I don't really write all that much but I wanted to take this opportunity to participate in PSO's competition (see link at bottom of article) since they have helped my game. I hope the things I write helps some other player in their journey with poker.

Why do you play poker? It seems like a simple question but it's one that can sometimes be surprisingly hard to answer and be revealing to a lot of players. To a professional player the question should be easy -  You play poker to make the most money.

Now I assume most of the people who are reading this blog entry are not pros and are either rookies (rooks) or what is considered "serious players" or really amateur players i.e. have studied the game and will be breakeven to small winners at microstakes.

These rooks & amateurs may answer like a professional would but I would wager most are guilty of many violations to this fundamental attitude. Ask yourself these questions when you next sit at a game:

- If I'm playing to win the most money possible is this the softest game available at this moment? Have I identified the weakest players and who I should be exploiting for profit? If I can't answer these questions why am i sitting in this game? Boredom is the silent killer of a bankroll if you don't identify it as a leak.

- Have I learned, studied and mastered every variation of poker? Sometimes the softest game is a mixed game or something other than NLH is being played. Pigeonholing yourself as a NLH player is the exact opposite of playing to win the most money. You have to be the best player in every form of poker every time you sit at a table with your money (or have a whale in the game giving away enough to cover your negative edge against other expert players).

- Do I create a fun table atmosphere when I sit down to a game? Never berate the bad attitudes, plays or decisions of your opponents. Everything else is secondary to winning their money. You need to know when to be sociable and when to shift into a different gear when someone is losing money. Someone is never too drunk, sad, happy, spewy, loud, aggressive etc.. They are who they are and you take them at face value.

-Do I find myself playing poker against tough opposition for the challenge? Sorry that's an anxillary motivation if you want to make the most money and  you should never be doing it. There is no getting around the fact you make money from bad players so come to terms with it.

-Do I never tilt under any circumstances? You should be making the best decisions possible every hand you play. It doesn't matter if you've lost to variance or bad play. Each hand is a new event. There is no breaking even if you're playing to win the most money. Nor is there staying in a game that you've lost too much in. You also can't quit while you're ahead, or play a "few more" hands that you otherwise wouldn't since you're up. There is only the right decision or wrong decision all the time.

- Do I play only when I feel like it or when the games are best? Sometimes the games are best when your family is on vaction or when you have free time to watch your favorite movie/tv show/sports team. Sometimes the games are best only at 3-5 A.M or will only be good for a 24h period the whole month. Do your body and mind have enough strength/endurance to hold up your best standard of play? You play when you have to and never because you feel like it.

I know I used to say that I played poker to make the most money but I'm guilty of violating most of the rules above. It's a tough thing to say but i'm not a pro, I don't play to win the most money. I play for a variety of reasons so now I say -I'm trying to win the most money possible that fits in with my life. 

This is the balance I need to be success. Poker and how you approach it is such a simple yet complex game. The list of questions I provided above are but a glimpse of things you should be asking yourself to make the most money at the tables and to make it even worst you should sometimes violate those principles! Sometimes learning the game can be overwhelming but it helps to remember this simple question:

How do you eat an elephant?

Answer: One bite at a time.

Good luck at the tables (but not against me! )