Characteristics Of Good Poker Players. Part 1 (Backed By Science)

Do you think you have what it takes to be a good poker player? 

To help you answer this question we’ve analyzed some science papers.

Turns out there aren’t many poker player researches done, so the information is rather limited, but most definitely it’s useful to know. Here are some of the facts related to good (or bad) poker players and their characteristics. 

Statistical skill

It is not a surprise, but it’s definitely worth mentioning that better players show better statistically optimal decisions at the table. They use more poker related calculations in a game to win and consistently show better results than new players.

So, knowing and understanding statistics can increase your chances of becoming a better poker player. 

General intelligence

Ok, so this one we found was interesting. If you like poker bloggers you have definitely come across their posts, which claim that superior intelligence is a must in a successful poker player. 


There is no such scientific proof. 

It is widely agreed that you need to be smart to play poker and be good at it, but no science study backs up the theory that you need to be a genius to conquer the game. 

Social intelligence

This one is highly promoted by the popular poker culture. In a broader way social intelligence is an ability to ‘read’ yourself and others, build relationships and navigate social environments. 

This trait is backed by science as a necessity for good poker players. It is proven that professional players know how to read and create accurate opponent models. This leads to adapting their poker strategy accordingly. It is something that recreational players don’t do often. 

Bonus fact: Experienced players are able to accurately rate opponents hands strength (at above chance levels) based only on arm movements used when the player is placing bets (chips) into the center of the table. Wow, right? 

And one more bonus fact: One study has shown that the best ‘‘poker face’’ may be one that conveys trustworthiness rather than neutrality. Researchers noticed that players folded to a bluffer whose face looked trustworthy more often than to a bluffer who had a neutral facial expression.

So, both the ability to deceive and the ability to recognize deception are crucial skills that aid in successful poker playing.

Personality and risk taking 

Personality traits also differ between good and poor poker players. Better players tend to have high self-evaluation, they mostly never self-ruminate and they possess greater emotional control compared to bad players.

Trait like emotional control leads to more logical decision making. Good players hardly ever go ‘on tilt’ and don’t chase losses.

It’s noted that greater ‘‘risk neutrality’’ is associated with successful play. One of the examples of risk neutrality is when players consistently bet when the circumstances of the hand/round suggest positive expected value.

Sometimes this kind of play might seem aggressive, however it is worth noting that risky play by a good poker player is calculated rather than reckless. The latter is characteristic to poor poker players.

What can be done?

Now if you’ve read attentively you will notice that most of the characteristics can be tweaked and altered by practicing.

If your answer to the question at the top of this page doesn’t satisfy you, or if you feel like you are lacking in something mentioned above,  all you need to do is invest more time to up your poker game!

We’ll go over some more good poker player characteristics next week in the second part of this post.

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