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What Makes a Poker Player Successful?

So what sets a great poker player apart from a decent one? This is the several million-dollar question. Back in the day, not that many people would have given serious thought to poker and poker players. They were mostly considered gamblers who like to throw away their money. But things have changed quite a lot since then and, nowadays, we have some remarkable people who have shown that you can turn to play poker into a successful career.

Here we will define success not just in terms of winnings but also long-term consistency. The truth is that the ability to win at poker over a long period is relatively uncommon in this world. Players tend to come and go, and, more often than not, today’s rising star turns out to be just a temporary blip.

But you also have those central poker players that manage to keep at it and accumulate considerable wealth. You keep seeing their names popping up over the years. Let’s take a look at just a few of them:

Fedor Holz – $32 million

This German high roller saw a meteoric rise, and 2016 was a particularly significant year in his career. It was when he got his first WSOP (World Series of Poker) bracelet with a win at High Roller for One Drop – $111,111 No-Limit Hold ’em only a few weeks after getting 2nd place at the Super High Roller Bowl.

Since then, he has continued to grow. In 2018 he won 2nd place in the WSOP and took home $6 million.

Erik Seidel – $41 million

Seidel began his career before the online poker boom and made a name for himself by winning 2nd place in the 1988 WSOP Main Event. His final hand is even depicted in the 1998 movie “Rounders.”

His best year may have been 2011, in which he made more than $6.5 million.

Daniel Negreanu – $50 million

In 2014, Daniel “KidPoker” Negreanu was included into the Poker Hall Of Fame and was named Player of The Decade (2014-2013) by the Global Poker Index. This alone should give you an indication that his career is nothing to scoff at. He is the proud owner of six WSOP bracelets and is the only player that has managed to win World Series bracelets in Las Vegas, Australia, and Europe.

Justin Bonomo – $43 million

Justin Bonomo or ZeeJustin, as he’s known among his online poker fans, began his career at the early age of 16, when he astoundingly turned a deposit of $500 into a $10,000 pot at Paradise Poker. He’s best known for surpassing Daniel Negreanu at the 2018 WSOP, which earned him $10 million.

In just a few years, his net worth has increased considerably, and he’s now holding the number one position of the poker All Time Money List.

You may or may not have heard of these players, but they show how much money a person can make out of playing poker. The names are not the most important, but what attributes has made them so successful in what they do. Let’s dive into what makes a great poker player.


This is by far the most critical factor when you want to become a great poker player. To reach the kind of success we described above, you need to put in thousands of hours at the table. Luckily, now we have the option of playing online poker where it’s possible to gain experience faster than ever before. So find some good poker apps and dedicate yourself to reaching those critical 10,000 hours, so you have a shot at competing against the best of the best.


At higher stages, most players will have a similar level of knowledge and experience. What sets them apart is how fast they can adjust to their opponent and their ability to predict their strategy. It is what “leveling” refers to. You’ll find a vast amount of learning resources on the internet where key strategic aspects are explained in detail. You never stop learning.

There is a strong correlation between poker skills and intelligence. If you do some research on the most successful players, you’ll find that many of them have impressive academic backgrounds.


Whether you’re playing online or live, expect to spend a lot of time doing nothing. You’re strategically waiting for excellent opportunities. Until then, you keep folding hands and wait for the right spots. For some people, this routine can get painfully boring, especially when you have days in which you barely get any playable hands.

It might be very tempting to start playing when you know it’s not the wisest thing to do just because you feel the need for some action. To be successful at poker, you need to stay patient, or you’ll end up taking yourself out of the game.

Money Management Skills

There are, unfortunately, many talented poker players who are not known for their frugality. It is especially common among tournament players that are used to making life-changing money very quickly. They’ll go on adrenaline-fueled spending sprees, and their winnings are lost before they even realize.

If you want longevity in this career, you need to be sensible with your spending and know how to keep your finances in order. You have to look at poker as a business, and your lifestyle should reflect this.

Knowing How to Cope With Adversity

There will be times when you make all the smart choices, but somehow you still lose. We don’t know how to break this to you, but losing is a big part of poker. You can tell a new player has a real chance of becoming successful, but their ability to stay calm focused and motivated even when the cards are not in their favor.

It’s easy to start feeling dejected, but you have to look at it as an opportunity to gain experience over your opponents and to learn how to stay emotionally stable no matter the circumstances. When you’re able to bring your A-game no matter how bad things are going, that’s when you know you’ve made real progress.

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