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Texas Holdem Poker


by: Lou Krieger

Every poker player wants to win. But having the will is not enough. Knowledge by itself won't get you there. Success demands preparation for winning. That usually means making behavioral changes while ridding yourself of learned habits and old paradigms. Knowledge, plus preparation, equals know-how, and that's what it takes.

I assume you already have the knowledge required to win. If not, then skip the rest of this article, invest your money in some good books about poker and come back when you've read them. But if you have the knowledge and you're losing, or you're just not winning as much and as often as you should, look towards changing your behavior or habits. Here's what you can do.

Be responsible for yourself. Don't ask for a deck change. A new set-up won't help. And the dealer is not responsible for
the cards you're dealt or how you play them. You are responsible for yourself. Step one in making behavioral changes and eliminating bad habits is the irrevocable assumption of personal responsibility for what happens to you at the poker table. If you put the blame on forces outside yourself, you have not committed yourself to making changes; you're just denying the problem. Come back when you grow up!

If the shoe fits, steal it! Find a role model, or better yet, a couple of them. Look at players whose results you admire and try to find out what they do and how they do it. See if you can learn the secrets of their discipline. Find out how they resist the temptation to play marginal hands in bad position. Learn how they keep from going on tilt, and discover how they exploit the table when they have the best of it.

I have a friend who has been a very successful mid-limit hold'em player over the past few years. When he takes a bad beat he immediately gets up from the table and walks. Sometimes he walks around the casino, other times I've seen him pacing the parking lot. But it allows him to cool down and regain control of his emotions. Some people think its foolish, but he is a consistent winner and he's in the game every day. His critics are mostly on the rail.

I've adapted this "time out" technique to suit my own style. After a bad beat, I get up from the table, stretch and flex, touch my toes a few times, wash my face with cold water, bounce a few times on the balls of my feet, take a good, athletic stance and walk back to the table with confidence and enthusiasm. It works!

Build relationships you can trust. This is not easy. You'll find plenty of people you can talk to in any cardroom, but damned few you can absolutely trust to speak openly, honestly and truthfully with you. When you find these people, keep those friendships. You can discuss your play and problems with them. You will each improve as a result of reinforcing one another. But you have to be willing to give more than you get in any relationship, and cardroom relationships are no exceptions.

Ask the right questions. Some people persist in asking themselves the wrong questions. If you persist in asking, Why can't I win? Why do I always get the bad beats? Why does the idiot in seat five always win with aces, and I always lose with them? you're simply asking the wrong questions. They lead to self-defeat because the vary heart of these questions are based on the paradigm that life at the poker table is beyond your control. If you change that paradigm to acknowledge that you are responsible for your actions at the card table, you might ask instead: How can I keep applying the winning strategies I've learned? What can I do to continue to prepare to win? How can I increase my winnings by recognizing and eliminating the "leaks" in my game? If you ask yourself questions based on a paradigm acknowledging your locus of control, your mind will direct itself to positive suggestions. Because you have told your mind that you do exercise control over your actions, it will suggest strategies to you based on this assumption. Contrast it with the "Why can't I win?" question. There's nowhere for your mind to go (based on the paradigm that you have no control) to find a positive answer!
These are four specific suggestions that we all can probably spend a lifetime working on. There is always room for improvement in these areas. In fact, as the number of skilled players continues to grow, there really is less of a knowledge gap between players at all levels. But some of us are going to continue to get the money, while other knowledgeable players keep losing. It just might be these behavioral characteristics that separate consistent winners from the also-rans.

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