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Minimum I.Q./Intelligence for successful poker player

FuzzypupFuzzypup Posts: 2,208Subscriber
edited December 2017 in Low Content Forum
Of course there are other attributes to the game. Live requires more skills than online IMO even though live is an easier game. Online is math and discipline when you have HUDs providing excellent information.

Live requires even more discipline than online, math, psychology, self awareness, emotional intelligence with the latter two not being measures on an I.Q. test

Discipline I think is the most important. I have seen many decent player lose their discipline, go on tilt, and destroy their winrate.

I have met many a pro player who seemed around 115 and were somewhat successful. I say somewhat because I see them making clear mistakes which should drastically impact their winrate to the bottom end of profitable enough to barely make a living.

I know 1 player who is 125 who is very successful. But he has been playing for decades. His math skills aren't as good as mine, nor his poker psychology. If we played heads up I'd beat him because I know poker theory better. But he has far more experience @ live play than I do.

I know 2 players who are in the 130's range who are moderately successful. But their environments also makes it tough on them to make serious money and require more work into the game.

The best player I know who is slightly better than I am is a 165.
I know another who is 165 and is a little worse than I am by his own admission.
Both have put perhaps 5-15% of the time invested into the game as I have.

To be the top 1% of any subject you need roughly a 150 I.Q. (Jordan Peterson)

@ 1/2, and I know this depends on the game... We assuming mixed full and short stacks which is typical @ 1/2.
Ok = ~$5-$10 per hour
Good = ~$10-$15 per hour
Excellent = $15-$25 per hour
Master = $25+ per hour

@ 2/5
Ok = ~$5-$20 per hour
Good = $20-$35 per hour
Excellent = $35-$50 per hour
Master = $50+ per hour

I know one player who makes $40 an hour @ 1/2 and another who makes $115 @ 2/5 per hour. Both are excellent players of different styles.

I am 132 myself and study poker more than anyone I have met by far. I perform as a master online at Ignition averaging out over a large sample. I perform only good live but that's due to a massive negative variance in large pots for the last 4 years and too few hours between all 4 years. My skill has dramatically increased the last 4 years due to specific data accumulation and private work with combinatorics. I teach 3 friends currently on how to improve their game.

Curious on you input? Rate yourself?


  • neverlearn2 Posts: 2,740Subscriber
    how do you know their IQ to even start off with?

    this reminds me of Malcolm Gladwells book, Outliers. He talks about genius IQ people and how they dont always amount to anything in life.

    I think I read studies that show peopel with higher IQs do more drugs and have more sex or something. I assuming that means you are smart enough to see the futility of living.
    by 1CycleV
  • FreeLunch Posts: 1,285Pro
    It cant hurt to be smart, and its probably vital at online higher stakes, but live there are lots of other factors. There are smart people with terrible observation, people, and pattern detection skills who would get killed at poker. I have also know many people who are wildly successful at poker who have very poor fundamental undertaking of theory etc, but are really good at observing and reading people. Thats whats so great about live poker - lots of different ways to succeed at it
  • FuzzypupFuzzypup Posts: 2,208Subscriber
    edited December 2017
    neverlearn2 said:
    how do you know their IQ to even start off with?

    this reminds me of Malcolm Gladwells book, Outliers. He talks about genius IQ people and how they dont always amount to anything in life.

    I think I read studies that show peopel with higher IQs do more drugs and have more sex or something. I assuming that means you are smart enough to see the futility of living.
    Smart people have trouble finding their path for various reasons. Sometimes it is what you said. Sometimes it's a shitty school system. Sometimes it's being an outcast by society because people look on genius as weirdos out of jealousy or being awkward due to years of being different which compound in changing a person's personality. Many view intelligent people as arrogant because they actually do know more and again are outcasts. I love people smarter than I am. Went to a Mensa meeting and it was amazing talking to people that can think.

    So yea the smarter you are the more you realize how easily your life can be ruined by disease, other people, losing a job, marriage. Ignorance is bliss is accurate.

    I ask people that are friends if they were ever tested. I've known so many different kinds of people I can get a really good estimates on where scores are. I also studied testing in college and I.Q. tests in particular because they fascinate me.

    Most people of ~115 are the most prone to joining cults. Those of 120-130 are also usually the most happy because they fit in with those below and those above. Just like generally a 115 is about what you need to finish a productive 4 year degree putting in hard work like biology or electrical engineering. The average of college professors with PHDs is 125.

    But I.Q. doesn't measure certain things.
  • FuzzypupFuzzypup Posts: 2,208Subscriber
    edited December 2017
    FreeLunch said:
    It cant hurt to be smart, and its probably vital at online higher stakes, but live there are lots of other factors. There are smart people with terrible observation, people, and pattern detection skills who would get killed at poker. I have also know many people who are wildly successful at poker who have very poor fundamental undertaking of theory etc, but are really good at observing and reading people. Thats whats so great about live poker - lots of different ways to succeed at it
    Well you need some level of mathematical understanding and logic to play this successfully.

    Any good feel player I met is clearly not average intelligence.

    One player I know with a 165 IQ is not formally educated. Never finished high school. Yet he scored incredibly high on the SAT and Berkley accepted him without a HS diploma.
  • neverlearn2 Posts: 2,740Subscriber
    Does reading people, intuition type stuff. Subjective things, how does IQ reflect on those?

    I could be way off here but it seems like to me that having high IQ might help you with the off the table stuff but there is no telling how they react in the moment out of their comfort areas. It seems in any head to head live competition, quick on the feet thinking and adapting is more important.

    Now if this is tied to having higher IQ than i guess having higher IQ does help.

    Sidenote. I was tested as gifted as a child. Does that mean I have high IQ? I want to go brag to my wife
  • chilidog Posts: 2,415Subscriber
    Where do u think trump falls on the IQ scale ?
  • FuzzypupFuzzypup Posts: 2,208Subscriber
    @neverlearn - I.Q. doesn't measure self awareness or emotional intelligence. I'm pretty sure I said that above. But it does let you learn those subjects quicker than someone else. Gifted is minimum 130 I.Q. If I.Q. affects your ability to critically think or even be taught to critically think I don't know. From my experience I rarely find someone less intelligent than I am that can critically think or even consider alternatives with evidence. I taught quite a few people poker. Only 2 got it, took what I said, explored on their own, adapted my thoughts, asked the right questions. If you notice on 2+2 you have a lot of narrow minded static players who respond with "always", "must", "never", and my favorite "*blank* all day".

    I am starting to watch VLOGs from some of these unknown pros or maybe serious recs who have educated themselves. I certainly find a lot of static thinking in how they discuss hands.

    I.Q. certainly helps. I don't think you can be less than a 115 and be successful without a mountain of hard work, incredibly discipline, and only playing really crappy players.

    @chilidog - By how he speaks and how I have seen him speak some 20 years ago probably a 120. But I seriously do think he has some sort of mental disorder at his age. He sounds completely different now from 20 years ago. With a 120 I.Q. you sound witty enough to the average people to impress them and are not smart enough to get them. He has a single bachelor's degree in economics and was handed money to start his real estate empire.

    120-130 is the intelligence needed to be dangerous with the masses yet too dumb to realize when you are wrong. As much as I despise Bannon he is actually quite intelligent. At least 130. His articulation and knowledge of his own belief system are pretty outstanding. But that's where the differentiation comes into play. Smarter people in the 140s and 150s know how to defend their positions well and do so in an argument. People who gathered evidence to support their belief system attack you from a different angle instead of defending their own positions. Most people I find around my 132 I.Q. range do this. Some think outside the box. I know I have changed my views on many issues several times due to evidence even if I didn't want to believe in it. I even have a friend who is as smart as me and believes in most of the non-sense the far right does including demons, the devil, magic, and ghosts.

    Many of our politicians aren't particularly bright. They are quite dull yet they are smart enough and have enough emotional intelligence to get to where they are at. Considering being a genius is so unbelievably rare we have a mountain of idiots that run our world. As pointed out above.... smart people are often depressed because they know the truth about how dangerous the world is. Ignorance is bliss.
  • neverlearn2 Posts: 2,740Subscriber
    Sorry fuzzy, guess I didn't fully comprehend your reply.

    But I agree for most part but don't think you need to be that smart to be successful at poker but there are also lots of different types of games and ways to skin a cat.

    Thanks for the responses.
  • FuzzypupFuzzypup Posts: 2,208Subscriber
    Let me try again @neverlearn2.....

    Understanding people has nothing to do with I.Q. So a moderately intelligent feel player with an exceptional ability to manipulate and read people will do well.

    Being self aware has nothing to do with I.Q. But if you are self aware you can look within yourself to find your own flaws and you will spot those same flaws at the table in others. Like making quick decisions when you have an obvious hand and slow decisions when you have a weak hand. This helps you realize reads without raw memorization because technically you practiced it yourself by accident are "are aware you have".

    I.Q. is cognitive thinking, problem solving, memory, processing speed, and I suspect critical thinking. This allows you to do the math, process a hand quicker, take the "if then" statements of poker and reverse engineer them using math.

    This is a personal example. We are all taught to steal the blinds. We raise 3x and we are laying X odds with a bluff frequency to make the blinds fold. Very profitable with position. Very static statement. About 11 years ago, when I posted on 2+2, I thought... well what if their are nits in the blinds? Their calling range is really tight? So why do I need to raise 3x? Their calling range doesn't change. So I posted why not just min-raise nits in the blinds? This was a novel idea back then that no one I read about thought of until a couple years later. I got laughed at and insulted on 2+2.

    So you see the difference in the example of a group of poker players on 2+2 who only thought statically about my reverse engineering of stealing the blinds vs nitty players. We are all taught to steal but I.Q. let's us think outside the box using mathematical constructs. Where as moderately intelligent people simple learn to adapt the idea from experience over time but possible can't expand from it.

    Another example. My poker pal above had an idea. If a tight player 3bs you and you call OOP can we XR him on an Axx flop effectively for it to be a +EV play? So we worked out the math based on some ranges from different spots. It turned out we can't but because of this idea I used it for other players I worked out myself and use at the games today which are +EV situations.

    I took an I.Q. test just this year. Never had one that I know of. I did it so I can find my own mental processing flaws in the game. Sure enough it showed where I am weak and need to work on.
  • FuzzypupFuzzypup Posts: 2,208Subscriber
    neverlearn2 said:
    Sorry fuzzy, guess I didn't fully comprehend your reply.

    But I agree for most part but don't think you need to be that smart to be successful at poker but there are also lots of different types of games and ways to skin a cat.

    Thanks for the responses.
    No you don't have to be that smart to win at poker. I do think discipline is the most important aspect. There is this local pro who is absolutely terrible. I run circles around him. He has to be one of the worst pros I know. But he makes a living at the game grinding, what I suspect 40-50 hours a week. So I spoke to him, watched him, saw what he did right, and asked some non-threatening questions. The player simply knows all the players in his casino and goes to the best table with the worst players all the time. That's his secret.

    I don't think I can ever be a Phil Ivey. I just don't think I have what it takes. But my goal is to just accumulate cash for retirement. Sadly I make more an hour playing poker than my former career.
  • neverlearn2 Posts: 2,740Subscriber
    OK, I see what you are sayig now. Im talking about being self aware but confusing it for IQ. Also can see where the old school gambler could still be successful even before your second post and why a high IQ person isnt a lock to be a good poker player.

  • FuzzypupFuzzypup Posts: 2,208Subscriber
    Stu Ungar. Fucking genius. Lacked discipline and emotional control. Probably the most amazing poker mind ever. Died due to it penniless. But this is an extreme example of where astronomically high intelligence compensated for everything else. It made him enough money, ridiculous money, to feed his destruction.
  • sivaddivad Posts: 294Subscriber
    edited December 2017
    Intelligence is super complex. It is not a score, but more of a radar graph that is not yet anywhere close to being fully understood. Things like recall ability, maths, social/self/risk awareness, etc. are all "intelligence" areas--whether or not they are captured in an I.Q. score--that help with poker, and most successful players are strong in at least some of these areas.

    Most of these can be improved with effort--which is why it is so true that discipline is vital.

    In chess, to be a good grandmaster, your recall ability--the most important intelligence factor in modern chess--must be off the chart, but recall ability alone doesn't make you a grandmaster, it just helps--and sets the upper bound of your success. You still need to put in the 6-8 hours a day of study for years to get there.

    Fortunately, you don't need to be grandmaster equivalent to win at live poker (not even close), so you can probably become a solid winner by just being average in key intelligence areas and working on your game consistently. Of course the more natural ability and work you put in, the better you will be.
  • FuzzypupFuzzypup Posts: 2,208Subscriber
    The one thing I find in many regs is static thinking. They read the books go to the sites and they play a very static game that is unbalanced. They don't pay attention to tiny details, don't psychologically manipulate the table, basically where a sign on their head saying "hi I'm a pro", watch movies on their phone.

    It's really amazing. That I know of, I do more work on poker than anyone else I know. So far I haven't found someone who does as much work as I do. Every year I come up with new plays, new ideas. Frankly it's shocking that I constantly improve by a good measure. So many tiny details so many players seem to miss.

    The worse tight player I know which I run circles around makes a living at poker. Most others would laugh at him. I talked to him. How can he be so bad and make money? Well I learned something from this guy. He has the highest discipline level at the game. Always picks the best tables. Doesn't mind being card dead for hours. Doesn't stress. Pretty amazing because he is so one dimensional in his play that it's transparent. But he is clearly smarter than average though not a thoughtful person or a critical thinker.

    I do think each reg pro plays a particular way and are used to people behaving a certain way to their style. Yet they don't realize when a different player understands this and adjusts to them. They can't get out of their mindset. This level of thinking is where I think the high I.Q. comes into play. That ability to critically think. I know I run into a good player, a truly good player, when he isn't the same player each time I play him. When he is balanced, when he knows to tame the aggression and when to turn it on. To me that is the dangerous player.

    Not the mindless reg who iso-raises every chances he gets and doesn't fold. Eventually his positive variance runs out.

    Social skills and being introspective are not part of I.Q.

    I.Q. is mostly cognitive thinking. I love being around people smarter than I am. I went to a Mensa meeting once. My wife is in Mensa. The people were incredible. I only wish I was smarter.
  • qbert80 Posts: 48Subscriber
    Interesting thread. I've very often wondered this myself. In chess, there's a ton of dialogue about the correlation between intelligence & success in game. It seems as if, due to the variance element, everyone throws their hands up in the air wrt to the correlation between intelligence and poker success.

    The primary reason I've always been curious about this issue is that I've always been a modest winner in the game and my younger brother is a very clear loser in the game, despite the higher IQ (145). And the difference isn't attributable to tilting / mental game issues, because we're equally average or just below avg on mental game.

    That's just one example. Overall, I'd say that if you're thinking about how intelligence influences poker ability, I'd say you might want to think of it like a bell curve. At the bottom end, each marginal point of IQ will have very little impact on poker success. You can safely predict that a person with an IQ of 60 will be bleeding money. An extra few points of IQ is not very valuable. A person with an IQ of 65 will be a similarly huge loser in the game.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum, a person with an IQ of 145 has all the intellectual tools to succeed at poker. Comparing them to someone with a 150 iq, means some extra raw horsepower, but the two people share the same intellectual tools required to succeed at poker.

    Where IQ probably matters is in the middle. I think it's reasonable to say, on average, people with IQs of 115, will, all other things being equal, outperform poker players with IQs of 110. And that the outperforming would be proven to be statistically significant. ie a meaningful amount in BB / hr.
  • Jesse_The_Suit Posts: 492Subscriber
    Yeah, I agree with Qbert, and just wanted to emphasize that though IQ is relevant to sucesss in poker, I seriously doubt it has much explanatory power beyond around 2 standard deviations above mean (I.e around 130). That's a level of intelligence beyond which the correlations between higher IQ and measurable success begins to break down in all kinds of fields (excluding the most cognitively demanding like certain high level mathematical and scientific pursuits). But it's also important to keep in mind that two SDs above mean is top 5 percent of the population. So yes, IQ matters, and the vast majority (19 out of 20) people probably aren't smart enough to be top level players. But if you give me two people with IQs of 130 (smart enough to be doctors, other PHD level professionals), additional emotional intelligence, good study habits, or good tilt control, are going to be fair more important than some extra intelligence.
  • FuzzypupFuzzypup Posts: 2,208Subscriber
    I'll agree on that point. I find that around 130 is where people start to critically think. And that is important. Thinking about intangibles and figuring out new plays to exploit opponents takes a bit of creativity.

    Math is #1 - understanding the concepts of odds and probability at the very least. You need to at least be good here to succeed. This is where I.Q. impacts.

    Discipline is #2 - self awareness, bankroll management, study. You need to good here to succeed. If you suck here you simply don't succeed. All it takes is one spazz hand to destroy a night's winrate. One tilt session to wipe out 2 weeks for example.

    People skills is #3 - projecting the right image, reading people, using social skills, using psychology, reading behavior. You don't necessarily need to be good here to succeed. But it augments the other two skills.

  • sivaddivad Posts: 294Subscriber
    edited January 13
    To answer the initial question, I believe that the minimum IQ needed to a winning poker player is probably right around / slightly below average--if are strong in the other areas not measured by IQ. But it will become easier as you approach the top 2%. Then there is a drop off in marginal benefit until you get into the stratospheric levels of IQ--that would be needed to become a top nosebleed pro for a long period.

    I have never tested my IQ, but apparently I qualify for Mensa--barely--based on my GMAT score, so whatever that is. Where this has helped me the most in poker is having a strong long-term memory. I can recall hands literally played years ago, and often remember other people's hands better than they do without having to pay close attention. So I am generally winning the information war.
  • FuzzypupFuzzypup Posts: 2,208Subscriber
    I could be wrong but I think I.Q. is logarithmic. If you qualify for Mensa you are at least a 130. I know many people of average I.Q. to slightly above average. Some had interest in poker and I tried to help them. They had trouble understanding how to calculate odds and ratio of the pot. I had to keep things very simple. Basically they had to memorize concepts instead of understanding underlying theory. I don't think a 100 I.Q. person can play poker well at the casino. Maybe with 30 years of experience and intuition losing lots of money during the journey they can do marginally well @ 1/2 vs very bad inexperienced players.

    Most people I meet that play 2/5 decently are college educated or articulate enough that they can be college educated if they want to be. a 110-115 IQ can get a 4 year degree but it's not easy. Requires a lot of hard work. 150 is when you can be the best in a field. 130-140 range you can become really good in a field. source:Jordan Peterson lectures.

    A 115 can be a damn good plumper or A/C repair man for example.
    A 130 can be a damn good I.T. support person.
    A 150 can be an expert mathematician.

    Shit I want 20 more I.Q. points.

    Thinking more the math is the largest obstacle. The psychology doesn't require a lot of intelligence. The discipline has nothing to do with intelligence. But understand the math has a direct correlation.
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