I have been staying with a friend the past few weeks, and not for the first time. In the past couple years I have come to stay here for a few weeks here and a few weeks there. 

My friend's house has a ground floor bathroom. I work in the dining room during the day on my laptop and use it often. There is a light switch on the left side of the inside wall. Yet, I am constantly slapping my left hand against the right side of the wall out of habit. If you sat me down and asked me, I could think about it, and tell you what side the light switch is on. But I have developed this habit of reaching for the wrong side. I would say I reach for the wrong side about 75% of the time. Hopefully after writing this blog my success rate goes up!

Naturally this made me think of poker (what doesn't?) 

I see some of the regulars in my games make the same quality of mistake over and over again. I also notice myself making similar mistakes over and over again, and they are very hard to get over. Sometimes I make the same mistake over and over again because I don't know any better, and as I have gotten better, some of these mistakes have come to light, and I have been thrilled to work on them. Other mistakes though, I know consciously are mistakes, but subconsciously I have practiced making them too often to always make the right play instead. I have practiced my mistakes! What results from that is an inner struggle in-game between habit and deliberate action. When I am on my A-game I take my time and sort through the bad habit, avoiding the mistake. When I am playing poorly or playing tired or playing a session when I shouldn't be, I'm not always so lucky.

The thing is, practice makes permanent, not perfect. By playing the way you are playing right now, you are reinforcing your mistakes more and more. You are actually making them harder to unlearn when it comes time to examining them. That's why studying and taking breaks are important for every poker player. I find when I take breaks, even a day or two, my mind resets well and I look at situations in a less automated way. Studying of course also helps, since I look for spots when playing that I have worked on, in order to improve my play. 

Playing endlessly without these helps is not equivalent to putting in work. Bad habits die hard. So pouring in the volume without the right balance of examination could actually make your play worse, or at the least, make future improvement slower and more difficult. I know this was the case when I started playing poker. I didn't know anyone to teach me, and I didn't know any resource look up. I had no forum to post on or videos to watch. I was clueless and I sorted it out myself at an unnecessarily slow pace. 

So next time you are playing a hand, don't just fumble for the light switch! Think about it. Take your time. Then make your mistake