The great Phil Galfond once said: “The biggest misconception in poker is that poker is its own innate skill, like saying ‘I’m good at dancing’.”

In other words, good players aren’t simply “good at poker”. There isn’t one thing that great poker players all do well.

The truth is that the best poker players possess a vast array of skills and traits which have led them to success. So when family members at the dinner table ask you “what makes a good poker player?” it can be tricky to pin down an answer without listing more than 20 different attributes.

Instead, we’re going to focus on what online tournament winners do well in order to achieve their success in the Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) 2020.

Thankfully, a bunch of SCOOP champs were on hand to help us find out.


DEDICATION

Charlie “Epiphany77” Carrel, who took down the 2017 SCOOP Main Event for $1.2 million then won another title this year in #70-H $530 NLHE PKO for $111,380, feels that all of his success stems from dedication and meditation.

Charlie Carrel

Charlie “Epiphany77” Carrel

“I seem to have the most success by far when all of my energy is focused and attentive,” he says.

It’s a feeling shared by other top high stakes pros, particular Preben “Prebz” Stokkan, winner of the 62-H: $5,200 NLHE PKO High Roller for a massive $275,947 score.

“I’ve basically just been studying and playing a lot over the last couple of years,” he says. “I always keep my focus on the game and I’ve been very determined to do well.”

Brazil’s “drope$tyle” was victorious in the 80-L: $11 5-Card PLO 6-Max for $7,854, and believes his positive mental attitude was key to the win. “I think I showed focus and the will to win right at the beginning of the tournament.”

Poker is fun when things are going well, but it’s harder when you’re down and almost out. Robert “4bet_me” Rohr, who took down the 68-M: $109 NLHE 6-Max Turbo Shootout for $20,736, says: “It was more or less a fairytale story for me to win my second table in the shootout format with just a few blinds left in my stack.

“The key is to never give up.”

ADAPTATION

Noticing and remembering individual player tendencies while also focusing on your own game can be tricky, but adapting to the playing styles of your opponents in-game is something all SCOOP winners manage to do.

“The one thing I did well was learning the tendencies and strategy of the players I was playing against and then exploiting them when the moment came,” says “Kjonesgg”, who was victorious in 01-L: $2.20 NLHE, Phase Event for $19,379.

For Odintoi “albert28” Florian, winner of 01-M: $22 NLHE, Phase Event for $84,876, he knew exactly when to play tight and when to loosen up. “I started to understand in certain situations the ranges players play in certain situations. This meant I could make bluffs where no one else would.”

A great way to learn how to adapt your own play is to watch streamers on Twitch. Notice how the likes of Lex, Fintan, Spraggy will play differently against different opponents based on their perceived skill levels and previous play.

APPLICATION

You can study the game all you like, but if you’re unable to apply what you’ve learned and then implement it in your poker game you’ll struggle to improve.

Phil Galfond: “Poker isn’t its own innate skill.”

Kami “drkamikaze1” Chisholm, champion of #71-L $11 NLO8 Turbo for $7,574, knew she had some work to do on his ICM (Independent Chip Model – a mathematical model used to calculate a player’s overall equity in a tournament based on stack size), so buckled down and studied before SCOOP.

“The biggest adjustment I’ve made to my tournament game recently is to focus on ICM,” she says. “I watched a training video by the brilliant Michael Acevedo on ICM that completely changed my thinking around tournament play.”

As a mixed-game specialist, Chisholm has also found that studying Game-Theory Optimal (GTO) play in NLHE has helped her in other games too.

“One of my biggest skills has always been taking what I learn from other games and applying it to my best games. I’m really not a great Holdem player but I’ve been heavily studying GTO since I returned to play, trying to catch up with advances in the game, and it’s been super helpful in improving my other games, especially a game like NLO8 which has a lot of key similarities in structure, being a no limit bet game.”

Speaking of NLO8, Austin “DaCus3” Marks–who won the 71-M: $109 NLO8 6-Max Turbo for $14,081–believes there were NLO8-specific concepts which he applied to win his title.

“In NLO8, having the chip lead at a final table is perhaps a bigger advantage than any other game,” he says. “You can apply tremendous amounts of pressure because in nearly all circumstances, even if you get caught overplaying a hand, you will still have 40 per cent equity as opposed to NLHE where you can be over a 4:1 underdog.”


With big tournaments day in and day out, SCOOP can be hard work. But remember, tomorrow is a new day, and it’s important to not carry over negativity from yesterday’s session, as Marcelo “Portaluppi.7” Crippa (winner of 69-M: $109 NLHE, Afternoon Deep Stack for $44,863) reminds us.

“I play professionally, but I don’t play the highest stakes. During SCOOP I take some shots. One night I ended up making a mistake in a big buy-in event and I got extremely angry with myself, so I ended the session angry and woke up on Sunday upset about the mistake.

“I told myself that the only way to make the Sunday session successful was not to dwell on and repeat the mistakes of the previous day. I believe this mindset has helped me a lot.”


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Jack Stanton is a freelance writer specialising in poker.

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