Psychology. It's a subject none of us give enough importance. Furthermore we don't want to do the work to look at ourselves and see where we fit into poker's panoply of players. For this niche, though, there is one book that does a lot of the describing for us… if we're willing to do the work. And let's be brutally honest — most of us aren't!
The book that assists you with this work is The Psychology of Poker by Alan N. Schoonmaker. Before I talk a bit about the book let me give you a quote and some lists from this book:
[In order to be successful in poker you should] …"include proper hand selection, appropriate aggression, bluffing, semi-bluffing, understanding tells and telegraphs, choosing the right games, and reading hands."
. . .
"Our Deadly Sins" are:
1) Poor self-control;
2) Denying reality;
4) Focusing on ourselves, not the other players;
5) Yielding to our emotions;
6) Poor concentration;
8) Educating the opposition;
9) Aching to get even;
10) Blaming bad luck.
Under the subtitle called "Do You Have 'The Right Stuff'?" we find:
1) Winners always demand an edge;
2) Winners are obsessed with winning;
3) Winners have extreme self-control;
4) Winners are brutally realistic;
5) Winners concentrate intently;
6) Winners think visibly;
7) Winners admit mistakes quickly;
8) Winners learn from their mistakes;
9) Winners accept responsibility;
10) Winners depersonalize conflicts;
11) Winners adjust to changes;
12) Winners are selectively aggressive.
Okay, you might not agree with everything on these lists, or perhaps you notice some overlap or repetition, but I would say, "It doesn't matter!" In one way this book is for beginners, but I recommend it for everyone because it's an area that we seldom want to slow down and work on and yet is of huge importance.
This book will do many things that are positive for you, no matter how clever or advanced or mature you might think yourself to be. The top things it does are:
1) Help you examine your own motives for playing and discover who you are and how you play;
2) Help you learn how to plug your leaks and quit lying to yourself, IF that is important to you;
3) Help you learn a lot about the common types of opponents that you're likely to have;
4) Help you learn how to play against each type of opponent;
5) Help you learn how to recognize various types of opponents;
6) Help you recognize the importance of choosing games; and
7) Help you choose where to sit in these games relative to the types of opponents that you'll have in those same games. From every seating arrangement there is a correct way to play—and it might require a large adjustment on your part!
Suggestions are found within this book and are a good baseline. By baseline, I mean that until you have become comfortable with your own actions and style, it gives you some guidance as to how to play vis-à-vis other common types of opponents. When we look at what this book suggests we quickly realize that it addresses a lot of issues that are important but that we usually put off until… well… until some future moment of more convenience. And that moment is unlikely to ever arrive unless we are forced to stop and reexamine our methods and their applications.
It's amazing how many one-time wonders have won major events and beat their own chests and are "professionals". How many of them are heard from year after year? How many of them can beat money games? How many of them are willing to do the work suggested in this book? Not many, that is for sure. I believe the term professional is way overused, but perhaps that is none of my business. Anyone can hang out a shingle but you want an actual brain surgeon before you agree to an operation on your precious brain. I say, "Minor surgery is surgery that happens to someone else." Clearly it's okay to call yourself a professional as long as you aren't giving lessons to other players.
So in all cases let's add this book to our shelf of useful books.
Until next time… play good… and get lucky!