Editor's Note: In addition to being a poker enthusiast, gambling columnist, and lecturer, John is a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and practices in his home state of Pennsylvania. He has a Master of Arts degree in Counseling from West Virginia University, and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Lock Haven University. You can arrange for interviews, speaking engagements, or ask your question to "the Poker Counselor" at email@example.com.
I think that I've improving with my overall game. I cash on Sit & Go's about 55% of the time and I'm up about $180 in cash games over the past month and ½ (playing mostly $1/2 Limit Hold Em and $25 No Limit). I guess I am asking if that is good. How do you know when you are succeeding? - posted by IgglesMe at an online chat forum
Measuring success is really a personal issue. Each of us measure success in a much different fashion. I've seen poker authors toss out arbitrary numbers to shoot for, such as saying being up 1 or 2 big bets per hour is the goal. Personally, I see it as dangerous to evaluate success by using the bankroll at the end of the session as the measuring stick. Instead, I encourage my readers to employ a simple evaluation for their session: what did I learn, how have I improved, and how will I do better next time?
A friend of mine hurries to an illegal card room after work every night. Since this card room is in the basement of a rather ritzy local golf course, the tables are often filled with doctors, lawyers, and business owners with lots of disposable finances to wager. The other (not-so-rich) players at the table have agreed to a simple unwritten rule: essentially all of the not-so-riches shall not play a big pot against each other. Instead, they sit and wait to extract the chips from their money-laden competitors. Since the guys with the big amounts of cash have often been drinking beer and cocktails as they've completed their golf rounds earlier in the day, winning their chips is usually a very easy endeavor. Although my buddy is up over $1250 at this club in less than 2 months, the experience has certainly not helped to improve his game. In fact, his bankroll (and his ego) took a huge hit when he lost time and again during a long weekend in Atlantic City last week. Basically, his drunk and rich tablemates in the golf club provide no challenge. If profits equal success, he is a successful poker player. If improvement equals success, though, he has not been successful.
It is fine to use your wins and losses as a piece of the information to evaluate your progress and success, but it is not the only tool. Poker veterans understand that as you learn, there are many things more valuable than poker chips: experience, patience, confidence, the ability to read others, etc. The biggest loss that you can take is stagnation in your game.
Question for Poker Counselor - I think I take poker too seriously or too personally. When a guy beats me a couple of times, I start to almost hate that guy. I play in some home games and I can't be friendly AWAY from the table with guys that have beaten me on the table. The same is true with online. I see some familiar screen names and I just want beat them so bad. What do you think? - emailed by BoaterGuy (Craig)
Unless you start hearing strange voices telling you to physically attack your opponents, I'm not too concerned! Really, you are probably just a rather competitive person. Your boiling emotions may be a subconscious psychological ploy to fuel the internal desire to win, and to dominate. In many competitions (especially sports), you often see contentions arise between teams and players. Think of the Red Sox vs. the Yankees, for example. When players and teams are evenly matched and fighting for the win, a mutual discontent can come to the surface. Still, it is usually a goal to exhibit some sportsmanship and be cordial in winning and losing. One more point to consider is your overall confidence level. I often find that those who are most defensive and competitive often have a fragile ego just beneath the surface. With your emotions so high, bad beats (and all beats) may be more likely to smash your brittle confidence. As you gain more experience and increase your confidence, you may be less threatened by opponents in home games and online.
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