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The Poker Counselor's Corner (20)

The Poker Counselor's Corner (20) 0001

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

I've been winning pretty consistently at $25 sit and go's and 3/6 Limit Hold 'Em. Do you think I'm ready for the next level? - C. Jennings from Iowa

I don't know — do YOU think you are ready for that next level? It is so tough for me to evaluate this for you with such limited information. You have to search within yourself to see if you are indeed prepared. The finances involved in a $5/10 or $10/20 game are substantially more significant than a $3/6 player would need. Thus, your initial (and perhaps most significant) criterion may be simple: do you have the poker bankroll built-up to play at the next step? You have to have enough money to survive and play through a bad run of cards and some poor luck. Coming in with a short stack will only set you up for failure and frustration, as the pressure of your small bankroll will cause you to play like scared money. Are you mentally prepared to possibly lose $150 or more in one hand, as is very much possible at the elevated levels? If you have enough cash, you then have to ask yourself if you have the confidence and skill to succeed. If you enter into the game uncomfortable or intimidated, you've already lost as your opposition will certainly attack your weaknesses. I feel compelled to remind you that there isn't a race to get up the levels. Poker isn't going anywhere, so you can take your time until you are certain that the conditions are right. Most professionals that I speak with tell me "they just knew" when it was time to move up. Since you are writing me to ask for affirmation, I'm guessing that you have not experienced that type of realization. Whatever you choose, be sure that you proceed with utmost confidence.

Should I be spending my time reading poker books? Or is it time at the tables that is more important? - Jon from parts unknown

Well, I have to take the easy way out on this one - do a whole lot of both to increase your skill. Obviously, we all understand that just learning about poker through books and magazines does not replace experience at the tables. I know a bookworm who almost has the contents of Super System memorized, but he is a rather mediocre player. He needs to improve upon enacting what he's read. I always encourage players to read with a purpose. In other words, don't pick up a poker instructional book and read as if you were doing pleasure reading - leafing through each chapter and dusting off the book in several hours. Instead, have a pen and notebook ready to take notes. Have a goal ready before starting to read. Say to yourself, "I am reading to better understand how to calculate implied pot odds," or "I want to be able to know how to better decide when to attempt a steal from the button." When reading to find your answer, you should be engaged in the learning. Envision situations where you would use the information you are learning about. Concentrate on understanding the author's message and how it might apply to your game. Next, take that learning to the tables in order to apply your newfound knowledge. Test the concepts on the felt, and your readings will come to life and solidify into your memory. If all goes well, a new skill will arise and be added to your poker repertoire. Tweak these skills, and then revisit the chapters that you learned the skills from. Combine the book information with table experience in order to move towards your goals. This combined education is sure to be the best avenue to improve your overall performance at the tables.


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