A few months ago, I did a blog post about the similarities between tennis and poker when it comes to the need for mental toughness.  Today I want to talk about beating “bad” poker players.

The more I play tennis, the more I realize that tennis and poker are one and the same.  It’s just that in tennis your weapon is a racket, whereas in poker your weapons are your chips. 

I play tennis with a guy named “George” (name changed to protect the innocent).  George is the most hated tennis player in my hometown.  Possibly the most hated tennis player in Florida. 

Want to know why?  He appears to be a TERRIBLE tennis player, and yet he always wins!  He doesn’t just slightly win either, he beats you easily, the whole time talking trash and embarrassing you in front of any onlookers. 

George doesn’t even look like a tennis player!  He’s overweight, he wears old sneakers with holes in them, and has a $5 racket he probably got at a garage sale. 

Sound like anyone you’ve ever played poker against? 

One common complaint we hear all the time in the poker world is, “The players were so bad, I couldn’t beat them.”  Which begs the question, if you can’t beat them, who is really the better player? 

Common complaints I hear about “bad” poker players are:

“You can’t beat them, they never fold!”

“He’s such a nit, he always folds, you can’t ever get any money out of him!”

“That guy is so over-aggressive.  He just raises every time!  You can’t beat him because you can’t ever tell what he has.  But that’s not real poker.”

Believe me, I’ve heard all the similar complaints about George.  In case you’re curious, here’s his secret to winning:  he simply returns every ball.  He never goes for winning shots.  He doesn’t hit the ball hard.  George just chases down every ball you hit, and returns it back over the net.  Every. Single. Time.  Until you make an error, or (worse) throw your racket and quit. 

Most people refuse to play tennis against George because “He’s a terrible player!  Sure, I can’t beat him, but that’s not real tennis!”

What I would say to all the George-haters out there, and everyone who complains about not being able to beat “bad” poker players, is this:  if they are consistently beating you, are you sure they’re that bad? 

Those of us that play the games of poker and tennis have a bias towards the accepted style of play that designates a “good” player.  When someone deviates from that style, our instinct is to belittle them. 

There are two important take-aways here.  

TAKEAWAY #1:  If someone can beat you consistently, then by definition they are a better player than you!  If you want to take your poker game to the next level, you need to find a way to beat them.   Belittling them to your friends may make you feel better in the short term.  But what will really make you feel better in the long run is taking all their money! 

So, stop right now.   Whatever type of poker player gives you the most trouble – be it calling stations, nits, or over-aggressive bullies – stop talking trash about them.  Instead, do some research online.  Figure out a counter-strategy.  Practice it on Advanced Poker Training.  You won’t have to preach about what a bad player they are anymore.  When all their chips are in your stack, that will speak for itself. 

TAKEAWAY #2:  Don’t avoid these kinds of players, embrace playing against them if you want to improve.  I told you that everyone in my hometown hates playing tennis against George.  But not me.  I’ll play George anytime, anywhere.  And I’m not going to stop until I beat him some day.  Until then, every time he humiliates me on the tennis court, and I endure the mental abuse from his trash talking, it just makes me stronger.  And more determined.  And hungrier. 

We all aspire to be poker champions.  A real champion is prepared for anything.  So, welcome the opportunity to play against the “George” in your life when he sits down at the poker table.  No fear.  No excuses.  And trust me, when you finally stack him, it’s going to feel REALLY good!