I recently got the following PM from a PSO member.   As their question and struggles are more common than most people realize, I thought I would share my answer here in my blog, so as to reach a wider audience.   The member’s name and location have been removed to protect their privacy. 


Hey (Dave?, TheLangolier?),

I just recently started playing Poker and I'm having a lot of fun doing so. I've been reading a Poker related book and been watching the videos of Pokerstars and some of yours. Playing cash games or tourneys I'm almost always losing money in the long run. Just recently I've been playing my first live tournament and didn't finish in the money there either. Obviously I know that I will have to be patient and keep learning but I just wanted to ask for your professional opinion if there are some players who shouldn't keep playing since they are just not good enough.

I'm not playing for a lot of money, but it would obviously be more fun if I would win something in the long run.

Looking at the WSOP Events and the other big Events I feel like I would have a lot of fun there, but it seems like it's impossible to get there in the next couple of years.

In my opinion there are only a couple of possibilities for me. I could stop playing completely, I could stop playing until I feel that my knowledge has improved enough to win something or I could continue the way I'm doing it right now and hope that I start getting better by playing.

Other than that I really wanted to thank you for the trainings you made. Some of the videos really helped me a lot - at least in my understanding for the game. Sadly I still make a lot of stupid decisions. 

Do you still make live-training sessions?

I would really appreciate an answer even though I would understand if you wouldn't answer it since there are probably a lot of people writing stupid messages like these to you 

Thanks again


So first, thanks for the message and no it is not stupid!   And I do try to answer all PM’s I get, even if the answer is “I don’t know”.    Thanks for the kind words about the videos, I’m glad they’ve helped… and yes, I still make live training sessions, typically on Saturday’s at 3pmET/8pmUK.   You can find all the upcoming sessions here:  https://www.pokerschoolonline.com/live-training

Now, the struggles you speak of are not unique, they are I believe fairly common for new students of the game, and I myself went through a similar crossroads early on.  I had played poker recreationally for a long time, and having pretty good card sense I was able to do reasonably well against friends around the proverbial kitchen table.  Basically what was happening is that none of us had any clue and I was just a little better at being less clueless than they were.  Lol    After I took a job transfer to Las Vegas, I started playing the lowest stakes cash games out there (at that time it was fixed limit hold’em).   Although the players didn’t seem particularly skilled, it quickly became apparent they knew more about the game than I did.  Since I couldn’t really afford a hobby at the time, I realized I would either need to give up playing poker, or learn how to do it right.   I really felt a passion for the game, so I opted for the latter.   Now, this was back in late 1998.  There weren’t the resources there are today like pokerschoolonline, or any training websites.  Video training didn’t exist, and there wasn’t much strategy discussion online yet.  And there were only a handful of books on the subject.  I started by digging into every book I could get my hand on, initially from the public library, and finding poker discussion on rgp (rec.gambling.poker).   I set up a training plan for myself that went like this:   I allowed myself $100/week to play poker with.   This was within my budget, and was essentially my standard buy in for $3-$6 FLHE.  This wasn’t to go play for fun, this was my practice budget, to gain experience and put into practice the concepts I was learning.   Once I lost that $100, I was done playing for the week.  The rest of my poker time that week would be spent reading, studying, discussing… all the things I could find to learn more about the game.  

This was not an easy road, it required a large amount of discipline.   For the first 2-3 months there were many weeks where I only played 1 night before tapping out my practice money for the week, and had to be disciplined enough to stay home the rest of the week studying and not play.  Eventually though the hard work started paying off.  There were more and more weeks where I was playing 2, 3, even 4 nights.  And some weeks although I didn’t go out to the casino every night, I would end the week with more than the $100 I started with.   It was through this method I not only got started on my learning journey, but also built a bankroll from the ground up. 

Many successful professionals today recommend that in the early stages of one’s poker development, a large % of your “poker time” should be dedicated to study and developing over playing.   It’s hard, as study isn’t always seen as fun while firing up a game and just playing is fun.   It really does help if you have a passion for the game, like I did.  Learning new concepts and ideas, thinking through tough problems, etc, that was all fun for me. 

So now, is this path right for you?  It depends, this is something each reader must decide for themselves.  The landscape I was confronted with back then was vastly different from what a new student of the game faces today.   There is a ton of good information available today to learn from (and sadly quite a bit of not good info as well, which can be difficult for the new learner to dissect).  With the availability of online micro stakes, your budget for practice time can quite reasonably be 1/10th or even less than what I had to use.  And tracking software can aid in the analysis of your own game, helping to greatly accelerate the learning curve in terms of what works and what doesn’t at the tables.   The temptation to stray from a study plan like this is also more difficult to fight.   You may well do much of your studying at your computer, with the poker site only a few clicks away and the money being little object if it’s only a couple bucks to sit in a 2nl cash game or fire up the next microstakes tournament.   That’s a good thing though… if you go with an approach like I used, you WILL be tempted to stray and it will be oh so easy to do so.   If you can succeed with the challenge of not straying from your plan, it will require great discipline, the like of which will benefit you throughout your poker playing days.  The bottom line is, make a plan that fits you, is heavy on study over play (at least initially), and be flexible to adjust your study strategies if you find they aren’t meeting your needs (but don’t adjust the study/play ratio in favor of just playing more, unless you are content to continue on with poker as a hobby that, like any other hobby, has a regular expense to it).

Now, about the other component of your question, which is maybe the main component:

“I just wanted to ask for your professional opinion if there are some players who shouldn't keep playing since they are just not good enough.”

I translate this question into being are there some players who just can’t ever become a winning player because they’re just not good enough, so they should just stop trying (anyone can keep playing at microstakes even as a losing player, the cost of your poker hobby at micros is a lot less than some other hobbies one might choose… if you are spending $50 a month for example, well that’s less than the cost of a nice dinner and a movie for 2).  So the short answer is no, I firmly believe that anyone can become a reasonably competent player.   It’s not easy, if it were everyone would be doing it.  It takes work, a lot of hard work actually.  But the skills required are all learnable.   Are some people born with an innate ability to grasp and excel at these skills, while others may struggle more than most?    Yes, for sure.  I like to equate it to art, probably because I have little to no artistic skill… anyone can learn to paint, but not just anyone can become Pablo Picasso.  The good news is, you don’t have to be a poker savant to become successful at the game.  You just have to work hard, apply yourself, and stay both open minded and disciplined.  

Thanks for writing and asking the definitely not stupid question.      And good luck on your poker journey.