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Time to Tune-Up

Let the WSOP motivate you to gain perspective and a bigger chip stack.

Take a moment to glance at your calendar. The biggest event for most poker players is upon us once again— the World Series of Poker. Millions of dollars will be won, new poker stars will be found, and current poker stars may solidify (or dissolve) their top-tier status. If you’re heading to Sin City to participate on the poker world’s biggest stage, it’s time you tuned up your game—and right now. Even if you’re not likely to plop down the money to travel and play, why not still use the summer as your goal to have your overall poker game honed to your liking?

I find that way too many poker players coast along in their poker career. They go from one game or tournament to the next, with little self-investigation in between. Players in sports would never simply show up to play a game, and then wait for the next game to put in more time and effort. Instead, they break down game tapes all week long, put in hours of practice, lift weights, work out game plans, etc. We poker players tend to migrate from one game to the next without much practice and work in between. This can actually be a damaging exercise. While players in athletic sports might inspect their games to combat and correct their errors, we often mindlessly continue to make them until they become ingrained habits. When unchecked, we have no reason to alter what we’ve done. The dumb moves that we made in the last tournament are likely to bite us again in the next one.

So, your tune-up starts with how you focus on improving your game. Take time during breaks in the action to mentally log the mistakes and successes that you’ve made. I advocate for keeping a small notebook stashed away in your jacket pocket to record important hands and decisions made during those hands. You can use those to keep track of your oppositions’ tendencies and tells, but more likely its best use is to use it like your unique and personal poker guidebook. Write down what brought on your tilt and emotions, which hands seemed to pull you in and trap you, your focus and endurance, and other key factors that have affected you and your play. In the time off away from the table, revisit that notebook and come up with a plan to combat the errors. Be your own manager and find ways to mask your weaknesses as you rely on your biggest strengths.

While working on your game, don’t forget that poker reaches far beyond hold ‘em. No-limit hold ‘em gets hundreds or thousands more entrants than games such as Omaha hi/lo, razz, and stud at the WSOP. The $2,500 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event during the second week of June is one that many poker insiders have begun to produce some excitement about, for instance. If you have a dream of sitting at a World Series final table, it might be in your best interest to focus on expanding your expertise past the NLHE realm. Perhaps you might study books from author Ashley Adams to improve your stud and stud 8 games. Be sure that you and your game are versatile, and ready for the World Series experience.

It doesn’t matter if you’re heading to Las Vegas or not. Now is the time to start making a concerted effort to broaden your skills in the game. Never expect improvement to happen passively, because it just won’t. You have to actively work to improve. Be critical of yourself and your game. Learn and practice poker variations other then hold ‘em. The summertime is quickly approaching. Get your game tuned-up and ready to go. Now go make it happen.
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