The Big Picture


Poker Battle Plan

The poker phenomenon that has recently swept the nation and even the world has made its way into pop culture at an astonishing speed. We have witnessed a "NLH Big Bang", and one that has brought with it an availability of information undreamed of in the not so distant past. Those of us who are active in the poker community are involved with what can only be described as a poker renaissance. It seems to me that poker, and particularly NLH, has proven itself to be more than a fad.


So, now that we can assume pretty safely that poker is here to stay, we all ought to really ask ourselves a question. What do we want from it?

Having a Poker Battle Plan

There is an ocean of literature on poker strategy, tips, math, tell theory, etc. I've put a good chunk out there myself. You could get lost in all that information. I want to address a topic that gets a little less publicity. I'd like to talk about establishing who you are as a poker player. It might be time to take the next step, it might be time for you to decide what you'd like to accomplish or what you expect from poker, and what steps you might take to see that you get what you want from the game.

Many, maybe even most, players are recreational gamblers. Poker is a great pass time and we should never lose track of that. I think poker as a recreation has a unique feature that is widely overlooked. That feature is the price of it as an activity. If you are an average or slightly above average, "break even player"; poker as a hobby, is essentially free. For anyone reading who isn't extremely math savvy, that's a pretty good deal! The very fact that you are putting in the time to read and study the game is an indication that you are at the very least interested in improving your skill level. You might be a casual player who just wants to be able to beat your home game. Maybe you have larger things in mind. Would you like to achieve professional status and play full time? Maybe you have your eye on that World Series bracelet?

I think the sad truth is that most of the people reading this article would have a difficult time answering a question as fundamental as "what do you want from poker?" If you already know that you are a recreational player with no aspirations of becoming anything else, this article may not be extremely beneficial to you. If you have bigger things in mind, we're going to go somewhere today. I'm going to recommend now that you do something I've not asked for before. I want you to take out a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. We're going to create a poker log. If you have a note book or journal that you can dedicate to poker, that would be ideal. If not, anything you can jot a few things down on will work for now.

I've spent my entire working life in commission sales, business, and poker. I have learned nothing if not the importance of establishing a plan, making goals, and writing them down. Effective tracking is also key to longevity and achieving your goals. So, to begin, I want you to take a few minutes and really ask yourself what you want to do with poker. What is your goal? This goal might be an hourly rate you'd like to be able to make, a monetary level you'd like to increase your bankroll to, a game limit you'd like to be able to beat, or even to go completely full time. This goal sheet is going to become your first entry in your poker journal, or log. The very first time I committed my poker goals to paper; my first goal was to supplement my income by $200.00 a week. I wrote that at the top of a single sheet and dated it, and then I wrote out a time allotment, or deadline that seemed reasonable to me. I gave myself six months to bring my average weekly profit to $200.00. I would suggest that you write your goal, and amount of time it will likely take to accomplish it. I think it's important to not rush yourself. Give yourself enough time to reasonably achieve what it is you are setting out to achieve. The goal should be very clear, and it should be realistic. Go ahead now, think it over, and put it on paper.

The next step is to break the goal down into smaller steps. What will need to do in order to achieve the goal? Let's suppose your goal is to make enough money to buy yourself into the main event at the World Series next year. The top of the page might read, "I will grow my bankroll to $10,000.00 for WSOP buy-in. Write today's date just underneath and write the day that you will need to have the money raised by underneath that. Then sign the page, as to emotionally commit yourself to the task. If your bankroll is currently at $4,000.00 then you'll have to do some math to establish how many dollars per month you'll need to profit, how many per week, day, and finally hour. Once you've established your hourly rate requirements and the amount of time you'll be required to put into realizing your goal, you'll have a plan of attack. I think you'll be amazed at how this will help your game.

If you're going to get serious about playing, you're going to benefit greatly by keeping an accurate log. I add an entry into my log every time I sit down to play. I think you really have to do this to understand how powerful it is. Using your list of goals as your first page or the cover to your log will help you to keep focused. You'll be keeping your eyes on the prize (paramount). The rest of your poker log should allow you to write down exactly what game you play in a given session, what the stakes were your start and finish times, and plenty of space for note taking. When I play online I write down every piece of information that I can think of that could possibly be useful to me. I write what kind of players I was up against, how well I felt like I was playing. I track my buy in and my cash out amounts, and what my hourly rate was for that session. I also keep a column open for my running HR. I like to review my notes about once a week to look for trends. I once found that I was making less money in games that I'd noted as being "loose and passive" then games that I'd made no remarks in or actually noted as "unremarkable". The first thing I did from there was try to fix the problem. Eventually I just started avoiding the loose tables all together. But that was a few years ago. I actually seek those tables out now. Had I not set the goals, made the log, and tracked the details I may have never noticed that I was leaving money on the table against the loose passive "calling stations" and I wouldn't have known to tweak my game out.

Aside from the obvious benefits of keeping detailed track of your hourly rate and notes that will help you to develop as player, there is also a more subtle advantage. When you know what your goal is and you look at what you're doing day by day to achieve that goal; something powerful happens. You really just have to experience it to believe how much it changes the way you play. This will help you to make reality out of the old saying that "it's really all just one big poker game." Poker really is a long term proposition, but paying attention daily to, not only what you're doing, but what your doing it for; in my opinion that is what focus is all about. Until next time, Good "Luck!"

♣ Back to the archive of articles on poker strategy.