Coming up with a Plan to Keep the Improvements Coming
Written by: Mark Patrickson
Firstly, I hope everyone had a great Christmas, and is now ready to get back hard at it. In all the chaos of the holiday period it’s become glaring obvious just how tough it can be to stay organised when you slip a little behind with everything you’re working on. Working out a decent strategy for improving at poker is hard enough, without struggling to keep on top of normal life as well. But it is what it is; we all have to make sure we’re in the best possible shape to keep the improvements coming.
After a week off I’ve been looking through everything which contributes to a poker player’s success. There’s an almost endless list of things which we can tweak which can lead to better results somewhere down the line.
One of the main points that has hindered my progress over the last 12 years is taking too literally all this motivation talk you see everywhere online. It feels like everybody is telling you to give 100%, and any less is just cheating yourself. The problem with mind sports is that burnout is very real. You can see this with top level chess players who play too many tournaments in a short space of time, after a while their level of play just drops down a notch, and it’s not just general tiredness. These guys mostly take care of themselves physically, but the mind is not your body; it works differently.
All these tales from years back about the likes of Dusty “Leatheass9” Schmidt 24 tabling 5/10 NL for 12 hours a day have given people unreasonable expectations. It takes time to build up to such an output. Frying your brain trying to put in too many hours right off the bat can set you back weeks. Yet there’s tons of guys out there who think putting in 100% effort means blowing your mind with a ridiculous schedule. And it’s not just playing the hands too, because if you play a reasonable amount of volume, and spend the rest of the day reviewing hands and watching training videos you aren’t giving your mind time to relax.
Having suffered from major burnout in the past, which ended up causing adrenal fatigue I can assure you from personal experience that it’s not pleasant. Okay, this is an extreme example, but how many grinders are holding themselves back by not optimising their program? It’s a lot, I’m sure.
So, same as I do most new years, I’m going to make a resolution to start off with a playing schedule that I can cope with easily, along with a proper fitness program. I haven’t done any kind of meaningful training for around three years, so I’m expecting a tiring first couple of weeks in January. Living in Thailand where you can pick up chicken breast for about $1.50/kg, and cheap fruit and veg, there’s no excuse for not eating properly as well.
Healthy body, healthy mind.
Until I feel I’m coping better with squeezing the gym alongside writing and playing, I’m not going to do more than one hour of poker work away from the table each day. I’ll play it by ear to make sure I’m keeping fully relaxed and in the best state of mind possible, then I’ll start adding other bit and bobs into my day.
Keeping a proper life balance is probably one of the most important things you can do to maintain good results week after week. Taking enough breaks and time out of the office goes a long way towards making sure that every time you sit down to play or study, you’re in the right frame of mind. This kind of advice is plastered all over the internet, and some people will be sick of reading it, but after six years in Thailand I’ve met a lot of guys who are pushing themselves way too hard in order to stay here. It’s not healthy at all, and I think the point needs hammering home a lot more until more people start to take notice. If you’re not improving, then you’re going backwards in poker. The games are getting tougher every year, don’t be left behind, especially if you’re putting in many wasted hours.
Putting in 100% effort, doesn’t mean trying to kill yourself with stress related illnesses, nor does it mean you can’t set plenty of time aside for rest and relaxation. Life is for living.
As somebody who enjoys a drink it’s I should really point out that over millions of hands I can clearly point out time periods where I’ve been on the party bandwagon and my results were way below par. Even though I’ve felt I was okay, and in good shape to play, the evidence is there that it does affect the win rate noticeably. That said I do want to point out that human beings are social animals, and getting out and about to see friends and family is super important for your state of mind. I’ve heard many tales of poker players destroying their mental health because of too many hours sat alone grinding. It’s all about balance; if you can’t go out without getting absolutely hammered then it’s time to do something about that, but make sure you do get out on a regular basis.
Jack of All Trades, Master of None
As far as picking something to work on for poker goes, the one thing which stands out more than anything after reading my old notes, is playing in 3 bet pots from the blinds, mostly OOP. A couple of years ago I changed my pre flop ranges quite dramatically where I was calling a lot more hands from the blinds, which led to my 3 bet range including hand types that were weaker than I was used to. This caused all kinds of chaos post flop in the beginning.
When I studied concepts in the past I was always guilty of moving on before I really got to grips with it. The plan this time around is to spend more time on everything, even if it feels like I’m going over old ground. I think moving on too quickly leads to a shaky understanding, with a lot of the important points getting forgotten soon after. I don’t think it’s possible to completely master a lot of concepts I’ll come across, but with a little common sense I should be able to break them down into more manageable parts for an effective study plan.
I wrote before how I was a huge fan of Jared Tendler’s “inchworm” suggestion, next week after my trip to Laos for a new visa I’ll post up exactly what I’ll be working on once I’ve finished with 3 bet pots from the blinds, and explain the technique fully.
I’ve also picked up a lot of good material related to productivity. Once I’ve digested it all I should have a lot of stuff I can use to change about how I organise myself. That should make for an interesting post with a lot of self-reflection involved.
I want to wish everyone a happy new year. Let’s make next year a great one. I’ll be back from my travels in a week.