Poker Careers, Revisited

Not sure if it was a new article or not, but I saw a Tweet from Red Chip about the Top Poker Careers, and checked it out. The list is no doubt a good one, but here’s a few clarifications from my grubby vantage point in the low stakes:

  • Entrepreneurs: the reason an entrepreneur can be good at poker isn’t only because entrepreneurs are self-starters, ambitious, and will seek to improve as a matter of course. Businessmen often share characteristics with the basic poker phenotype, tending to overvalue their own place and contribution in the world, which is an excellent match for the narcissistic nature of the poker player pool and one that allows them to blend in with the herd. Otherwise, like many of these professions on the list, the real reasons poker might be for them are social, and the fact they will often have the money to play poker, regardless of result.  The example the writer gives of Bill Klein, who in fact can yuck it up and have fun as much as he wants without consequence, and has no worries about what niche he is carving out, makes my point as much as his own.
  • Two – five are all good for the same reason: math and analytics inclination. However, unless these types also have the spirit of the Entrepreneur, a math inclination won’t get you everywhere in poker, because the math is too simple and everyone can do it, even me.  Coders and finance guys, for instance, comprise the primary pool of fish in my games. (It’s really logic and thinking about patterns, which a knitter can do as well as an engineer, that defines the winning player.) Thinking in black and white terms will get you far in the corporate world, but poker is too nuanced for these guys to just drop in and do more than break even without real work on their weaknesses. These professions, are however, especially good for people who aspire to not only play poker, but do something related to poker as an extension of their career, such most of the Red Chip pros.
  • Six – Lawyers.  Once again we see an example of a career where plenty of money will allow for plenty of play, yet the reality is that most poker playing lawyers I know lack the sense of FU that the Entrepreneur type uses to motivate his own improvement, and are thus content with their poker lot. Contrary to this, there is a top poster in the 2+2 forums who is a good example of a lawyer doing very good due diligence and who obviously possesses that magical combination of intelligence, training, and humility. Moreover, several famous examples of lawyers or law students winning in poker exist. In my games, however, several of the biggest fish I know are lawyers. An interesting bit about them is that both always have reasons for what they do – logic is very important to the trade – however wrongly they employ it. They seem to have great attitudes at the table, probably because of the hard work they have done, and seem not to tilt as much as the business types. That is the basis of a potentially winning game.
  • I like this one, Politicians. The ability to think on your feet, interact with people, think clearly about money, while possessing a passable familiarity with the law is a great combination. And indeed, the two politicians I know who play poker are definitely above average players and liked on the felt. They belong to poker.
  • Number nine, Psychologists, is a funny one, because it seems valid, but in truth I would doubt most psychologists actually would find poker pleasant for too long. It’s too directly applicable to their trade, yet instead of being able to research and diagnose, poker puts you square in the chair, right on the spot.  Poker is pain and rewards people who seek it, not to cure it. I think it is for this reason that I have only run into two psychologist regs in all my years of playing poker. Obviously there will be some, such as the one I was recently discussing, Red Chip’s Dr. Cardner, as well as those other performance trainers who see opportunity in the field.
  • Athletes are often very good at poker. It’s a competition, after all, and while there are obviously whales among them that drop in and out (I recently paused to watch Russell Westbrook placidly take on a contingent of anti-social PLO geniuses at 100/200), the culture of poker itself is very encouraging to athletes and suits them well. Critically, athletes often whine less and have better mental game from the very start, a real edge; not always, of course. Athletes, above all, even without any card skill at all, often understand the Poker Boss Mantra: Never complain, never explain.
  • Eleven, the Actor category, is another one that cuts both ways but is ultimately unlikely to yield good results. For the most part, having been affiliated with the theater for a long time, I can tell you that most actors are on the irrational side.  The downtime film actors enjoy lends itself to poker, so many play, but if Matt Damon et al are examples of good poker players, I will eat my one of my hats. Look for Directors, who must master moving parts, observation, and understand financial constraint, to be better at the game.
  • No one can explain it, but an unusual number of Poker Dealers are fish, even though it seems like such an obvious gateway to poker success. Sorry. I changed my mind: I think I can explain it: dealers observe the game from a very facetious and simple point of view, and are not able to focus on what is going on, consumed by their work. They mistake, in other words, quantity for quality.  The agony of a true poker player, who puts incredible pains into making simplistic appearing decisions, goes right over the heads of most dealers, who simultaneously become immune and hardened to the beats without going on the true journey that led to them through the oblivion of their hours and their indifference to the results. This is well demonstrated by the most annoying dealer I know: she is in fact wonderfully competent at the X’s and O’s of her profession, a real mechanical star, but has no sense for the rhythm and interior life of the game, being in complete oblivion as to why I might need a moment to reflect before acting, a hint about how she really thinks about the game.

Overall, it’s rather easy to like the Entrepreneurs category this article provides; it’s number one for a reason.  However, truth is, these categories overlap quite a bit, and if you have the entrepreneurial spirit, whoever you are, poker is yours for the taking. Anyone with a streak of competitiveness also has a good shot at being great. If you are a Politician, though, I think this is your game as much as anyone’s.

The question then becomes, what careers are missed?  It’s an important question, because there are two or three sure things I know about increasing the player pool, and one of them is a category omitted from this list.

It’s a profession/field which spends incredible amounts of time studying, sitting in one place, and all its adherents do is identify patterns.  It’s filled with women, so it hits one of the other talking points about growing the games. Yet because we are routinely subjected to lists like this one which perpetuate clichés about poker ability, (after all, is it not amusing that we encourage the entrepreneur to play yet he is routinely zeroed in on as the fish) this entire field remains unencouraged and untouched by the game.

But I’m not telling what it is. No one pays me to write fluffy articles!


  1. Commercial fisherman seem to play big. It must be like a vacation to be the fish for a night… Like they are going under for a breather and eating a few hooks of their own.

  2. I think dealers suffer from statistical hallucinations. Because of the volume of hands they observe they see more bad beats (as well as hear more whining about bad beats). Bad beats are notable because they are statistically infrequent. However, when observed they are given more significance in our memories. Seeing the higher number of bad beats dealers become convinced that they happen more often than they do and adjust their play to either avoid or take advantage of their statistical illusion.

  3. I agree, the best players I meet are super type – A players who hate losing or hate getting second best. I played sports in college, and used to go the casino on my way home from my friends and play (I always loved the game). However, after being a relatively small losing player I just decided if I was going to play, I was going to do it right. The move I delve into it, the more I realize just how bad I was, and how bad I honestly still am (I’m up 1500 bb’s year this) but that doesn’t really say anything as after every session I go back and can name at least 5 instances if I really stopped and though I wouldn’t have fired a mindless c-bet into 2 players just because they checked and I was the PFA, I would have made the call on the river, I should have folded my flush draw as at best it was a break even play. Just like my career (sports strength and conditioning), the moment you start to think you getting a good grasp on it (and don’t get me wrong I think I’m very good at my job) you meet someone or read something that makes you realize how much more you have to learn and how far you have to go to get to the top. I have no interest in becoming the best player in the world, or even making it a career. I just figure if I enjoy something and this something is going to cost me a lot of money potentially, then you damn sure better be good at it. Great posts.

  4. I recall the RCP article that prompted this post. My feeling was that the inclusion of “entrepreneur” simply reflects that the poker-playing founders of RCP are, by definition, entrepreneurs. But based on Las Vegas conventions, my experience is that entrepreneurs are low on the poker-ability scale, largely, as you suggest, because they over-estimate their ability.

    1. Nothing like a good bias to provide the foundation of a piece. Coming this month, the intrinsic relationship between MS Paint, Hats, and Poker Excellence.

  5. Spies are good at poker. Some are scary good. Not the James Bond types; these guys (and they are almost exclusively male) are mid-level NSA analysts, bespectacled and bearded single 30 somethings with genius IQ’s and federally subsidized bankrolls, like a bunch of introverted and subversive Ed Millers. Fort Meade/NSA (Maryland’s largest employer) is adjacent to Maryland Live, and excluding those who view the game as a puzzle to be solved (good post on this topic, Chris), the occasional savant will sit in the smaller games.

  6. I believe you. On the other hand, Limon got his bankroll by creating a home game around his fellow Mensa members. Poker takes many gifts.

  7. Perhaps it’s their training. These cats are professionally evaluating large amounts of data from multiple perspectives, especially the enemy’s perspective. They are level 2 and 3 thinkers right out of the gate.

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The OOP Lexicon is a user-developed poker glossary.

Absolute Position
Being last to act (e.g. closest to the button) postflop.

Advancing Leverage
Aggressive actions intended to shift the leverage point closer to the current street.

A bluff or value hand which is a natural candidate for balancing another hand because of their shared qualities, such as AA and AK; usually helps planning range splitting and line construction.

Auto profit threshold (APT)
A bluff made with positive expectation resulting from the opponent under defending vis-a-vis bet sizing. The inverse of MDF.

Choosing to support either value bets or bluffs with their converse.

A bet is a proposition.  It’s the first offer on the pot with regard to the outcome of the game. Each player, in turn, has the opportunity to lay or change the price on the pot to the rest of the players. “The language of poker.” The bet, as opposed to the raise, is most often and most easily allied to the merged pricing construction.

To remove combinations of hands from a range based on cards in your hand or on the board.

Cards which influence our combinatorial assumptions. Ex: We face resistance on T76ss while we hold As7d. Both our cards act as blockers. Our ace of spades blocks (limits) a number of flush draws our opponent could hold, while our seven blocks a number of two pair and sets our opponent could hold. *See also Block and Unblock

Blocker Bet
A small bet made by an out-of-position player.

Board Texture
The available community cards and the set of conditions which inform its relationship to a logical range.

The worst hands in a betting range.  Depending on context this could be the worst hand in a value bet range or the bluffing section of polarized range.

A range descriptor indicating a range shape with a specific high or low boundary.  A range bounded high won't contain some number of the best linear hands ranked from the top down.  This is equivalent to a "capped" range.  A range bounded low won't contain some number of the worst linear hands ranked from the bottom up.  This is often useful to describe a range that doesn't include any air or very weak hands.

A strategic mode in which a player is attempting to deny their opponent(s) equity share of the pot through aggression. Often referred to as “denying equity” or “buying up equity”.

A range is capped when it represents little to no nutted combinations as confirmed by prior action.

A continuation bet. A bet made by the player with initiative as a continuation of their initiative on a prior street.

The ability to accurately range an opponent based on all available information at a decision point.  An understanding of your hands exact equity.

Closing Action
Acting last where no subsequent action is possible behind you.  For example calling a UTG raise in the BB or calling in position postflop with no players behind.

Cold Call/Cold Bet
An action is considered “cold” when it comes from a player entering into the pot has not previously put chips voluntarily in the pot. Ex: the UTG opens, the BTN 3bets. If the SB were to call or raise, it would be a cold-call or a cold-4bet.

The branch of mathematics the deals with finite number sets. Used in poker in determining the amount of combinations of certain hands in a range.

When a blind that is not the biggest blind calls the amount of the biggest blind. Ex: At $2/$5, action folds around to the SB and the SB completes. Meaning they just call. The BB can complete when there is a straddle.

A capped range that contains only middling value hands. A range without the polarized portion.

Logical advancement of combinations across streets.

Dark Side of the Deck
The large swath of hands, often off-suit, that fall outside of conventional playable recommendations. Counter-equity hands.

Dead Money
Money in the pot that is not being fought for.  A passive player creates dead money when they call a bet preflop and looking to play fit-or-fold postflop. Dead Money is often confused with the money in the pot.

Delayed Cbet
A cbet made on the turn by the preflop raiser when the flop checked through.

Delaying Leverage
Passive actions intended to maintain a likely late street leverage point, or possibly to avoid a leverage point entirely.

A strategic break from one’s standard construction as an exploit of a particular player’s profile or construction.

Diminishing Medium Value Category
A Seidman concept in which when one’s middling value hand range is too small and transparent to our opponent and thus either that range should be shifted into the top of a polarized range or the nutted portion should be shifted into the medium value range. Ex: AQo or TT being 3bet preflop.

A cbet that is less than the preflop raise. Ex: BTN opens to $25, we 3bet to $90 from the SB, BTN calls. On the flop we cbet $70.

Dry Board
A board texture that yields relatively few logical hands value. Often containing one medium or high card and disconnected low cards. Ex: Q53r, T622r.

Dual Mentalities
A Seidman concept in which when we decide to go postflop with a weak hand against a nutted range, we should either be looking to out flop it or steal the pot away. We base our decision against the player type we are up against and never go post with both mentalities at once.

Dynamic Board
A flop texture in which the runout is very likely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: 954tt, 742r.

Effective Stack
The smallest stack to VPIP in a given hand. Their stack decides the amount of money that can be played for or threatened before an all-in.

Effective nuts
A value hand that can be played for stacks as if it were the actual nuts.  This is a relative hand ranking based on range assumptions and opponent type.

A measure of how well the equity of a hand is deployed. Efficiency can also be used as a measure of what is risked vs what is gained for a given bet size.

Either/Or Philosophy
A Seidman concept in which a particular street can be a very good spot for value, meaning our opponent is never folding, or a very good spot to bluff, meaning our opponent is never calling, but that those spots cannot be concurrent.

Borrowed from economics, a measure of the sensitivity of a range or hand relative to the price offered.  Ranges (or hands) described as elastic will narrow, sometimes quickly, in response to increases in price.  Those described as inelastic will not.

The percent pot share of a holding or range on any given street if the hand were to go to showdown with no further betting action.

Equity Pusher
A analytic approach to the game in which a player views the correct actions only through the lens of their hands equity vs. their opponent’s range. Often this player type has a lack of understanding of overall strategy and plays their range face up with few bluffs.

Expected Value
The mathematical formula for how much a player’s action is expected to make with their hand vs. their opponent’s range. EV = ($towin * %ofwin) - ($tolose * %ofloss)

Face Up
A player is playing their range “face up” when their actions directly correspond with their desired outcome. Ex: A player bets half-pot three streets with a range that has no bluffs. A player 3bets to 7x with JJ.

False Polarization
Otherwise known as Faux-Po; a polarizing action taken with a merged range.

The result of losing your entire table stakes. All the way down to the felt.

A call of a cbet with a weak holding with the likely intention of taking the pot away when the opponent shuts down. Often done by an in position preflop caller.

The convergence of positions, stack depths, and preceding actions at a given decision point.

A mathematical formula developed by Phil Galfond for calculating the expected value of one’s range construction vs. an opponent’s holding.

A computer programming term that means "garbage in, garbage out" which also applies to poker forums when a poster seeks an in-depth conversation about a hand, but fail to provide pertinent information such as stack sizes, bets sizes, table dynamics and player tendencies.

Game Theory
The applied science of combining mathematical models with logic to craft winning poker strategies.

Game Theory Optimal
A set of strategies is GTO if no player can unilaterally deviate and increase his average profit. ~ Will Tipton.  GTO does not mean best possible response, highest EV, or maximally exploitative play.

Implied Odds
Additional value likely to be accrued if you make your hand on a later street.

Sometimes referred to as the betting lead, a common situation in which the passive player yields to the aggressive player postflop, or the last aggressor continues betting on subsequent streets.

A bet or raise intended to force out the rest of the field in order to play heads up against a weaker opponent who has entered the pot through limping, raising, or posting the blinds.

Loose aggressive player type. Generally overused and inaccurate.

A bet made from out of position after a passive action. Often referred to as a donk bet on the flop.

He knows that I know that he knows I know.

A bet or raise that signals the hand will be played for stacks.  Within reason, it is accomplished by betting with a sizing that will create RSP equal to 1 on the following street.

Limp First In

A consecutive range of hands decreasing in strength from top to bottom; generally meaning value hands. Equivalent to "merged."

Lockdown Board
A board on which the nuts have often already been made.  More prevalent in PLO but sometimes useful in no-limit, for example on monotone flops and boards with available common straights e.g. JT9, T98, 987, etc.

1) A range of hands that includes both strong and medium value; 2) in reference to medium value; 3) the merged construction describes the natural representation of a wide range through a bet.

Mini Stop-N-Go
A Seidman concept, a line taken by a OOP PFR where flop is check/called and turn is lead.

Minimum Defense Frequency (MDF)
The necessary defending (calling/raising) frequency to prevent an opponent from auto-profiting.  The inverse of APT.

Natural Action
A check, bet, or raise which is exactly suited to a player's range and situation (e.g. a pfr's continuation bet on AK2r).

A player who will not put chips into the pot without a very strong and sometimes only nutted hand.

The best possible hand.

Nuts-To-Air Ratio (NAR)
In a polarized betting line, the ratio of value to bluff.  As used by Seidman, not limited to polarization but sometimes used to label general opponent tendency of value to bluff.

Old Man Coffee. Typically an older, retired player that likes to play bingo with ATC, but will only continue with the nuts.

The first voluntary action. The first action or bet to voluntarily enter the pot.

A bet that is more than the size of the pot.

Perceived Range
Refers to the range of hands that your opponent thinks you could have in a certain playing situation. This can be interpreted and thus misinterpreted from your playing style and position at the table.

A range consisting of very strong and very weak hands.

Post Oak Bluff
A small bluff on a late street that has little chance of winning the pot.  Generally interpreted as “gutless” in the past but now fulfilling certain functions as betting efficiencies are understood.

Positional Protection
When the strength of a range is perceived to be capped or uncapped based on which position an action is taken from.

When an action or player is perceived to have strong hands in its range.

Protection Bet
A wager which denies equity to hands which will only give action if they significantly improve; "a value bet which does not want a call."

The rejection of the offered price and the laying of a new higher price.  Raises represent a more narrow range of hands and trend towards polarization.

Range Advantage
Implementation or study tool that refers to 1) most basically, equity measurement of one range against another; 2) or also including a combination of further factors including availability of nutted hands, the nuances of the runout, and positional protection.

Range Manipulation
Deliberate line work/bet sizing made to narrow a range or keep a range wide.

Range Switch
A deliberate change in range composition made to thwart a player who is reading our range too accurately in any spot.  Reduces transparency, fights assumptions, and wins the leveling war if implemented correctly.

Ratio of Stack To Pot
RSP. The stack to pot ratio at any point in a hand, generally used post-flop as opposed to Stack to Pot Ratio.

Taking a hand to showdown and realizing its full equity.  Generally used with regard to passive actions.

The mutual exchange of chips resulting from similar play and ideas.  Reciprocity is a common bi-product of group-think.  A true edge by definition cannot be reciprocal.

Relative Position
A player’s position measured against the aggressor's position.  Generally this is used going to the flop.  For example, if UTG raises and several players call behind, calling in the big blind would give you the best relative position.  You will act after seeing how the field responds to a likely continuation from the preflop aggressor.  In the same scenario calling immediately after the preflop aggressor results in the worst relative position.  You will have to act immediately after a continuation without seeing how the remaining players will respond.  Strong relative position confers an information edge.

The ability of hand to maintain equity across streets against a betting range or as part of a betting range.

Reverse Implied Odds (RIO)
Hands that often win small pots or lose large pots suffer from reverse implied odds.

Popularized by Mathew Janda, a descriptor for how well a hand retains equity over streets of play.  Hands described as robust have equity that does not suffer as an opponent's range becomes stronger.  Often these hands are currently both strong and invulnerable, or have the ability to become very strong by the river, relative to the opponent's range.

Fourth and Fifth Street cards following a given flop texture.

Scale of Protection
Poker theorem which states that the more protected or strong an opponent's range is, the higher the degree of denial or retention a counter will require.

Sklansky Bucks
Dollars won (or lost) in expected value regardless of actual hand result.

Any one of many possible poker archetypes found at low stakes games.

A reraise made after a player has raised and one or more players has called in-between.

Static Board
A flop texture in which the runout is unlikely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: AK7r, KK4r.

A passive action followed by an aggressive action, out of position.  For example, a call followed by a lead on the next street.

Streets of Value
A crude shorthand measurement for how much betting a hand can tolerate and still be best at showdown more often than not.

Tight aggressive opponent type. Generally overused and misapplied.

TAG's Dilemma
The paradox created by having a top-heavy range played so aggressively that it misuses equity vis-à-vis position and holding.

The Great Range Fantasy
The common idea that we know our opponent’s range and frequencies precisely; most commonly seen in post-hoc analysis to justify microedge decisions.

Thin Value
A bet that is only slightly more likely to be called by worse than by better. Associated with the merged pricing construction and bet-fold lines.

Three Fundamentals
The most fundamental variables for decision making: position, stack size, and community cards.

The best hands in a given range.

Two-Way Bet
A bet that expects calls from worse hands and incorrect folds at the same time, a simultaneous value bet and bluff line.

The psychological effect of feeling like you’re losing because your stack size isn’t as large as it once was during a session, even though it’s more than what you’re in the game for.

(e.g. You bought in for $100, ran it up $450, but now only have $175 in front of you.)

A hand that has no negative card removal effects on the target range.  Bottom set, for example, unblocks top pair top kicker.

A range that is perceived to contain the nuts in any given line.  Capped ranges may become uncapped during transitions for example from preflop to flop, or flop to turn.

A turned nut straight after raising flop with a gutter.

Value Owning
Making value bets with a hand that has less than 50% equity when called.

Voluntarily Put Money In Pot (VPIP)
The frequency at which a player limps, calls, or raises preflop.

Volatile Board
A flop texture where equities will often shift on the turn and river.  See “dynamic”.

An illusory cooler where one player makes a massive mistake equity mistake and loses his stack with a strong but second best hand; also known as a Jam Basket.

Wet Board
A board texture that allows for a lot of logical hands to continue. Often made up of medium rank connected cards. Ex: KT9tt, Tc8c6s-7c-Ac.

“Walk In, Fuck Shit Up, Walk Out” a hashtag used by instagram poker players.

Winning Player
A forum poster who offers reciprocal advice under the guise of questionable positive low stakes results. A weak player or fish, in general.

Young Man Coffee. Is very much an OMC, but younger.  They usually only continue with the nuts, often under the illusion of playing a GTO style.