Poker mistakes aren’t fatal, but not learning from them is

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Most poker literature focuses on helping you play correctly, or at least how the author deems correct. This can be useful when you’re first learning or looking for enhancements to take your game to the next level. I know I’ve had several major steppingstones in my poker development that have stemmed from books or even an article or blog that gave me a new perspective.

However, just as important, and sometimes more important than learning what to do, is making an effort to learn what not to do. I learned this first-hand when I worked in the business world. I learned how to properly manage people and deal with clients from the mistakes of certain bosses and co-workers. Paying attention to other players’ mistakes and having an honest, objective approach to evaluating your play can really take your game to another level.

I do an enormous amount of experimenting online to incorporate new tactics into my game. It allows me to become more comfortable with certain plays and reading hands. Then I can use these things into my live game.

One day it dawned on me: I wasn’t simply trying these things to figure out what was working; I was spending more of my energy trying different things and finding what was not working and learning from those mistakes. This mistake-based learning is something we use in our everyday lives and it must be carried over to the poker tables so we can achieve the highest level of competence. Mistakes = Experience!

Physicist Niels Bohr once said, “An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.” Well, poker certainly isn’t a narrow field, and I think most would argue you can’t be an expert. But, you can achieve greatness in poker and become one of the elite players in the world if you put in the time to make as many mistakes as quickly as possible. This is how you learn. Whether it’s playing online (where you can get years of playing experience in months) or playing live, it’s so important to realize the value of mistakes and how to channel them into experience. However, mistakes without a dedicated effort to learn from them means you’ll just continue to repeat them. Not only will you not get better, you’ll likely get worse.

Watch others play, read poker literature and try new strategies. Constantly analyze your play, not just the hand you lost but the entire tournament or cash-game session. Figure out which tactics were optimal and which weren’t. Recognize your mistakes, embrace them and learn from them to make you a winner. Don’t get down about a mistake. That can just put you on tilt and lead to more incorrect decisions. Recognize what you did wrong and try your best not to repeat it. Appreciating mistakes will lead to success at the tables.

Decide to Win!

— Lee Childs is founder and lead instructor of Acumen Poker. He also is an instructor with the WPT Boot Camp. Check out his site at www.acumenpoker.net.