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Limit Hold'em For Beginners 24: Ten Keys to Success

Bookstores abound with self-help books. There are seminars to teach you how to be a winner in business, in love and in your personal life. I've found these same principles can make you a winner at the poker table. Here are ten you may want to think about.

  1. Be Aware of Your Own Strengths and Weaknesses: An outrageous image at the table may work for some people but not for others. Some players are better suited to tournaments, others to ring games. Play your best game and play within the confines of your own comfort zone. In other words, know yourself, and do what you do well.

  2. You're Responsible: What you achieve is the product of your own play. Yes, there are draw-outs and luck is a factor in the game. But until you acknowledge that you are accountable for the results you achieve, you won't have enough control over your game to ensure success.

  3. Think About the Game: Unless you're consistent about doing your poker homework, you're only marking time — with neither plan nor strategy. You need to keep up with the current poker literature, and you need to think about the game. Think about it while you're at the table and when you're away from it. Analyze hands you've seen, decide if you would have played them differently — and if so, why? The message here is: Think, analyze, modify your game, and repeat as needed.

  4. Have a Plan: What is your goal as a poker player? Do you want to have fun and just break even? Do you want to be a top tournament player? Or do you want to be the best $15-$30 player around? How much are you willing to risk? You need a definite plan for your poker play. Remember, if you don't have your own agenda, you are most assuredly part of someone else's!

  5. Set Deadlines: If your goal is to play an average of 30 hours per week, then do it. If you plan to read Ray Zee's book on high-low split, then set a deadline for yourself and do that too. If you've gone broke and need to rebuild your bankroll, then plan how long it will take until you are back in action. Once you have a plan, go out, get yourself a job and get the money that enables you to play.

  6. Be Realistic: If your goal is to win the World Series of Poker next year when you've never played a big limit game in your life, do not expect to achieve that simply by virtue of having read a book. Instead, start with a challenging but reachable goal. Once you make it, you can set the next, more difficult, goal. Perhaps you want to set a goal of playing in one or two inexpensive tournaments per week, or playing in satellites that are usually part of the format surrounding major tournaments. If you don't do well there, keep trying. But save your money. You're not yet ready to invest big bucks in entry fees to major events.

  7. Expect Difficulties: You will succumb to all of your flaws as a poker player during the period you are struggling, growing and reaching for a higher level of skill. Just because you've read all the books by all the experts, don't deceive yourself into believing that you're going to play as well as they do. Every top-notch player struggled to reach the level of success they've achieved. You're going to have to do the same. Golf videos won't turn you into Tiger Woods, chess monographs won't turn you into Gary Kasparov, and Super System will not turn you into Doyle Brunson. The best poker books will teach you how to talk the talk. You'll have to learn to walk the walk on your own!

  8. Build On Small Accomplishments: If you're not a winning player today, but you study hard, put into practice what you read, and integrate these strategies into your own style of play, you'll find yourself improving. You many not the able to make your living from the game, but at least you'll no longer be a contributor. Keep doing what works for you, and you will notice that success builds upon itself. And don't let small setbacks put you on tilt. You've already taught yourself to expect difficulties. If you play poorly, correct it next time. However, if you find yourself saying "...just this once won't hurt me," you're wrong. It has, it can and it will. You've got to focus on what produces accomplishments. Taking the worst of it on a hunch, or doing something that's clearly wrong just for the fun of it, is nothing more than premeditated backsliding. Do it and you have only yourself to blame.

  9. Persist: You must sustain. The saying: "Ninety percent of success is just showing up," has a great deal of validity. You need to keep playing, keep practicing and building on small successes. Each time you reach one of your goals, savor the moment. Then quickly set another goal. Try visualizing. Golfers visualize their putts dropping; baseball players visualize the bat connecting with the ball; basketball players visualize the hoop growing and the ball dropping through - hitting nothing but net. In your mind, watch yourself make the right plays at the poker table. When you're able to visualize strategies in action, you'll see your winnings accrue in the process. Keep showing up, play your best game, and keep moving forward. Remember, some of your opponents will be improving too. If you do not consistently move forward with your own game, you are probably moving backwards in relation to them.

  10. Have Fun: Enjoy yourself while you are playing. Otherwise it seems to me to be a big waste of time. Your poker time is discretionary. No one said you have to play poker. You want to. While there are lots of bitter pills we all have to swallow as part of life, we ought to enjoy what we choose to do. If you cannot enjoy yourself when you play, perhaps you should find another outlet for your time and money.
Lesson 23

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