View Full Version : Discipline vs. Skill

05-02-2002, 01:14 AM
While I was engaged in one of my favorite past times the other night, throwing chips, I was for some reason more alert to my swing. I played an eight hour session of 6-12 HE with a full kill.

After three hours of play I was up a comfortable $320 plus/minus and I was considering going home early but the game was good and besides I don’t get a kitchen pass all that often to play poker. At the end of about six hours I was down a disgusting $150 exactly. At the end of the session I walked away $220 winner. I was thinking that I should have left after three hours with about $80 to $90 more.

Anyway, during the losing period I had a string of raggedy cards and two costly hands where I lost a strong hand to a better hand. During the hour drive home I was going over my play and concluded that the number of bad plays I made were about equal to my really good skilled plays. The remainder of the time I simply was very patient and poised waiting for the right cards to play in the correct position and showed the best hand. I felt that my patience was why I left an eventual winner.

I started thinking about how being patient (disciplined) interacts with skill and whether a highly skilled player with marginal discipline would have an edge over a good to very good player with excellent discipline.

I think that a lot of us in the early stages of learning and studying the game (as I am now) might fall into the “good and disciplined” category. I feel that excellent discipline can be developed quickly but that a thorough understanding of the game and it’s complexities takes much more time and experience.

All comments and thoughts are welcome.


05-02-2002, 05:27 AM
need more skill when most pots are heads up or 3-way.


05-02-2002, 09:18 AM
"At the end of the session I walked away $220 winner. I was thinking that I should have left after three hours with about $80 to $90 more."

I wonder ... Let's say you had walked away a $500 winner. Would you still tell yourself in the car that you should have left when you were up $300?

For those of us who struggle with starting-hand discipline in full games (and that's me too), I think discipline is more important than luck or skill because it's the one thing we can control right now.


05-02-2002, 09:54 AM
Let's take calling hands. How much discipline does it take to muck KT?

Well, if all you remember is that some book said to muck KT, you might just play it. But if you can say, on average, against that player and this player, in this situation, I will only get back 88% of the bet I put in to call, then you can't help but fold every time.

So, by studying the tough Sklansky questions, you can gain skill in making these sorts of calculations. And then knowledge literally commandeers your calling and folding decisions, irresistibly. Every time you eliminate a gray area, you eliminate a place where you will call or fold many hands in a row - and your opponents will pick up on this - based on a constant emotion running through those hands.


05-02-2002, 10:00 AM
Discipline means your ability to maintain correct strategy even when you're stuck while skill is your ability to maximize your gains or minimize your losses whether winning or losing.

05-02-2002, 12:22 PM
ahh, but they are irrevocably linked. skill is partly knowing which hands you need discipline enough to play or not play, or drop when you don't hit. and it is important to be disciplined enough to always use your skills to their maximum potential.

05-02-2002, 12:38 PM
I think the relative importance of skill and discipline is illustrated by what Mike Caro calls the Law of Least Tilt: that over the course of a long period of time, among a group of reasonably skilled players, the player who will make the most money over the course of that time is the one who spends the least amount of time on tilt.

(Mind you, I don't *know* that this "law" is true; but it makes sense and is consistent with my own perception of poker and the people who play it.)

All the skill in the world won't help you if you don't have what it takes to apply it consistently.

It doesn't take much skill to beat (say) the $6-$12 hold'em game at the Bicycle Club; but it certainly takes discipline to apply that small amount of skill in the assiduous and consistent manner needed to beat that game.

We've heard over and over about mid- and high-limit players who spend some time in small games waiting for seats in the games of their choice who spew rack after rack of chips while waiting. They certainly have the skill to beat the small games, but they don't apply the needed discipline, because the game is too small to matter.

("Though I coffeehouse with the tongues of men and angels, and have not discipline, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

"And thought I have the gift of card-reading, and understand all the hand-rankings, and all card knowledge; and though I have all faith in the long run so that I could move mountains of chips, and have not discipline, I am nothing....")

05-02-2002, 01:13 PM

05-02-2002, 06:21 PM
What if your disciplined at a bad strategy?

I think your post raises an interesting point, in that it takes discipline to not only play your best, but to study your best as well. Discipline at the table only goes as far as discipline away from the table.

Good post.

05-02-2002, 06:54 PM

05-02-2002, 08:20 PM
Not necessarily. There are those who have the discipline but not the right skills to know and take advantage of even small edges here and there that occur during a game. They will consistently win a little bit more than they lose but they probably will never win large sums nor will they ever play at the highest levels of the game.

05-02-2002, 09:44 PM
well sure. and that's why we work on both of those parts of our game. i was speaking of the more 'ideal' situation.

05-03-2002, 02:49 AM
An unbeliever once asked Hillel if he could recite HOLDEM POKER FOR ADVANCED PLAYERS while standing on one foot. He replied, "Play tight, don't cold-call raises, and don't go on tilt. The rest is commentary."

05-03-2002, 12:16 PM
Not all the books in either bible agree with each other. It seems to be the nature of theology.

Regards, Lee

05-03-2002, 02:09 PM
yeah they do. you just have to interpret them correctly.

05-03-2002, 09:18 PM
Anything is related to anything if you interpret it "correctly"

05-04-2002, 01:12 AM
while you can manipulate data in the way you describe, no sleight of hand is needed here.

05-09-2002, 03:25 PM
Displine is what parts the waters. Skill is knowing you should run through, and being able to get to the other end.

Displine is doing what you feel is correct. Whether it's starting cards, a fancy play, laying down, etc. It lets you play the best game you know how.

Making a mistake is not always linked to discipline. There's no way to know what to do in every situation. A newbie only knows a subset of the right things that a pro will know. Neither will know what to do in every situation, allowing for the possibilty that a newbie will beat a pro. Following through with your beliefs is discipline -- even if it's wrong. When you see it is incorrect, you need to change your assumption. That too is discipline.

So, if I had to pick I'd pick discipline. Not being a naturally talented person, I've used discipline to develop my skills so they are better than most naturally talented individuals. Did this with my work, hockey, pool, and now I hope poker.