2. (Self-)Discipline.
I am sure that many of whom are reading this already know the importance of self-discipline. Being a disciplined person is a necessary skill, to master anything in life. In order to be a successful poker player you’ll have to become self-disciplined.

In this chapter I will approach what I mean with self-discipline and what kind of disciplines there are. Mostly I’ll try and approach the skill of discipline which is required for yourself to improve and make you a better poker player and person.

If you look at successful people, you will always notice they are highly disciplined people. So let us quickly scope successful poker players and see what they do or say?

Daniel Negreanu: What it takes to become a professional poker player is: “discipline, talent, fundamental knowledge and a disregard for money.”
Humberto Brenes: “In the poker the discipline and patience is very very important. The same in the life. If you don’t have patience it’s very difficult you have a good life.” He also stated in the video he goes to the gym, which also is a discipline for a healthy lifestyle.
Elky & Eugene Katchalov: As you could see on pokerstars.tv in an episode they followed them both working out in the morning with their personal trainer.

I haven’t even begun discussing the disciplines required at the table and aside the table. But already you can see there are also disciplines besides poker that are needed. More about this I’ll explain further down.

2.1. Self-discipline in general.
Self-discipline in other words is self-control and self-mastery. It speaks for itself that if you are not able to control yourself you are unable to achieve certain things in life. Self-discipline is what Kop Kopmeyer (He wrote 1000 success principles in 4 bestselling books) thinks is the most important principle. He said: “Self-discipline is more important than anything else, your ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not is the key to success.”

What this actually means is that you are willing to sacrifice. For example you are willing to sacrifice an hour of pleasure with friends to study and read a book of poker. The more you will train and exercise self-discipline the better and the easier it will become, until eventually it will become a habit.

Just as well as for most people there is a habit to procrastinate or to take the easy way out with shortcuts. Why don’t we think a second about this? Do I have a habit like this? Do I start working on a task at the very last moment, while I should actually have started way earlier? Did I ever skip certain things, of which I think others won’t find it out? Did you think about reading a book of poker, but convinced yourself you’ll do it later?

People think that when they take a shortcut or procrastinate something, that they feel happy in the moment. Which could very well be true, however when the faithful day catches up with you, you will feel miserable and really bad. You might even think “Oh God why did I deserve this punishment.” I’m sure you have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking. You are not punished for your sins, but by them.

On the other side, people know or realize they shouldn’t have done that. However they are not willing to change and self-discipline themselves YET. Maybe this chapter will give you the ambition to try it out and see its remarkable value and here is why. You might say well by sacrificing my time now, I’m not rewarded. Well in fact you are wrong and you will see that once you start doing it. When you self-discipline yourself you will have immediate positive feedback. You will like and respect yourself a lot more! Your self-esteem and self-image will go up and up, which will influence your performance significantly. And not to mention you will release endorphins in your brain, which will make you happy inside. (Why don’t you go google it, if you don’t know what positive effects endorphins give.)

“Everything is hard before it’s easy” – JW. Goethe. Being self-disciplined will be hard but remember this. Every time you cut a corner or procrastinate, you will easier choose that option again and again. But if you do a successful discipline in any area for example in poker, it will have a strengthening effect on every other discipline. This will work in an upward spiral for your own benefit.

2.2. Self-discipline applied in poker.
Now let us reflect these things upon poker. Do I have procrastinated habits in poker? Do I read the poker books? Do I evaluate my hands on regular bases? …?

These are only the questions away from the tables you ask yourself. However at the table there are plenty more self-disciplinary skills needed. When I start my session, do I take the time to wait and look for a good table? Do I take the time to make an as good possible decision in a hand? Don’t I play too many tables, which make me play like a robot without thinking enough?

These are only but a few questions you should ask yourself, to reflect on what you can discipline yourself. Also disciplining yourself on doing this every single day will be a tough job! How many times didn’t I convince myself to do something out of my bankroll management? These things will or already have become a habit of you. So decide to start now and make a change and remember for every discipline you succeed, it will strengthen and will make it easier for you to do the other disciplines.

Creating self-disciplinary habits in poker guarantees success and improvement in poker. The more you practice it the better and faster you’ll become in them. You’ll literally see your win rate improve, make faster and better decision and so on. You’ll be capable of controlling yourself. How often didn’t you play when you were under influence?

2.3. Our should’s
With the questions above, it is clear that we have should’s , which we all avoid or avoided at some point in our life. Let’s first briefly look at an example away from poker to give it an easy perspective.

Are there things that I should do today? For example for my health: “Am I eating a piece of fruit a day?” We all know an apple a day, keeps the doctor away. Maybe you already do this and I’m very happy you do. You already have a discipline! However if you don’t you can ask yourself this:
- Should I do this? Well yes I should eat a piece of fruit a day.
- Could I do it? Well of course I can, an apple isn’t expensive.
- Why don’t or won’t I do it? Here you’ll typically don’t have a very bright answer. You’ll probably come to some excuse like I’m too lazy or I don't have the time.

So you go: Should -> could -> don’t/won’t. Now if you are self-disciplined or train yourself to become self-disciplined you will change this to: Should -> could -> will!
So try this out for a while and create a habit from this with small things in life and poker. Immediately you’ll start to notice the positive effect it will have on you and you’ll be adding more and more small disciplines.

Just keep in mind generally it takes a few small disciplines to attain a big. Before you start tackling a big or huge discipline like going to work out 5 times a day, start with a few small ones. Why? Well think back of some New Year’s resolutions you made in the past or even this year. How often didn’t you stop in January? Most people already stopped with their resolution before the 15th of January!

Maybe I’ll go a little off track here, but people with New Year’s resolutions have a tendency to see them as wishes, which should come without a lot of effort. Same in poker, many expect to become good without a lot of effort. But in life the only moment you’ll instantly tackle a big discipline is because it becomes a must. When your doctor says to you, you’ll die unless you stop eating healthy on the 31th of December. I bet you’ll have a New Year’s resolution that will be a must. Try to make every discipline a must as well and results will fly your way.

Challenge 4: Think about your should’s in life and poker. Write all the Should -> could -> don’ts/wont’s down and turn them depending on the toughness and personal intrests into should -> could -> will’s. Write them down and make sure you see them every morning, to help you not forget them. If it is something with poker, lay it at your screen so you see it every time you are at the computer. Don’t make it yourself too easy either try to grow and grow and then grow some more.
Well you might think: Sentras why would I write them down. Isn’t it enough that I try them? Well it’s already good you try them! But as Early Shove said: “Don’t trust your memory, write it down.” Also if you write things down, you’ll retain things around 30% better when weeks go by and you can easily find it back.

2.4. Disciplinary subjects used in poker.
A lot of these subjects will be covered more in detail in future chapters, so look out for them if they catch your interest.
- Clear thinking at and away from the poker table.
- Setting goals in poker (How to and why.)
- Time management in poker. How much time at the tables and away from them?
- Does good health influence you at the poker table?
- How to cope with money in poker?
- Working hard to achieve your goals in poker.
- Habit of continuous learning
- Persistence

2.5 Extra: My personal self-disciplines and its experience.
In case you are wondering about the practical aspect. Here is my experience about self-discipline.

On the 23th of February I decided to take my life in my own hands. I used to procrastinate everything till the last possible second and even then maybe ignore it. If possible I would take or think of shortcuts every time. I also was a master in finding excuses of why I didn’t or did it certain ways.

So from that day on I made it a must to change and to keep persisting in it. I spend the first month nearly fully away from poker to research and study on how I can improve and take charge of my life. It is amazing what you can learn and find and do in a month.

I’ve read 5 books, I’ve already worked 2 weeks in a local store at 40h+ a week and I still have classes which I attend. I’ve set myself as of now 27 goals from short term to year goals (Which are hard to achieve ). I’ve made myself turn into a fairly disciplinary person already. It’s not easy but it is very rewarding to succeed. You won’t succeed in everything from the first time, but I get better and better at it.
Here are some of my disciplines:
- I shave myself every morning.
- I put my bed sheets proper every morning.
- I don’t leave cloths hanging around on the floor.
- I eat a piece of fruit a day. (I prefer orange as I’m allergic to appels. But they only cost 16cents and orange!)
- I put aside 30% of all the money I earn, which I use to spare or to invest.
- I don’t procrastinate, but shoot immediately in action. (Every time I see something for example something lying around, which shouldn’t be? No matter if it is my fault or someone else; I go and put it in its place. This is so satisfying for myself.)
- After every book I finished reading I drink a glass of Whiskey. (Who said disciplines can’t be fun on itself?)
- I write down every goal in the future
- I greet everybody that looks at me in public.

And I have many more disciplines. I also have bigger and tougher disciplines. Like wake up at the first alarm on any given day. Your mind can play tricks on you in the morning. So be careful with starting out with those immediately. Also I wake up an hour earlier on a work day. For example when I go work in the store at 7o clock. I’ll be waking up at 5h15, read 1hour in a non-fiction educational book and then go to work. It makes you energetic feel happy and concentrated the whole day. All the above became musts as soon as I noticed their value.

Now I’m back at poker and also decided on goals and disciplines in poker. For example I won’t break my bankroll management rules. I’ll only play a maximum of 2 tables for now, to optimize my decision making and avoid going on auto-pilot.

Hopefully I inspired you to try it as well! Make sure to let me know your results and successes. I’ll also make a chapter about goals and their potentials. By then I might share my 27 goals (also poker goals) and tell you their progress.


PS: I’ve learned a lot of great things from Brian Tracy on self-discipline in seminars of him. Be sure to check those out if you like what you have read here.