The Real Way To Improve Poker Performance – Not Just Generic Advice

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When you look around on the internet for improving your performance in poker you find a lot of generic advice.

Do this.

Or don’t do that.

But rather than adopt this approach. Can we look at performing well in poker together so that we can get to what really is practical and works?

To gain an understanding for ourselves that we’re actually going to apply.

That’s what we do in this article by going into these key points:

– What is Performance in Poker exactly?

– Assessing Poker Performance – the current methodology that does more harm than good;

– The Main Performance Factors;

– An Approach That is Simple Yet Effective.

This is more than worth a careful listen or read below:

The Losing Stress Podcast Ep 50 – Performance in Poker

In this episode, we’re going to cover a very important topic when it comes to playing poker that is, performing well when you play.

So looking at certain performance factors when it comes to playing poker.

Before we actually do this, it’s really worth distinguishing and clarifying what we mean by performance in poker.

What is Performance in Poker exactly?

This is something that’s really worth clearing up first; before we perhaps end up blurring the lines between what is:

  1. A technical aspect of poker &;
  2. What is a performance aspect of poker.

Now, what we’ve talked about before, on the podcast is that poker, at its simplest and basic level, is a decision-making game.

And so the technical aspect of poker is the decisions.

And we can actually relate performance in a very simple way to this.

In that, if you were to look back at a session and all the decision points very soon after playing, would you go ahead and make exactly the same decisions you made in-game?

And we can use this as a rough framework for actually defining performance.

Defining Poker Performance

We can define performance as this mismatch between how you actually made decisions in a session in comparison to actually what you would do if you played the session again with the same knowledge base.

And that’s important.

Because it is NOT looking back at a hand, say on a solver or with your friends and then coming up with a different answer and decision that makes more sense.

That’s a technical aspect.

What performance actually relates to is making “knowing” mistakes (something that we’ve talked about on The Losing Stress Podcast).

So these mistakes that you make when you actually knew what to do.

But for some reason, you weren’t able to execute that.

And so what we’re going to actually do in this article, is to go ahead and look at some of these reasons.

Try and unearth some of them.

As well as actually go ahead and hopefully suggest something practical: that you can go ahead and take away and use.

So let’s start off by actually asking ourselves:

Why Don’t You Perform The Same In-Game As Off The Tables?

The most obvious answer to this is that playing in-game is a higher pressure environment.

Because you have this time limit to actually make a decision and you perhaps might also be multi-tabling.

Or you’re doing something else at the same time if you’re playing live.

And perhaps you’re in a situation that you’ve not been in before:

  • A final table playing for money that you’ve never played for before;
  • Playing a larger cash game than what you usually play.

And as I’m actually saying this out loud now, there’s something that is really worth mentioning that you can see a lot of poker players end up getting trapped in.

That is going ahead and judging your performance on sessions.

Assessing Your Poker Performance

The Mental Game of Poker is a book that a lot of people in poker read.

And in that book, there is this framework for assessing your performance in sessions under an:

  • ‘A’-game;
  • ‘B’-game;
  • ‘C’-game format.

And what perhaps no one has really fully considered and never fully discussed is whether this framework is hindering?

Because what is actually going on when you go ahead and look back at a session and label it a ‘B’ or a ‘C’ performance session?

Your Mind In Poker

What is actually going on is that you have a mind in a state that is outside of the game state that is then looking back at the memory of what occurred during the session.

And then assessing it.

But the environment outside of a session is one that is completely different to one that is actually in-game.

So the assessment that you make outside of the game is a judgment that doesn’t fully take into account all of the factors that were in play at the moment.

And even if you actually try to do this in a very clear way, what you realize is that you’re actually looking back at the memory of what occurred.

We’ve talked about this on the podcast: how our memories are not perfect.

The mind never fully remembers everything and so you’re never actually looking back at the complete picture.

This is something that’s really worth actually going into and seeing for yourself.

What are the clear and obvious limitations of human memory?

But we won’t go into this further now because we have done this before and we also want to move this article along.

A-Game Poker: Is it valuable?

There’s one other thing that’s worth mentioning when it comes to this ‘ABC’ framework for assessing your performance in poker, in that is it actually valuable to place a label on your performance?

Is there anything really good that comes from ranking your performance in this way?

If you were to look at this very clearly, examine it and even experiment with it, you would see that there isn’t actually anything very valuable to it.

If you look back at your sessions and try to come up with reasons for why you weren’t able to perform well then this approach is almost endless.

As you can always find reasons for why things didn’t go well.

And also this leads to a big question:

How do you know the reason that you’ve discovered why you weren’t able to perform very well is, in fact, the exact and honest reason for why things didn’t go quite so well.

Because in the activity, in our minds, there are many things that we are unconscious of.

And so the reason that we land on almost certainly has not considered the whole picture.

So what we’re getting at here, just to make sure that we’re on the same page, is that this whole analysis reason and judgment-based approach to performance in poker doesn’t actually make a lot of sense.

So can we unearth something that actually does make sense when it comes to improving performance in poker?

To do this it’s worth looking at what poker is very simply as an activity.

What Is Practical for Improving Poker Performance?

Poker, very simply, is an activity in which your body usually stays in the same position for a long period of time.

And it’s an activity, quite clearly, in which you’re making decisions.

And decision-making when you relate this back to your body and your brain uses mental capacity.

I.e. poker is an energy-depleting exercise or activity.

These are very clear and observable facts.

When they’re stated it hopefully becomes clear what makes sense when it comes to boosting your performance when you play poker.

This is something that I recently got asked on a phone call with another poker player.

He asked for advice for a routine before playing.

And what was explained during the call is that taking an advice-based approach to a routine before you play isn’t actually optimal.

Because you often get a prescription for something that you don’t fully understand why it works.

Not only this, you quite often get a prescription for a routine that may not fully suit what you like or for the games that you actually play.

And what is a far more intelligent is to really strip everything back to simplicity.

The Simple Way To Boost Poker Performance

So we’ve stated what poker is like. And so can we relate the activity of playing poker to the basic activities that you do outside of playing poker.

The most obvious ones that come to mind are sleeping and eating.

So can you look into optimizing your sleep for cognitive ability and decision-making.

As well as optimizing your diet for the same purpose.

Optimizing Sleep For Poker Performance

When it comes to sleep, the book, Why We Sleep? by Matthew Walker is an amazing resource to actually go ahead and read.

Or even listen to the Joe Rogan podcast with the author, Matthew Walker.

Or if you’re a bit short on time, go ahead and get the key takeaways in this nicely written and clear article.

I think this is a topic that I want to talk about further in another episode.

In its own separate episode because I think it really warrants looking at.

Especially, if you play poker because a lot of mental activity carries on from the sessions we play that can prevent us from having a healthy sleep.

Optimizing Diet for Poker Performance

And now when it comes to diet, what I have to profess is that I’m certainly not a dietary expert.

I have done some of my own research when it comes to looking at eating in a way that boosts cognitive ability.

But it’s nowhere near as extensive as the research and the work that I put into looking at the mind.

(This is an area I’m looking into more).

But in order to not leave you empty-handed, what I would say is that water and Omega-3, are two things that are really worth looking into.

Because, from the research that I’ve done, these are two very important elements when it comes to brain activity.

And speaking of the brain, you inherently have to also look at the activity of the mind and how this relates to playing poker.

Your Mind And Brain In Poker

Very simply and clearly, the mind is the centre of the decisions that you make when you’re playing poker.

As well as the centre of the emotions that you have and the reactions that you have to playing poker.

But this is such an extensive topic.

And one in which that can be explored in so many different ways that it doesn’t quite make sense to just scratch at the surface in this format.

What We Covered

Before you go, it’s worth just clearing up what we got to in this exploration.

Because what we’ve got to is:

When it comes to boosting performance in poker, what, in fact, makes a lot of sense is simplicity.

As the most basic activities outside of poker have the greatest impact on your ability when you actually play.

So sleep and diet as well as the state of the body and the mind.

The latter we didn’t delve into, but is certainly worth looking at for yourself.