Ray Zee’s Stages of a Winning Poker Player

Evolution of a poker player: by Ray Zee

Maybe a poker player has an evolution to his playing style. That is-what you need to be successful when you start out, may not be the same to achieve success in higher limit games against other experienced players.

  • Stage One: As total beginners, all people will play way too loose, and ensure that they cannot win. They will also raise foolishly, but call regularly when raising is needed. Needless to say, they call too often all the way through the hand with little chance of winning the pot. Without reading and studying, there is only a small chance that they can evolve into a winning poker player. It takes some time for them to start to realize that there is more to the game than trying to get lucky and catch cards.  That is, even though poker is an easy game to play, it is not an easy game to play well. Sometime during this stage some players begin to understand that playing tight gets the money in the small games they are playing. It doesn’t necessarily allow them to win a lot, but it does give them positive results which is a welcome change from their previous status. From here they morph into the next stage.
  • Stage Two: This stage of a player’s evolution is the tight stage. Most of those that are going to go forward to become eventual winning players will enter this form. The problem is that they frequently play too tight and may have little imagination in the beginning. The good side is that one now finds he wins a fair amount of the time due only to the tight play, and bad playing of the opponents. He may also be aided by the small ante/blind structure of many of the games at the smaller limits, and after a long spell of ups and downs, the newly minted tight player starts to find out about how good plays can increase your earnings. He experiments a little and finds it is fun to make speculative raises and bluffs and begins too see his winnings increase. So from here he starts the trek to the next stage of his evolution.
  • Stage Three: This is the semi-advanced stage of a poker player’s career. Now the cat is out of the bag. He wins more often and gets what he believes is the right feel for the game. Great plays come about by pushing marginal hands and making fantastic calls on the end through his ability to read hands. Poker is fun played this way. But no longer is the tight player inside the body. All hands start to look like they have value, and with skillful manipulation winning the pot is easy. He begins to believe that he can play bad hands for profit, where in reality he can’t. The player has taken a big step backward and a long leap forwards at the same time. The tight style needed is gone and a new imaginative style is born and he becomes loose aggressive.

Unfortunately for him, if he gets too loose he loses all his money and may never recover. But for those that are moving up the ladder, this is the last leap before the finishing stage. Finally for our player, if he can get through the maze, may find himself armed with the tools to round out expert status.

  • Stage Four: This final stage incorporates the tight play that’s a must in poker, with the imagination to win pots without the best hand. He has become tight and aggressive. Semi bluffs, bluffs, raises to knock out the best hand (and sometimes the second best hand) and get the pot down to you and the loser, good calls on the end, are some of the things that were missing before or played incorrectly. The expert wins lots of money and gains a reputation for being a great player. Whether he keeps the money depends on his ability to find good games at limits within his bankroll.

By the way, don’t let the above paragraph fool you. It takes much work to achieve this kind of skill, and only a small number of players ever reach this status. *That is my take on how most of the expert players moved up the ladder inability and skill.* From this point forward each person has to learn the self-control to know when to quit when playing badly, and at the same time be able to gauge when the opponents are outplaying you. Those that will make the most of their time at the tables will be found playing in good games when they are at the peak of their facilities and being very successful in the long run. No playing when tired or upset, limiting the hours so that concentration continues, and leaving when you don’t have it that day, but may not know why, are some of the hidden keys to long term success. If and when a person puts it all together, he can say he is now an expert.

The above applies to virtually all forms of poker. Becoming a great player doesn’t happen over night. It’s true that some people have a great deal of natural ability, but even they have to work on their games. On the other hand, those of you who don’t possess a great deal of natural ability can still become very good and successful players through experience and much hard work.


About Felicia Lee

Poker, Writing
This entry was posted in 2+2, Poker. Bookmark the permalink.

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