By Richard D. Harroch and Lou Krieger from Poker For Dummies
Like a house, poker requires a foundation. Only when that foundation is solidly in place can you proceed to build on it. When all the structural elements are in place, you can then add flourishes and decorative touches. But you can't begin embellishing it until the foundation has been poured, the building framed, and all the other elements that come before it are in place. That's the purpose here: to put first things first — to give you a basic understanding of what you need before you begin to play.
Planning and discipline
Some poker players, and it's no more than a handful, really do have a genius for the game — an inexplicable, Picasso-like talent that isn't easily defined and usually has to be seen to be believed. But even in the absence of genius — and most winning players certainly are not poker savants — poker is an eminently learnable skill. Inherent ability helps, and while you need some talent, you really don't need all that much. After all, you don't have to be Van Cliburn to play the piano, Picasso to paint, or Michael Jordan to play basketball. What you do need to become a winning player are discipline and a solid plan to learn the game.
Plotting a strategy: If you aspire to play winning poker, then you need a plan to learn the game. While the school of hard knocks may have sufficed as the educational institution of choice 20 or 30 years ago, most of today's better poker players have added a solid grounding in poker theory to their over-the-table experiences. You can find a slew of information to help you learn the game — in books, magazines, and online.
Discipline: All the strategic knowledge in the world does not guarantee success to any poker player. Personal characteristics are equally important. Success demands a certain quality of character in addition to strategic know-how. Players lacking self-discipline, for example, have a hard time ever winning consistently regardless of how strategically sophisticated they may be. If one lacks the discipline to throw away poor starting hands, then all the knowledge in the world can't overcome this flaw.
Knowledge without discipline is merely unrealized potential. Playing with discipline is a key to avoiding losing your shirt — or your shorts.
If you can learn to play poker at a level akin to that of a journeyman musician, a work-a-day commercial artist, you will be good enough to win consistently. You don't have to be a world champion like Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, or Tom McEvoy to earn money playing poker. The skills of a good journeyman poker player enable you to…