Are You a Learner or a Grinder?

I recently read a great book that impacted my philosophy on gaming and forced me to answer some tough questions about why we play poker and casino games. The book was called “The Poker Blueprint” by Tri Nguyen and Aaron Davis, and although the bulk of the text details a complete strategy to crush No Limit poker cash games, the very first introductory chapter is the one I am talking about. It’s one that can be applied to just about any game we cover on this website.

The chapter, titled “Play to Learn” outlines a few key concepts for becoming the best player you can be, and presents a compare and contrast between two different types of players. But unlike most books which compare the traits of winning and losing players, Nguyen and Davis instead explain differences between “learners” and “grinders,” two kinds of winners.

Grinders, on one hand, are pretty good players but they are only concerned with money and their profits, not improving their game. This focus solely on profits can have several negative effects, including making you prone to tilt and problems with emotions and putting a quick halt to any progress you have made as a player.

The other group, learners, are able to separate short-term variance from long-term certainties, and focus on finding the edges wherever they may lie. They will read copious amounts of strategy, think about the games away from the table, and in general do whatever they can to improve their play. If they are sports bettors, they will invest significant resources into improving their knowledge of their games so that they can find the most edges, not just waiting for one or two games a month. Whatever the game, the learner will understand all of the odds present and fail to be swayed by any big swings, either wins or losses.

Although it is a very short section, it’s a very refreshing way to think about these games and is valuable to keep in mind.

I always considered myself as a “learner” in poker—thinking about ranges, applying concepts, improving. But I still get a little too irritated from bad beats and coolers and I study both my poker tracker graphs and my cashier tab a bit more than a “learner” ever ought to. I never had this explained so clearly to me that this practice can stunt one’s growth as a player, but it makes complete sense.

When you’re thinking about your own play at the poker or casino tables, try to make sure you are a “learner” rather than a “grinder.” And for those of you who play poker, “The Poker Blueprint” is a great read that will improve your No Limit game significantly.

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