Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.
-- Adam Hochschild

These last few weeks, I have been thinking about my distractions and how they affect my poker game.  There are all sorts of things that can serve to distract me from my game, and some are more easily addressed than others.  For example, my cats can definitely distract me with loud demands for attention/food/clean litterboxes, but those tend to be small and easily handled distractions.  I can pet a cat while playing poker, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't hurt my game. 

Before I get into more detail about my specific distractions, here are some other distractions worth thinking about that might be affecting your poker game:

    - Your day job.  Some people would say that poker is a distraction from your work, but a true poker player sees work as the distraction from poker!  (I have to admit, this one applies to me!)

    - Bills to pay.  If you're a full-time player having a run of bad luck, this can be a significant distraction--hence the importance of good bankroll management.

    - Friends and family.  This is one place where I think you should put the distraction FIRST--time with friends and family should always be the priority, and you can fit poker in around these people and activities.  I think EvokeNZ's recent blog entry about a weekend away from poker is a perfect example of the kind of distraction we should all embrace.

What I really wanted to look at more closely was the most unintuitive distraction of all, and one that plagues me: poker.  Yes, poker is one of my biggest distractions taking me away from poker.  Here's a couple of examples of what I mean:

    1. I'm a winning FLHE cash game player at my current $0.05/$0.10 stakes.  I don't have a lot of time to spend on poker in a week, so I spend most of my time grinding away and growing my bankroll.  However, I also know that I have leaks in my game, and the leaks will become more obvious as I move up in stakes.  I should work on learning what they are and how to prevent them now, so that I can keep a solid win rate when I move up--but I'm too busy playing poker!

    2. Anybody who has spent time grinding to grow a bankroll knows that it can get tedious at times.  FLHE cash games aren't my only interest, though--I'm also learning to play NLHE cash games and tourneys.  I find myself spending a lot of time practicing at these games instead of grinding at my solid FLHE game or studying up.  Worse still, my NLHE games are weaker than my FLHE baseline, and I need to study even more to improve my NLHE games.  I'll bet you can guess how much of that is happening!

So what should I do about this?  I think the key is to remind myself regularly that taking time to improve my game is an important part OF my game, and to work at making time for it.  Maybe I should alternate sessions playing and studying.  I've seen a number of people here at the PSO outlining their goals and including a set number of hours of study per week, which sounds like a good approach as long as you have a way to make yourself stick to it.  I'm not sure that my psychology is well-suited to this approach, but I wish it was!

I also need to acknowledge to myself that I do a little more studying than I realize.  I spend a lot of time going over the forums, looking at other people's difficult hands, and picking up little tidbits here and there.  For example, I recently found myself in an NLHE tournament sizing a bet and considering how big a stack I would leave behind, and how much impact that remaining stack would have if I went all-in on a later street.  This is not a concept I was even aware of a week ago, but I picked it up somewhere here at PSO!

So what are your biggest distractions?  What do you do to keep on track, analyzing and improving your game?  I look forward to your comments!

Please check out my Time Vault thread in the Challenges forum for notes on my 2013 goal progress, some interesting hands I have come across, and miscellaneous commentary.

Until next time, good luck at the tables!

-- CanuckMonkey