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PROspective: Poker Or Life Lesson?

by Ryan Laplante |  Published: Nov 06, 2019


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Ryan Laplante at the WSOPPoker can be a brutal game, especially if you don’t pay attention to the lessons the game tries to teach you. Being determined to learn these lessons can lead you to becoming a much more mature, well-rounded, successful player than if you didn’t have the strength of character or right mindset to be willing to grow. Of course, the same can be said when it comes to personal growth. Here are some lessons that the game teaches us that parallel our day-to-day life.

Have An Open Mind

You are not a perfect player, or person. Having an open mind is an integral aspect of poker. There are many things in poker that aren’t intuitive, and many ways in which making the best decision requires you to get into the mind of your opponent. Having a closed mind in poker (and life), will lead to many missed opportunities. The game evolves at a stunning rate, and if you aren’t willing to learn from the new information that has been made available from the best minds and latest technology, then you will fall behind quickly.

Find Patience

One of the simplest lessons poker teaches is how to be patient. Playing poker at a high level, whether its cash games or tournaments, requires an extreme amount of patience and discipline. Making quick and rash decisions based on your desire to get into action and run up a big stack will almost always lead to ruin. Patience is a virtue, but it can also be quite profitable.

Using Analytical Thinking

Taking the time to properly weigh decisions, and doing so from a factual and mathematical point of view is a necessity in poker and life if you desire to be successful. Making ego-driven decisions is an easy route to failure. Have you ever seen a player in a game that was way too big for their bankroll? Perhaps that player was you? Would you have played in that game if your ego hadn’t gotten in the way?

Don’t Be Results Oriented

If you always assume that a result that ends in profit is a success, while one that ends in losses is a failure, then you will be making many misinformed decisions. One clear example of this would be getting all-in with pocket kings preflop in a tournament for 15 big blinds, and having an opponent wake up with pocket aces. Yes, you made a decision that effectively cost you your stack and resulted in a loss, but you also made a very profitable decision based on the likely holdings your opponent could have. A results-oriented person sees a mistake, a decision-oriented person sees the right move with an unfortunate result. A quote I really enjoy is: “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose.”

Don’t Focus On The Short-Term

Way too many people in life focus on short-term results. They see a quick and easy success as one worth doing, even if the tougher decision shows higher profits long term. Having this type of short-term mindset is logical in the sense that long-term results are not guaranteed, while seeing quick success is. However, in many aspects of life the only results that really matter is what happens over the long term, and this is especially true in poker. A three-month heater is nothing if you blow it all the next month with bad habits.

Work On Your Mindset

The most important lesson poker has taught me is that your mindset is everything. How you view and react to events in your life is almost as important as the actual events themselves.

As a simple poker example: I was recently at the final table of a $1,000 buy-in event at the World Series of Poker, and there were just three of us left. First place was $341,000, which would be my largest score ever, and my second bracelet. Third place was almost $200,000 less than that.

As you can imagine, I really, really wanted to win. I ended up playing a massive pot against the eventual winner where I got it in as a 75+ percent favorite to win, and have a massive chip lead heads-up. Instead, I ended up losing, and taking third place. It would be very reasonable to think, “Hey, I could have won, I was a favorite to do so, and it was for a lot of money. That really sucks, how am I so unlucky?” But of course, that wouldn’t be a healthy mindset.

The best mindset to have is one that is based on gratefulness, not based on ego and greed. My ego says I deserved to win, which is obviously not true. There is no “deserve” in poker, or in life. Things happen, and it is up to you to react to them in a mature way, or, to let what happens to you dictate how you feel. Either way, what happened won’t change, but how happy you are and how you react to it is entirely up to you. This is why I am grateful for the opportunity I was given, and was happy when I busted and was able to quickly hop into the next tournament.

The next time you learn a valuable lesson at the table, think about how you can apply it to your everyday life. ♠

Ryan Laplante is a WSOP Bracelet winner. He has more than $5 million in tournament cashes with eight WSOP final tables. His website is, and he is a coach for ChipLeader Coaching at