Many poker players have learned to concentrate on math, read opponents, master various ranges, and practice different strategies, but they don’t often do a lot of work on having the right mindset.

Most professional athletes, business owners, and high performers understand the importance of mental preparation and the value it can give. A great number of poker players seem to lack a lot of discipline in this area. Obviously, I am not talking about the best professionals in the game. They are exceptionally well-prepared as far as mindset. Most players, however, could certainly benefit from taking a course like Elliot Roe’s A-Game Master Class.

So, with all of that said, while there are a lot of topics that could be covered in this regard, in this article I want to go over two concepts with which you are likely to struggle if you’ve never done your homework.

A small heads up, though; at first glace the tips below will seem a little…

awkward

Do Not Play Too Much Poker

How ridiculous does this sound? Give me a chance to explain.

Many players think that they should be grinding every single day, and that the more they play, the better their results will be. While I can understand why that might seem to be the case, you will never be able to achieve something meaningful with such a mindset.

Obviously, it is important to play, but it is even more important how you do so. If you can put in six hours per day, but then you lose your focus and start making sub-optimal decisions, you most definitely should not be grinding for longer than that.

In such a case, you ought to forget about paying 10-hour-long sessions, at least until you develop the right habits and learn to stay focused. Six hours of quality poker play will give you MUCH more value than 10 hours of being on auto pilot. Even if you can only play your best for four hours (or less!) that’s how you should start out.

If you only play when you are at peak concentration, not only will you win more, but you will be able to improve much faster. This will lead to additional increase in your income. So, instead of concentrating on quantity, put your full attention to quality. You won’t regret it.

That is why I am saying that many players play too much. They believe this is the only way to go, but it’s far from the truth. Actually, most players learn much more away from the table, while studying ranges, reviewing hands, and working with various solvers and tools.

Do place yourself under the illusion that the more you play, the better you become, as that is far from the best way to do it.

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Even if you completely miss playing for a day or two, don’t force yourself to go back to the tables if you are not ready. Give yourself some free time and find an enjoyable activity. It can be anything, from going out with friends, exercising, visiting a good restaurant, maybe even finding a site at PokCas.com and gambling online; whatever works for you.

When you’re fresh and ready every time you sit down to play, you will drastically change your results and will always maintain your drive to play, which is equally important.

Understand the Variance in Poker

Most players have no idea what variance really is. Another bold statement, perhaps, but likely to be true.

If you ever start tilting when running bad, if you start making suboptimal decisions or avoid playing for that matter, it means you are not fully aware of how it works.

Have you ever asked yourself questions like:

  • Why does this always happen to me?
  • How long could I be running like this?
  • Why is everyone else so lucky?

I can list many of such questions, but I think you get the idea. Even if you understand variance to some extent, you do not accept it as it is. This could be for a number of reasons, but let me give you an example of a possible outcome so that you can see things as they are.

Let’s suppose you are playing MTTs and have a 20% ROI. You likely think that you should be crushing, and there is no way you can be losing after 500 tournaments, even more so after 1,000 tournaments, right?

However, that is also quite far from the truth. This simulation below indicates that after 1,000 MTTs with a 20% ROI, you still have 26% chance of being in the red – losing over that sample size. To play those 1,000 tournaments, you may need a few months, or even more depending on your volume, so that is not a small thing to consider.

simulation graph
Variance calculator, simulation graph

If the above data and conclusions come as a surprise, you should get familiar with variance calculators and see what kind of swings you could possibly encounter in your games, based on different parameters. This is the first and most important step to understanding what is possible, and that you are not guaranteed to win as much as you think.

On top of that, detaching your results from your emotions and turning to the math part of the game can give you all the answers and control that you need. Even if your opponent hits his one outer on the river, that is just one of the possible outcomes that need to happen sooner or later, so continue to play sound poker, and concentrate on making quality decisions.

The thing that helped me in my journey to improve as a player the most was visualizing every hand that I play like a separate event. If you concentrate on making the best possible decision (something you can control) in the situation you are in and detach yourself from outcome (something you can’t control) you will make your life much easier and finally be able to release negative emotions.

So, make sure to understand how great variance can actually be, concentrate only on things you can control, and give yourself some time to recover. This can change everything!

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