3 Tactics Used by Poker Pros That Can Help LoL Players Climb ELO

Mar 17, 2016

Grinding out ranked games can become extremely taxing on the mind and soul. At times you become genuinely curious whether or not it’s a mistake that you keep getting matched up with under performing teammates, or if you just aren’t as good at the game as you thought you were. However stressful League of Legends becomes, at the end of the day it’s a low stakes game based around “League Points”; an in-game currency that doesn’t affect our offline lives. Poker is another game that is incredibly stress inducing, but unlike your average solo queue game, there are tangible stakes involved.

Becoming a better poker player is a mix of strategy and mental adaption. Tilting in the middle of a poker game could cost you a large amounts of money, and you can’t blame that on your jungler. Today we’re going to look at 3 important mental tactics poker pros utilize and see how they can make us perform better at League of Legends. Following these tips will not only help you perform better, but also prevent tilting. Let’s get started.

Becoming Outcome Independent

As terribly unlucky as this is, Drinan didn’t make a bad decision going all-in in this situation. It’s extremely unlikely, but it happens.

It is possible to be very unlucky at a poker table. Experienced players have countless stories about being the 70%+ favorite in a big pot before their underdog opponent makes their hand on the last card, and they lose it all. You can be dealt pocket aces, the best possible hand in Texas hold’em, and lose to an opponent with pocket 2s, the lowest possible pair, because they found another 2 on the board. As you can imagine, this is not a fun experience for professionals who are playing for large amounts of money.

Professional poker players put a lot of focus into becoming outcome independent. This means that they don’t worry about the specific outcome of their decision in one instance. Instead, they try to make decisions that reap them the greatest reward most of the time. The player who was dealt pocket aces wants the player sitting across from him with 22 to put as much money in the pot as possible because he knows he is favored to win almost 82% of the time. If the hand was done 10 times in a row, the player with aces will win more than 8 times. Therefore, even though he is not guaranteed the pot, the player with aces can take comfort in knowing he’s making the right decision by calling an all-in.

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We can utilize outcome independence in League of Legends by aiming to perform our personal best regardless of the outcome of the game. No matter what, we will try to make the best possible decision throughout all of the twists and turns our game makes. Bottom lane gives up 10 kills by 20 minutes? Doesn’t matter. By focusing on making the best decision at all times, our teammates results become irrelevant. If we make the right decision the majority of the time, we will earn a desirable outcome the majority of the time. The more good decisions we make, the more games we will win in the long run.

Plugging Your Leaks

Plugging leaks
Plugging your leaks is a path to guaranteed progress. Dedicate a full week to fixing one of your sub-optimal in-game habits. Aim for progress, not perfection. Photo via Gold Functional Wellness.

Poker players often make note of difficult decisions and analyze them later (more on this below) to reveal leaks in their play. A leak is defined as: an element of poor play or bad strategy that consistently reduces a player’s winnings or increases the player’s loses. It is often much more efficient for players to focus on plugging their leaks than it is searching for new techniques that offer only marginal benefit.

This entire concept carries over to League of Legends completely. I bet you already know 3 leaks in your play right now. Imagine how much better at the game you would be if you plugged just a single leak every week or two. If nothing else, identifying your leaks and reducing the amount of mistakes you make will grant you small improvements. Before long, each one of those small improvements will compound into something greater. Focus on progress, not perfection.

Studying Away From the Table

Poker Math
The average poker veteran will have many important probabilities memorized to give him a better idea on whether or not he should continue to add money to the pot.

The idea of a “professional” poker player can be a mind boggling concept for many people who see poker as pure gambling. The reality is that the poker players you see on TV have spent hundreds of hours studying poker away from the tables in order to reduce how often luck is involved. Poker professionals can calculate their chances of winning any given pot down to the percentage. They know the chances their opponent has a better hand based on how much they are betting, and what cards are already showing. Poker pros don’t want to get lucky, they want to make the correct decision (the decision that makes them the most money) as often as possible. Getting to this level requires many dedicated studying sessions that involve analyzing theoretical hands and using math to get a clearer picture of positions they may find themselves in at the tables.

Studying away from the computer in League of Legends is referred to as theory crafting. Knowing the intricacies of any given match-up can provide an enormous edge. You don’t even have to do all of the research yourself. Thanks to websites like YouTube, MobaFire, and /r/summonerschool, you can probably find a detailed write up explaining how almost any match up can be played optimally. Often times the secret is as simple as understanding that you can’t play aggressive until the enemy champion burns an important cooldown, opening a brief window for you to deal damage without any consequences. Knowing power spikes, match ups, optimal builds, and ability cooldowns can give you a massive advantage.

Focusing on the Long-Term

Poker players focus on their long-term aggregate results to account for the inevitable variance they know they will experience. That’s not a bad concept for League of Legends players to adapt. You can’t control the match making system, but you can control your own play. By focusing on always making the best decisions in-game, plugging your leaks, and studying outside of the game, you can become better at the game.

Good luck, have fun!

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Jamie Jacobs
Jamie Jacobs is a bot lane main who once won 17 consecutive Janna games. His favorite champions are Thresh, Kalista, and Bard. Jamie writes about competitive League of Legends and the professional gaming scene every week at Esports Edition.
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