Saturday, July 16, 2005

Poker: A Game of Controlling the Mind (Setting Your Gameplan)

This post will officially start my second serious poker writing undertaking; the journey to control the angry ghost that is tilt. Before you read on, please make sure you have read my last post entitled “Your Next Great Poker Education,” as it explains what I want this series to be and why.

“Your Next Great Poker Education” will be composed of 4 parts: 1) Setting Your Gameplan 2) Getting in the Zone, 3) Dealing with Traumatic Hands & 4) Knowing When to Quit. I believe that each of these parts demands certain skills. I also believe that anyone can master them and that once they do, world-class poker is within reach. While different, all four parts do require one similar mentality: a cool, detached, analytical stream of thought (see Zen and the Art of Poker by Larry Phillips). This Zen-like state is the base of your mental house; which if missing, crumbles like the Yankees in the ALCS. There is NO reason to bring emotion into poker; this is not college football, college tennis, or even sex. Now, hopefully you are mentally ready, so let’s talk about your gameplan!

When people ask me if poker is gambling, I say not for me. Now hear me out before you call me a cocky asshole. The reason I say this is that my definition of gambling is playing casino games where you know you SHOULD lose but you COULD win huge! Gambling is earmarked by this invincible, Christmas-time feeling. Unfortunately, for many poker players, they play cards with this same feeling. They might even think they SHOULD win as they carry this lottery type mentality with them to every table they encounter. Setting a gameplan can keep you from this unenviable fate. Everything from your bankroll to the games you choose should be thought out ahead of time. Don’t let yourself play under-funded because you decide to move up limits while you are in the middle of a session. Decide ahead of time what games you will be playing as well as what happens if you get up or down. Be practical about what limits you play, realistic about how much you expect to win, and analytical about reviewing your hands. Poker should not be treated like blackjack.

Make yourself answer these questions before every session, review your answers afterwards, and be ready to adjust.

1) What games will you play?
-Keeps you from playing under-funded and going broke
2) How much do you expect to win?
-Keeps you from getting down on yourself for not meeting unrealistic expectations
3) When will you stop playing?
-Prepares you to recognize warning signs as well as to always put your “A game” forward
4) What is your long-term poker goal and how does this session fit in?
-Prevents frustration and promotes purpose and accountability within every session

You wouldn’t go to war without a strategy, the same goes for poker. A winning poker player approaches the game with the preparation of a trial lawyer: hungry to win but ready for anything. Know yourself, your game, and your limits. When the shit hits the fan, walk out of the room instead of opening your mouth. Finally, the next time some girl says that she doesn’t agree with gambling, tell her that you don’t either which is why you play poker. Don’t forget to say ‘Ship It’ later that night when she.....

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