Nihil timendum est (Fear Nothing)

By: Jonno Pittock

What makes players different?  What is it that separates the elite from the average?  Essentially, the game is the same for everyone - it never changes.  There are 52 cards, four betting rounds and the same five options for every player at the table – check, bet, call, raise or fold.  The odds are the same for everyone too - if you get it all-in with AK versus QQ you are about a 50/50 shot at winning, just like the other guy.  So what is it that makes winning players win?  Luck?  Sometimes it is, but over time the luck factor morphs into variance the more hands you play, and eventually evens itself out.  A superior knowledge of the game and your opponents helps, but at a certain point even that balances out too.

My favourite players to watch play were always Tom Dwan, Patrik Antonius and Phil Ivey, and even though they all have very different styles of play and approach the game from different angles, they all have one thing in common – fearlessness.  In my experience, it is this attribute that sets the best players apart.

Fear paralyses.  The “fight or flight” response is a myth.  First comes the paralysing fear, and after that can you make the choice to run away or stand and fight.  It is not an instinct; it stems from conscious thought, and therefore it can be learnt.  Durrrr, Patrik and Ivey all have a propensity towards fearlessness, but have developed and honed their tendencies over the years at the table to a point where they can exploit the fear they see in other players.  They bet when they should bet and raise when they should raise, always knowing the right amount of pressure to apply to make their opponent choose to run away or make a stand, depending on which one they want them to do.  Anybody can analyse a hand in the cold light of day and know the right play to make, but having the ability to embrace the fear at the table, work though it quickly and make the right play is what separates the winners from losers.

Like everything in poker, this concept is not just confined to the felt.  In business, fear presents itself in conservatism and aversion to change.  There are just as many grinders in the business world as there are at the tables, happy just to eeek out a living, not wanting to rock the boat, but always dreaming of a seat in the big game – or in their case, the board room.  The most successful businessmen challenge the norm and avoid conformity at all costs.  Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson are prime examples.  Everybody has ideas, and the truly successful people are the ones that follow through, work hard to realise their vision, face their fears, and ultimately bet on themselves.  Who do you bet on?

Until next time...