From the Big Screen to the Final Table: Pulp Fiction
Modern cinema is a great tool for teaching players how to learn the game 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.
Very few villains in cinema history conjure up an image of both power and intellect in the same way Pulp Fiction's Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) does. As the film's baddest boy on the block, Wallace had a piece of everything illegal he could get his hands on including Bruce Willis's character, an aging boxer named Butch. While talking to Butch about throwing a fight later that evening, Marsellus dropped this classic nugget of wisdom on filmgoers. It carries plenty of weight, especially when applied to poker.
"You see, this profession is filled to the brim with unrealistic motherf**kers. Motherf**kers who thought their ass would age like wine. If you mean it turns to vinegar, it does. If you mean it gets better with age, it don't." - Marsellus Wallace
Recognize when you have become the mark
Many poker players have a problem when it comes to examining their games. When they first start losing, they blame it on bad luck first. When they continue losing, they start to blame it on variance. After a while, they finally start blaming everyone and everything but themselves. In other words, they have become easy prey because they constantly make mistakes that others have learned to exploit regularly. This means they are now sitting ATMs until they realize they need to plug the leaks in their games. Don't be this person if you want to keep your sanity.
Not everyone is going to be Phil Ivey
Although you may want to be a pro that sustains your living off the game, nine times out of ten you won't even come close. This doesn't mean you can't win a tournament here or there, or grind your way toward a small salary, but it does mean that the odds aren't in your favor when it comes to being a long-term winner. Consider that the pros are the top tier in the game. In other words, if this were another sport like football or baseball, they would be in the NFL or the Major Leagues respectively and just because you can sit at the table with them doesn't mean you can beat them, especially over the long run. That's why they call it a game of skill. Few people in the world can do what they do, so recognize your limits before you go broke chasing a pipe dream.
A big key to success is knowing when to say when
There are times to play and there are times to stay out of the game. If you've been playing a long session and several fresh players come to the table, logic suggests you cash out and get some rest because you are liable to make mistakes from exhaustion that the new faces will be able to capitalize on. There is always another game. True winners know they have limits and that if they want to win, they have to learn how to pick their spots so they can take advantage of their skills. Losing players, on the other hand, make compulsive mistakes that make them easy targets for the real sharks. Learning to recognize when you are in over your head is possibly one of the most important lessons a player can learn. Always remember that you can walk away and fight your battle another day.