What Skills Do You Need To Master When Playing Poker?

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Although it is a simple game to learn, poker really is a game of skill – and that is why it is such a popular game to play (and to watch).

When it comes to mastering the game of poker, there are many skills you will have to apply, and not all of these seem on the surface to be related to the game. These skills are often transferable life skills that you might make use of in the workplace or elsewhere, but they have even more application when it comes to mastery of poker.

What Skills Do You Need To Master When Playing Poker?

So, what are the essential skills that you need as a poker player – and what separates the newbies from the professionals? Of course, you need knowledge of the game and the rules, which you can develop through research and reading, or through playing with a poker no deposit bonus and with others in a card room.

Top 10 Skills of a Successful Poker Player


This is one of the first things that you should work on developing – and it can only come through playing games repeatedly. Through your experience you will get to see what other skills you will need, you’ll start to get an understanding of the odds and the mathematical probability side of the game, and you will begin to create your own strategy.


When it comes down to it, the real difference between a successful poker player and a rank amateur is discipline. It’s discipline that ensures the player follows strategy and isn’t tempted to react based on emotion or ‘gut feel’, and it is discipline that ensures a player will let go of that ‘must play’ mindset and fold when their hand is lacking.


A good player can use their judgement skills to decide more scientifically whether it is worth playing their hand, based on the contents of the pot, the body language of the opposition, and the cards they have in their hand. Speculative play must be based on judgement, as without sound judgement a player might be relying on instinct (which is never as reliable).

Strategic Thinking

In a game of skill like poker, strategy comes to the fore. Many players and so-called experts will provide you with their strategies (for a price), but if you have enough experience and hours at the table, you might well be able to develop your own – if you adopt a strategic mindset.

What Skills Do You Need To Master When Playing Poker?


Whether you are playing poker online, at home with friends, or in a tournament, there can be many distractions and it can be hard to remain focused. You’ll need to focus on what your opponents are doing, what you are planning on doing, and how you will react to the next card – and you should practice this focus even if you have folded this hand, as you can spend more time learning about your opponent’s when you aren’t playing.


The natural urge to win is something innately human, but giving in to it could lead you to losing your bankroll too early. Self-control is the difference between throwing your cash at a speculative hand and saving the chips for when you can make the biggest impact (and win the most hands). It is also the skill that will help you to bow out of games when you need to.

Money Management

Any self-respecting player needs to be financially savvy enough to refrain from putting too much cash into any game. There needs to be a limit to the bankroll you are using – and for the best results, you must be prepared to lose it all. Deciding when to fold will help you stay in the game for longer, as will refraining from going all in on a bluff.


Confidence is not about bluffing, but about being able to play all your hands in the same manner – that will help you avoid giving anything away in tells and body language. Be confident in yourself, you hand, and the bets that you place – the opposition won’t be able to tell whether you are bluffing or whether you have the best hand in the game.

What Skills Do You Need To Master When Playing Poker?


Talking of tells, it is body language that you need to consider – in yourself and in others. You need to be perceptive and receptive to the way other people are playing, because that is how you will gather data and information to use when creating strategy and developing your judgement skills.

Social Skills

Poker is a social game, and part of that is relationshipbuilding – even if it seems to be mostly about banter and trash talking. Having good social skills will ensure that you aren’t too awkward in your conversations, and you don’t come across as nervous – a good player will pick up on that like a tell and it could cost you.

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Written by Simon Cress

Greetings! I'm Simon, a valued member of the Toons Mag team.

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