Life in the Streets
By Vincent Olmos
Happy holidays and happy New Year to all of The Cardroom’s readers! It’s time to look back on the poker events of the year—evaluate all the greatest moments, revel in the tournament wins, and revisit the big cash game pots. However, it should also be a time for introspection—spot your leaks and find ways to be winning more. Enter, poker New Year’s resolutions.
Did you consider ensuring your lucky shirt is always clean, buying opaque sunglasses, resolving to take longer to act for no reason, and ordering what the lucky player eats/drinks? These are terrible aspirations. Instead, think of legitimate ways to increase your poker profits. It’s a long-term, predatory game. The more errors opponents make, the more we increase our profit. Reducing personal missteps increases our bankroll. Strive to select resolutions that will ensure this.
The first part of any resolution (poker or otherwise) is honesty and self inventory. Am I really the unluckiest guy on earth? Does this dealer really kill me every time? Am I using game selection? These questions are just a sample of what to ask yourself. Prepare to be uncomfortable at first. Learning about your own donk tendencies can be rough, but changing or eliminating them will help you in the long run.
If possible, do this with a trusted poker friend. Example: “Hey Trenton, have I been over bluffing every paired board?” If they are honest, the responses may be eye opening. It is difficult to swallow pride and ask for coaching, but assisted introspection can be the turning point in one’s poker career. I can personally pinpoint the milestones where I went from being a losing player to break-even and finally a winning player. They all came from personal growth and outside sources. (Shout out to The Negotiator and $40k.)
We tend to be extremely results oriented. It’s easy to overly assign significance to one hand, session, or even one month’s results. Downplaying losses and selectively remembering wins is common. It’s far too easy to be fast and loose with the facts. How often do we tell a friend or spouse, “I’m even” or “I lost a bit,” when we really lost our shirt? Conversely, it’s easy to brag about our “last eight sessions being winners,” while conveniently omitting that it was only a few dollars each time.
Our most useful friend in poker is data. Tracking apps, graphs, and mathematics tell no lies. If you’re legitimately tracking your wins and losses in a log, there is no way to have falsified records. Again, this information can be eye opening. Imagine knowing that a huge booked win completely pulverized last month’s losses. What a rush! Without the use of tracking records, one might never know this joy.
Once the proper factors have been identified with brutal honesty, my favorite next step is the 7 Ps—proper prior preparation prevents poor poker performance. Simple alliteration, but it’s also very powerful. Use these to tackle whatever identified issues that need work. Any problem at the table can be minimized or even completely eliminated with the proper preparations. Don’t know to fire a continuation bet after raising pre-flop? If all flop textures and player tendencies are accounted for before the pre-flop raise, then this is rarely a problem.
Mental state is an enormous leak that many players choose not to resolve. This can be catastrophic. Ever seen a player go on life tilt and eviscerate their entire bankroll? Being short stacked, playing uncomfortably deep, being card dead, getting hit by a two outer, bluffs getting caught, or attempting to impress a pretty lady could all be responsible for a player losing their mind. If mental state is an issue, isolate what debilitating factors create it.
Any identified variable that negatively influences mental acumen can be prepared against. If the zookeeper droning on and on about his giraffes is causing you to tilt to no end, make sure to have headphones ready to go. At a table of nits, instead of open shoving out of boredom, one should already be scanning the room preparing for a table change. Money is saved each time you allow yourself to make better decisions.
Whatever the specific case, just make sure you work to prepare for any previously identified leaks. Make it a mantra: no more losses derived from steaming, no uncertainty knowing how to react to Larry’s ridiculous over-bets, no more throwing random mental darts at a decision board in your head when tired. We will be what we make ourselves.
If one prepares properly, they can know all relevant solutions before they occur. If making better poker decisions hits your New Year’s resolution list, remember the 7 Ps. Poker is a fun game, but it’s also a metaphor for life. It takes hard work to develop, but self improvement can be very rewarding.