At this year's World Series of Poker, there are thousands of players walking the halls of the Rio. Moving through the corridors, you're bound to hear players telling tales of the hands that bounced them from tournaments. Often, the players are upset as they tell the stories of bad beats and lousy luck. The Poker pros also share stories of their more interesting hands. However, among the pros, you're far more likely to hear someone say something like, “I played that really badly.”
The best players have the ability to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes – it's one of the qualities that make them so good. John D'Agostino noted, “When you listen to the general public you hear, ‘I got so unlucky.' Generally, all you hear the pros talk about is how they played a poker hand poorly. We understand we make mistakes and we try to get better from them.”
Chris Ferguson noted that humility is vital to winning poker. “To improve, you have to know you're making mistakes,” Ferguson said. “There are a lot of hands I don't know how to play. There are a lot of situations I don't know how to handle. If I thought I knew everything, I'd never improve.”
How often do the pros make mistakes? D'Agostino says, “[We] make mistakes almost every single hand. They're small mistakes, but maybe I could have gotten paid off a little more on a given hand or avoided a bluff.”
Howard Lederer says, “To become a pro or a really good player, you have to become brutally objective about your game. If you aren't, you won't make the changes and improvements you need.”
While Lederer believes in the need for tough self-assessment, he notes that there's no need to dwell on past errors. “You have to be honest with yourself and you can't gloss over mistakes,” he says, “but there's no need to beat yourself up. You need to learn from the mistakes and move on.””
Many of the pros refuse to discuss hard-luck hands in detail, knowing that there's little to learn form a stab of bad luck. Recently, after Chris Ferguson busted from a tournament early on, he was asked about the hand that put him on the rail. “Bad beat,” was all he said. He didn't feel the need to offer any more detail.
If you avoid talking about luck and concentrate on the hands where there is something to be learned, your game is bound to improve. Emulate the pros by finding the will to say, “Boy, did I mess that one up.”