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Top 10 poker quotes and what you can learn from them

24 August 2020

By Tadas Peckaitis
Many famous poker sayings are far more than just a catchy phrase. They also can actually help you learn a lot about the game. If you ever wanted to glean some wisdom from the old guns and famous poker players, the best poker quotes might be a great resource for that.

Today, we’ll take a look at 10 well-known poker quotes from my list and explain, who said them, and what you can learn from these inspiring phrases that stood the test of time.

10. “Trust everyone, but always cut the cards.” - Benny Binion
Poker originated from the Wild West, where everyone was looking to take any edge they could find, which often involved cheating, fixing the deck, or dealing from the bottom of it to arrange hands in the desired order. While these cheap tricks rarely work these days, there are many dangers in the poker world, both live and online, so you should be aware of it.

So while having the assumption that people are trying to cheat you is not the way to go, it is better to be safe than sorry.

9. “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” - Stu Ungar
Stu Ungar is one of the best poker players to ever play the game, but he had a fair share of beats both in and outside poker. This is a game where everyone loses from time to time, so the question is if you are going to lose, but rather how you’ll react in those situations, which makes all the difference.

By referring to a good loser, Stu was probably referring to players who have no ambition to improve and are fine with being consistently beat on the green felt. If you have been outplayed and you don’t feel any need to become better or even some anger, you are likely to lose again and again. Losing doesn’t mean you are a loser, but giving up surely does.

The Godfather of Poker has probably played more live poker than anyone.

The Godfather of Poker has probably played more live poker than anyone. (photo by Wiki)

8. “Poker is war. People pretend it is a game.” - Doyle Brunson
The Godfather of Poker has probably played more live poker than anyone, and he clearly believes it is not a friendly game. While you it’s perfectly fine to have a pleasant chat with fellow players, you should be looking to beat your opponent no matter who he or she is.

Looking at it from the perspective of war gives you a clear vision of how the legend sees the game and that he is ready to fight no matter what. So even if you are playing against friends or even your wife, forget about “soft playing” them and strive to win as much as possible every single time. This way, you will not only increase your bottom line, but will also learn faster since you direct your attention to what matters the most.

7. “You show your poker greatness by the hands you fold, not the hands you play.” - Dan Reed
Many players get excited to make fancy plays or a hero call while holding barely an Ace-high, but this is not what separates winners from the rest. While this seems thrilling, you will likely lose much more in the long run while trying to catch these situations than win in occasional times when you are right.

Poker is not about making these big plays, but rather about keeping discipline and patiently waiting for favorable spots, and that’s what matters the most.

6. “In order to live, you must be willing to die." - Amir Vahedi
Fear is your enemy at the table, and if you are not willing to take necessary risks, you will have a hard time succeeding. This is very similar to another popular quote by Edward Norton, “Life, like poker, has an element of risk. It shouldn’t be avoided. It should be faced.”

If you are afraid to part with your chips, you will not be able to identify profitable bluffing spots, will not go for thin value and leave a lot of money on the table. Poker is not about avoiding risks, quite the contrary. It is about taking calculated risks that offer you great rewards, so when the time is right, you need to put all your money on the line.

5. “Everyone gets lucky once in a while, but no one is consistently lucky.” - Doyle Brunson
Variance is an essential part of poker, but no one can be on the bad or good side of variance for too long, and eventually your skill level will take over. So while it is entirely possible for a great player to have a losing session, he will eventually win his share of the pots, and things will even out.

This clearly indicates the importance of skill and that you should be looking to improve your Texas Holdem strategy if you want to see solid results. Relying on luck will not cut it.

4. “Going on tilt is not ‘mixing up your play.’” -Steve Badger
Many players justify poor play by finding excuses for their actions, and the phrase “balancing play” is frequently thrown around. However, this is not a valid reason to make a decision, for the most part, and instead, you should be looking at what is the most profitable line in every situation.

Especially when you are on tilt and trying to “punish” someone, you are likely just spewing money, and you should avoid this practice as hard as you can.

Poker is about observing your opponents and adjusting to tendencies.

Poker is about observing your opponents and adjusting to tendencies. (photo by Wikimedia Commons)

3. “If you’re playing a poker game and you look around the table and can’t tell who the sucker is, it’s you.” - Paul Newman
Poker is about observing your opponents, adjusting to their tendencies, and seeing what is going on at the table. If you decide to play blindly without taking any of this into consideration, you are likely to lose and will miss all opportunities to become a better player.

This also goes back to table selection. Games rarely run without any recreational players, so if you do not see any weak players at your table, others likely see you as one, and that is the reason why this game is running. Always ask yourself who the player everyone is targeting, and if you have any reason to suspect that it is you, then change the table or take a break.

2. “Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes playing a poor hand well.” - Jack London
You should not expect to be dealt quality cards or winning tournaments purely because of that and should learn when to run a bluff if you want to take it all down.

You can find a good move even in a bad situation, so identifying proper spots to play your opponents rather than your cards and putting them in tough situations is a clear path to success. If you can do that, you will no longer need to rely only on good holdings and can do more damage to your opponents.

1. "Poker is a hard way to make an easy living." - Doyle Brunson
People outside poker might see this as a fabulous life where you can make a ridiculous amount of money by having fun and playing cards. While this might be true in extremely rare cases -- if you happen to win a one-time tournament with a massive price -- it is exceptionally rare and not something you should count on.

Just like everything else in life, poker requires a lot of discipline, dedication, and work to achieve great results. However, if you are willing to put that effort, and reach the highest levels in this field, then poker might actually become a great way to make an “easy” living.