Poker Strategy

Why Introverts Make Better Poker Players

Why Introverts Make Better Poker Players

From Phil Ivey to Barry Greenstein to Tom Dwan to Phil Galfond to Isaac Haxton to Fedor Holz, many of the biggest names – and winners – in poker history all appear to fall on the introversion continuum. And while poker is never short on extroverts, the list of those who continue to dominate today (sorry Hellmuth) has been whittled down to not many more than Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu. So what is it about the introversion personality that creates so many successful poker players?

We’ll attempt to answer that question today, but before we do, let’s first clear up a common misconception: introversion and shyness are not interchangeable terms. At their roots, shyness is the expression of a fear of social rejection while introversion is a preference for low-stimulation environments. With shyness, there is an inherent underlying feeling of pain – which is not necessarily the case with introversion. Put most simply, introversion is about having your internal energy recharged from spending time alone, while shyness is about avoiding the perception of pain.

So what is it about being an introvert that makes such fertile land for producing high-level poker players? Let’s take a look at 3 potential factors.

The Inner Edge

One of the greatest abilities poker players – or any type of human – can possess is that of self-awareness. Being able to reflect on your own abilities, shortcomings, and triggers is critical not just for the development of our poker strategy, but for our ability to execute it in moments of intense pressure. Introverts, far more than their extroverted counterparts, have a lifetime of experience looking inward and self-analyzing. Introverts are also much more likely to attribute their failures to their own efforts – as opposed to the cards, their “lucky” opponents, or the poker gods. Although this trait can sometimes backfire in the form of self-doubt and demotivation, those players who are able to pair it with a growth-focused mindset put themselves in a highly advantageous position. The Inner Edge of introverts in poker is not just about understanding the game; it’s about understanding themselves within the context of the game. This introspection allows them to recognize patterns in their own play, make strategic choices about their risk tolerance, and hone their decision-making skills.

The Path To Mastery

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus once wrote: It is essential that we not respond impulsively to impressions; take a moment before reacting, and you will find it easier to maintain control.

Although most have not studied the teachings of Epictetus, introverts are well-versed in the art of non-reactivity. Rather than feeling an uncomfortable impulse and immediately attempting to soothe it – often in self-destructive ways – introverts are much more inclined to pause and reflect. This natural tendency towards contemplation and measured response is helpful in many different facets of poker, but critically so when dealing with tilt. In the pressure-cooker environment of high stakes poker, this ability to not react impulsively is an invaluable asset. Introverts, with their preference for internal processing, are often better equipped to step back, assess the situation, and respond in a way that aligns with their long-term philosophy, rather than being swayed by the emotions of the moment.

The Power Of Solitude

Although it too can lead to problems if not utilized correctly, the introvert’s preference for spending time alone can act as a powerful stimulant for internal growth and personal development. Undistracted by the constant need for company and stimulation, the introvert is able to dedicate that time to improving both themselves and their poker game. It is then, in those quiet moments of solitude, that introverts delve deeply into their passion for the game, analyzing patterns, studying various strategies, and honing their techniques. This dedicated, undistracted time of self-reflection and strategic refinement is critical in any undertaking where subtle nuances can, and do, make the difference between glory and pain.

And so the next time you feel guilt or shame for wanting to spend more time alone, remember that although some measure of balance is always beneficial (at least on a long-enough timeline), those who succeed at the highest levels of any undertaking are the ones who lean deeply into who they are and learn to utilize their unique collection of strengths, weaknesses and personality traits to their advantage. As the author Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: Make the most of yourself…. for that is all there is of you.

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