Thursday, December 01, 2005

#4 - Live in the Present

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In Zen and the Art of Archery (a book Howard Lederer refers to often as a guide on how to maintain focus and mental attitude while playing), Sun Tzu refers to the zen notion of "living in the moment," without worrying about the past or future, but simply being and doing. This highlights one of the keys to getting good at the game, which is being able to forget about recent bad beats and past misfortunes, not worry about how you're going to "get even" or explain to your wife how you lost next month's rent, and just play the hand.

As Tony Robbins would say, if you focus on the negative, you tend to move towards it." How many times have you suffered a bad beat and revelled in your own misery and self-pity. You might complain to friends, the players seated next to you, or anyone who will lend an ear...all the while not paying any attention to what's going on in front of you. As any poker player worth their salt will tell you, that's no way to play the game no matter the stakes or the situation. In order to move past the "average Joe" level into the realm of a great player (or even just really good and consistent), you must be able to take each hand exactly as it is, an individual game with a separate result which is statistically separate from previous hands.

Instead, what you must focus on is collecting information about players' individual betting styles, tells, your image to others at the table, and the other factors which elevate your play above those of your opponents. Instead of focusing on the negative result of yet another incredulous suckout, focus on your play. Was it correct, given your knowledge of the odds, your opponent and his possible holding, and given past and future considerations? If it was, then you've done what you needed to, and that in itself is a small (if not financially beneficial) victory.

And if my last statement there seems to contradict what I said earlier in this post, another thing you have to recognize and apply in your game is when to break the rules and deviate from "conventional wisdom." It's something that comes easier with time, and why many say this is a game that takes "a lifetime to master."

Coming up: Son, you need a plan


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