3 New Year's Poker Resolutions You Can Keep
Many of us make New Year's resolutions. We'll lose weight, exercise more, save money, eat right. We'll learn how to do some auto repairs, be kinder to our loved ones, learn another language. The dustbin of good intentions is lined with them. That's why gyms are filled on January 2, but empty once again by the first of March.
Poker players have their versions of these resolutions, too, typified by such fuzzy ideas as "I'll tighten up my game," "I won't play tired," or "I'll practice better game selection." Sure you will.
I say forget those types of resolutions. Those are ones that are almost impossible to keep. They are too grandiose, or vague, or open-ended. What we need are much smaller, simpler, and more specific resolutions, ones that will quickly reward us with obvious, incremental results. We want resolutions we can really keep. Here's my list of three.
1. I hereby resolve to buy a "poker notebook" tomorrow, and to make one entry into it every week. I will record every session I play, where I play it, how long I played, how much I won or lost, and any other thoughts I had about the game. I will also use it to write down random thoughts I may have from time to time about the game of poker, how I am playing, and interesting poker hands and situations in which I have found myself. I will start tomorrow by writing this resolution into it.
That's it. It's specific. You will need to go out and buy a notebook. It's easy. Notebooks cost $2 or $3. They sell them everywhere. True, people don't write by hand much. They do most of their note taking on their electronic device of choice. But a physical hold-in-your-hand notebook will serve not just as a means for recording your thoughts, but as a physical reminder of the need to write. Unlike one of your electronic devices, it will have only one purpose — the physical recording of your poker-related thoughts, ideas, and results. You can transfer information from it into a spreadsheet for easier analysis if you want to, but you don't have to. Start with just the notebook.
You will get immediate reinforcement of your ability to fulfill this resolution. Unlike losing weight, playing tighter, or learning a new language — things that are vague or can take a long time for you to see any progress — getting a notebook will bring obvious and immediate results. As soon as you buy it you will have it, satisfying immediately a major part of the resolution. As soon as you write in it — write anything in it — you have satisfied another part of the resolution. And keeping up the resolution all year will also be easy to accomplish. There is no requirement for any specific amount of writing and reflection. One entry a week, of any length, on any poker subject, is sufficient.
Buying and writing regularly in a notebook will have a useful product, even if that product is not part of fulfilling the resolution itself. It will force you to write down the results of your poker sessions. It will also force you to think about poker, and that can only have a positive impact on your game.
2. I hereby resolve to buy one poker book this week, and to read some of it at least one day a week.
That's also very easy to fulfill. You can buy a book instantly on Amazon. You can go to a bookstore. You can buy one used on eBay. So many options. How can you miss? Take your pick. Similarly, reading some of the book, even just a small amount, will be extremely easy. You might find yourself reading for an hour or more, just by getting started. But even if you only read for five minutes, you've fulfilled the resolution.
The other advantage to buying a poker book after you have purchased a poker notebook, is that you will have a place to write down the thoughts and the ideas that are likely to be generated by your reading. You may disagree with the text, or find it annoying, or even think the author is an idiot. But even if you don't buy the author's ideas, you'll still be dwelling on poker, forcing yourself to consider ideas other than your own. This, in turn, will often lead to your own independent thinking about what you are doing at the poker table — a very positive development, and one that is easy to accomplish.
3. I hereby resolve to have at least one conversation or make one post on a poker forum about poker strategy every week. Start right now by posting a response to this article.
I have interviewed hundreds of highly successful professional poker players. I asked them all what was the greatest factor in their poker learning — books, videos, articles, or poker discussion. All said that all of those things helped them to some degree. But almost all also said that far and away the most important and useful learning they accomplished happened by talking regularly or being in a discussion group about poker. This is something that is simple and easy to do, and quick to get started.
If you play with other people whom you know, talk to them about a hand or a tournament situation you were in. If you know few if any poker players, check out the discussion groups such as the ones on Two Plus Two, PocketFives, or CardsChat. There are hundreds of such sites, and in practically every language.
If you don't have anything you think is worth saying in these forums, start by asking questions and then reading the answers that are sure to follow. Realize, of course, that opinions are easy, and that a powerfully-worded opinion may not always be correct. But in the context of these questions and answers, you will begin to think about poker critically and strategically, and (again) that can only help your game.
Do you think that these three resolutions seem too difficult to fulfill? That's okay, too. Just pick one with which to start.
Ashley Adams has been playing poker for 50 years and writing about it since 2000. He is the author of hundreds of articles and two books, Winning 7-Card Stud (Kensington 2003) and Winning No-Limit Hold'em (Lighthouse 2012). He is also the host of poker radio show House of Cards. See www.houseofcardsradio.com for broadcast times, stations, and podcasts.