AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 05.09.2021 · last updated 05.09.2021

There’s so much more to mastering poker than number-crunching and learning about ranges, ICM, Game Theory and any number of other subjects into which we can invest so much time. However clever we are, whatever our potential for complex analysis and wizard-like skills, it will all be rendered worthless if we don’t back up theoretical improvements with a pragmatic practical approach to the game.

Take any sport nowadays, and there’s a common theme – practical thinking and psychological preparation. These factors are pretty fundamental and now form the foundations on which golf and tennis pros, to name just two, rely if they are to enter into competition with the confidence that everything is in place mentally. Great results are now reviewed and analyzed in the context of the crucially hard, well-thought out work that was carried out beforehand.

Poker is no different, and I can’t stress enough the importance of how ambitious players – indeed anyone who has more than a mere casual attitude to the game – need to make sure they take the time to fully prepare.

Only Play When It’s A Good Time To Play

As is the case with a lot of key poker advice, this seems obvious. However, it’s probably one of the ‘golden rules’ that is broken most regularly. The vast majority of online poker players are in the ‘recreational’ category. As such, time is limited because life comes first, so many find themselves having to put aside specially designated periods – typically the occasional evening or at weekends – during which they can enjoy their hobby. But plans very rarely go smoothly, and sometimes life gets in the way. At these times, when we’re distracted for whatever reason, we’re not going to be able to fully commit ourselves and, consequently, our ability to consistently make accurate decisions will inevitably be rendered useless. Essentially, if circumstances mean our concentration will be anything but 100%, it’s prudent to not play poker at all and simply do something else instead.

Some days are fishier than others

Keeping recreational players in mind, if we are limited in terms of opportunities it makes sense to sit down when the player pool is at its weakest. Not surprisingly, not every day (or time) is going to have the same people at the tables, both in terms of numbers and ability. Given that, why would we invest time and money playing in a tournament on, say, a Tuesday evening, when the same edition over the weekend will have a much higher number of casual players donating their stacks? Once again, we have here a perfect example of how we can increase the chances of adding to our bankroll by factoring in practical considerations.

Breaks are good

Doh! Of course breaks are good. We all know that. Whether we’re driving, working, studying… it’s pretty obvious that at some point a break in proceedings is going to recharge the batteries and in so doing improve performance. So, whichever is our preferred format, we should make sure to take breaks whenever possible. Cash game players have more flexibility – a sensible approach would be to take a break of at least five minutes every hour. Tournament fans, on the other hand, typically have only the hourly 5-minute break, so it’s important to make the most of these opportunities.

Success doesn’t come overnight

Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. And we don’t become top players after a few tournaments. Even if we taste success it means nothing – short-term results are just about irrelevant. What matters is that we manage to make discernible progress in our understanding and appreciation of the game. It’s a long-term quest, and this poker truism needs our utmost respect.

Practical poker!

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