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From the Big Screen to the Final Table: Spy Game

Modern cinema is a great tool for teaching poker because it crosses cultural barriers in a way that few teaching elements can. All one needs to do is listen to the advice that can be found in the lines of a variety of films and then remember their relationship to playing poker. Now, this doesn’t mean you can repeatedly use a line from Goodfellas in conversation while playing, but it does mean you should keep in mind the concepts that go with the line.

When it comes to intense action thrillers, few can touch Spy Game starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. You'll hear plenty of poignant lines throughout the movie, but few can touch Redford's character Nathan Muir's comment to recruit Tom Bishop (Pitt) as he explains the the ins and outs of covert operations. This gem is perfect for helping poker players understand the importance of maintaining self-control when it comes to their bankroll.

"Put away some money so you can die someplace warm and don't ever touch it. Not for anyone, ever."

Bankroll management is one of the most important parts of the game.

Too often, players have won millions and then lost everything just as quickly because of their poor bankroll management skills. It is as crucial to understand how to keep the money you win as it is to win it in the first place. Make sure you've taken an unflinching look at what it truly costs to play poker. If you're on the tournament trail, make sure to add in expenses such as hotel rooms, food, and taxi fare. If you're a cash-game grinder, make sure you are properly staked so you won't lose your roll because you are playing limits that are over your head. In other words, be smart with your money. It's harder to earn it than to lose it.

Don't let the itch to play get you in over your head.

Be smart enough to get in games when the action is right. Although you may have an itch to play, don't scratch the itch by getting into a bad situation. If the stakes are too high or the game just doesn't feel right, be smart enough to avoid it. You may have to wait a bit for a game to open up, but waiting sure beats getting stacked by some lucky guy who doesn't care about the pot size because he thinks his 7/2 suited is good.

In other words, play at a comfortable level and don't let your desire for action dictate your game selection because our poor decision may cost you dearly over the long run.

Part of being a serious poker player is to recognize when the itch to playing is making your decisions for you and then catching yourself before you scratch — and flush your roll away.

Put some away winnings for a rainy day.

From time to time, no matter how good a player you are, you will run bad. During these bad runs you need to have the reserve to weather the storm.

Bank a percentage of each win so you have the money to rebuild when you need to. Although a new shiny watch may look sweet, if you get into a situation where you are struggling to make ends meet, you'll wish you had avoided making the decision to spend a chunk of your loot on something that won't help you make money — unless you pawn it.

You work hard for your money, so don't be stupid about the way you spend it. If there is one universal law in poker, it is that eventually you'll need to rebuy, and if you don't have the money to do it, then you'll be sitting on the sidelines until you can find a way back into the game.

Be smart; put some cash aside to help you if you get into a jam.

For more game improvement tips, check out our strategy section, and be sure to follow us on Twitter too.

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