have proper insurance and money set aside for an emergency you'll wind up dipping into your poker bankroll to pay the bills.
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Old 01-30-2018, 12:42 PM   #17
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

some people seem to be naturally better at money management than others. (saving and then investing)
some people also are naturally gifted at gambling larger amounts of money.
(some people don't gamble any money or gamble a smaller amount)

Quote:
over 100 buy-ins to play MTTs
depends what your goals are. if your wanting to play major live mtts and run hot finishing first you gotta put the study in and save money to play in the bigger games. You can also play sats into the bigger games too.

if your wanting to play 10 tables online at $11 buyins everyday and only have $2000 for poker and dont wanna go broke then yeah your going to need those 100+ buyins.

all depends on your goals.
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Old 01-30-2018, 01:15 PM   #18
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

OK ... I don't think I've ever posted this 'theory' on this site ...

Just like in the cartoons ... Everyone has a light bulb and it's up to us to figure out how to get that thing screwed in (work) and then we get to find out what wattage we are (talent). The amount of work needed to max out our talent is different for each activity per person.

We all have various light bulbs in our tool box (brain) and we live each day trying to use the glow from them to our own benefit and (hopefully) the benefit of others in our life.

Back to the thread, sort of. If you think you want to be good at something but you are only working with an 80 watt light bulb, then you need to make sure that you work to the point that you can maintain those 80 watts because those folks who have 100 watt light bulbs only need to be 80% of themselves to match you.

I would hope that we all agree that the poker elite is much different than those of days gone by. I think the fact that DNegs and PHell are remaining 'relevant' is a testament to their work ethic/drive to compete and ability to adapt. DNegs hired coach(es) to help with his recent tournament play.

So many factors ... work ethic, drive, ability to comprehend, ability to adapt, opportunity, emotional/mental control, risk aversion factor, outside influence/support either way. And now we add the 'action' clock, so the ability to recall comes into play as well.

DNegs has admitted that he was broke (and couldn't pay off a bookie) the week before he won his first bracelet. He was staked into the tournament ... and the rest is history.

Having talent certainly is needed, but how much you are willing to work to get the talent consistently pointed in the right direction while limiting distraction is a whole different story. GL
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Old 06-28-2018, 01:40 AM   #19
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

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Originally Posted by venice10 View Post
It starts off with luck. If you aren't lucky when you start playing, you lose badly. Most people find poker boring. If you are losing and it is a boring game, you move off to BJ or the pits to playing something that is more fun.

For the two people you mentioned, both had great success before this decade due to their high EQ skills more than technical skills. DNegs freely admitted when he finally started getting some coaching that he didn't realize how much it was costing him when he'd decide to play something like Q4 in position.

Finally, one area not mentioned is the ability control addictions, especially with the examples mentioned. If you hear someone say they "love" poker, what they are saying is that they love gambling. That leads to playing too many hands to get the gambling high and therefore losing money.
I don't agree at all with the bolded sentence.

I have had two jobs that I really loved. The first was playing in an army band. The other one is poker. I was in the army band for 23 years--does that make me a music addict?

I am not a gambler, at least not the way that most people would use the word. I would have no reason to ever be in a casino except for poker. I play skill games like chess and poker. I have no interest in playing any no-skill games, especially for money.

I don't buy lottery tickets or Super Bowl squares. I have no interest in silly things like "one time" or "run it twice" or prop bets. I don't want to sell pieces or have a backer. I just want to compete against other players straight up and make money doing it.

I'm always thinking a year ahead. On what sites should I play? How should I divide my time between live and online? What percentages of my winnings should go to owners capital, bankroll building and money for business expenses?

That doesn't make me a gambler. It makes me a strategic planner.
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Old 06-28-2018, 05:55 AM   #20
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

We've been over this, poker is gambling. That's not necessarily a bad thing and obviously it also requires a lot of skill. One does not exclude the other.
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Old 06-28-2018, 08:24 AM   #21
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

Quote:
That doesn't make me a gambler. It makes me a strategic planner.
The best strategic planners are also gamblers. The key to successful strategy is an analysis of risk vs. reward. In general, risk = reward.

In the business world, if you don't take big risks, you don't succeed on a grand scale.

Like in poker, if you accurately assess risk versus reward, you will take the big risks when the odds favor you, and decline that risk when they don't.

Poker is gambling (the result of a single hand is based on luck: the random order of cards in the deck). Starting a business is gambling (forces outside your control can alter the economy). Farming is gambling (you can't control weather).

In all these cases above, the skill resides in making the correct decisions that will reduce the luck factor over time.
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Old 06-28-2018, 09:17 AM   #22
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

It is 50 - 50 for me
Yes, some people are better at money management than others, but this is something that can be learnt especially in poker
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Old 06-28-2018, 10:44 AM   #23
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

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Like in poker, if you accurately assess risk versus reward, you will take the big risks when the odds favor you, and decline that risk when they don't.
Everything you said is true except for that, favorable odds alone shouldn't make you take big risks.

Easy example: Your net worth is $100 and you have to risk all of that on a 90% shot of getting $100 million. Pretty easy decision.
Now after you win that one, your net worth is $100 million and you have another (final) 90% shot of getting $100 million with the risks being your new net worth. Are you doing it again if you aren't allowed to hedge the bet?

One of the reasons why a relatively large percentage of players who made a lot of money during the heydays of online poker were young guys from affluent families is that they were able to take significantly larger risks than others. Personally, I never faced any risk of ruin when I played online poker while in college. Worst thing that could have happened? I bust my roll and have to call my parents to ask if I can have an advance on next month allowance. That's a way better basis to take shots at higher stakes games than knowing that if I lose a buy-in at 5/10 I might be unable to pay next months rent.
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Old 06-28-2018, 02:00 PM   #24
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

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Everything you said is true except for that, favorable odds alone shouldn't make you take big risks.

Easy example: Your net worth is $100 and you have to risk all of that on a 90% shot of getting $100 million. Pretty easy decision.
Now after you win that one, your net worth is $100 million and you have another (final) 90% shot of getting $100 million with the risks being your new net worth. Are you doing it again if you aren't allowed to hedge the bet?

One of the reasons why a relatively large percentage of players who made a lot of money during the heydays of online poker were young guys from affluent families is that they were able to take significantly larger risks than others. Personally, I never faced any risk of ruin when I played online poker while in college. Worst thing that could have happened? I bust my roll and have to call my parents to ask if I can have an advance on next month allowance. That's a way better basis to take shots at higher stakes games than knowing that if I lose a buy-in at 5/10 I might be unable to pay next months rent.
Agree 100%. At some point, risk tolerance should change.
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Old 06-30-2018, 04:45 AM   #25
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Re: Poker success: How much of it is natural talent vs hard work and desire?

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We've been over this, poker is gambling. That's not necessarily a bad thing and obviously it also requires a lot of skill. One does not exclude the other.

I see your point, but it is true that certain other things one could do (the farming example was a good one) are at least as risky, if not more. My problem is that poker is automatically called gambling because you're trying to make money with cards (but it's OK if you're a bridge player I guess.) Driving a car is one of the most high-risk things that one can do.

I will agree that there are no guarantees how much I will make playing poker in the next year, but there are no guarantees for anyone. I have lost 10 jobs because of a company closing. I don't have to worry about poker closing anytime soon.

If you want to list playing poker in the "gambling" category along with some other things that involve risk, I might consider that as accurate, but probably not. As long as we are talking about poker players being gamblers but not NASCAR drivers, it really doesn't make any sense and I don't accept a label that is thought of, or intended to be, pejorative in many cases.
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