The Four Main Reasons Why Your Poker Tournament Career Goes South!


For all those who thought, poker is an easy way to make a living, here’s a thought: Poker is a hard way to make an easy living! Although on paper, making a living playing poker sounds like a walk in the park, the above thought sums up the life of a professional poker player.

The objective is not to create a fear psychosis when it comes to one’s poker career, but as the games get tougher, it gets that much harder to make a sustainable and successful career. Aspiring poker professionals often plummet before they can even enjoy a brief period of success. With all the work and the number of hours being put in, one wonders what’s going wrong. Well, here’s a look at the four main reasons that prevent you from making your poker tournament career successful.

Aggressive Bankroll Decisions

The pink elephant in the room that most poker players do not want to address! Let’s be honest, if you don’t have a bankroll that’s deep enough, the consequences are obvious, you face the risk of going broke!

Variance is an inevitable part of the game and 100+ buy-ins with no-returns or break-even days are not uncommon for tournament players. In that light, your long-term success certainly correlates to having a bankroll that can withstand this kind of variance. Successful tournament players recommend a bankroll with a 500x buffer of your average buy-in.

If you choose to play under-rolled, chances are you will end up going bust sooner or later and that should be no surprise element! If poker is your main income, high time you realize the importance of bankroll management and realize how going broke could set off a series of chain reactions in other aspects of your life.

Playing in the Wrong Tournaments

In poker you see two kinds of players, one kind that are absolutely brilliant at everything poker, except when it comes to money and the other kind who can barely calculate pot odds, but make 7 figures most years. The discrepancy between these two groups is due to game selection.

Game selection is another factor most players don’t take into account. It is not about registering in the softest tournaments, but taking into consideration several other factors to understand which tournaments fit your game best.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself for starters:

  1. What am I trying to achieve short-term?
  2. What am I trying to achieve long-term?
  3. How much variance can I withstand?

Once you have the answers to the above, guide yourself to choose the right tournaments. For example: selecting large fields will offer you no certainty of anything at all. Take a shot at Small Field Tournaments; there are higher chances of you making the final table more often and it gives you practice to play the larger fields. Lower emotional swings are another benefit of playing small field tournaments.

Ineffective Studying

To begin with, we hope you understand the importance of studying when it comes to Poker. There is a ton of material out there today, and its time you took advantage of it. From training sites, articles, vlogs and advice from poker friends, the resources are unlimited! But there’s a new breed out there, those who spend hours studying with nothing qualitative translating to the fields. One of them? Here’s what you’re doing incorrectly:

  • Choosing an outdated book – Writing a book is no easy job. It takes years to complete one and another year to publish it. So by the time you have it in your hands, the game of poker has moved on. Don’t choose books that are behind the time curve.
  • Watching videos with a shot timeline – If you prefer watching videos, spend time doing so. An hour-long video, should ideally take two hours to watch. Remember, it’s not for entertainment! Watch it to learn and to learn as effectively as possible! A video needs to be paused, notes need to be taken, put yourself in the situations while the video is paused and evaluate how you faired when the trainer gives you the solution. This is effective studying!
  • Not taking notes! – Its tried and tested, you learn only by writing things down and rehashing the information. That’s just how the brain works. If you aren’t taking notes, most of the information won’t stick.

Missing the Psychology

Application of all that studying from understanding push/fold ranges or ICM is of no value if there is a lack of understanding of human psychology. Emotions play a much greater role in tournaments and it’s extremely important to understand how other players feel. Every player has a unique way of responding to a situation. The trick to succeeding is being able to read and understand these emotional responses.

Lets take a step back to understand these responses. The part of our brain that interprets stressful situations is called the amygdala. It’s responsible for decision-making, emotional reactions like fear and anxiety, and addictions.

Ever wondered why despite knowing the best possible play, you ended up doing otherwise on a final table? Yes, blame your amygdalae! It reacts in different ways, often causing one to do irrational things, because of which humans who find themselves in extremely stressful situations do not act rationally. It makes one come up with an emotional response and takes away our focus from what’s actually important.

Remember the last thing our brain wants to do in stressful situations is to calculate complex equations. In poker terms, a huge final table is treated as something comparable to extreme danger. Therefore it is equally important to be weary of how one reacts in these situations and more importantly how your opponents would!


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