In poker, decide to win, then make it happen

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Decide to Win. … that’s the Acumen Poker tagline. If you haven’t truly decided to win; if you’re not dedicated and committed to winning; if you don’t stay focused on that day after day, hand after hand at the tables, guess what. … you’re not going to win. To consistently win you have to have a total dedication to every hand. Focus on all of the information you have and make the best decisions possible. It may seem like common sense, but do you really understand what it means to Decide to Win?

I came up with the tagline because I had read a blog post from a successful online professional who that said she made a conscious decision to be one of the winners in poker. I realized at that time that, while I was getting pretty good, I had not made that same conscious decision. I attended a WPT Boot Camp, studied (not just read, but studied) poker books, experimented with all kinds of different styles of play online; and through it all developed a style of playing that I was comfortable with and one that proved to be successful.

Once I had the success in the 2007 WSOP main event, I became even more determined to be a winner. I wanted to prove I was a force to be reckoned with on the poker scene. I continued to read books, blogs, forum posts and magazine articles. I experimented with my game online and then worked the successful tactics into my live game.

I can attribute almost every big score I’ve had to some book I read, something new I worked into my game or to my teaching at the WPT Boot Camp or Acumen Poker. Many times my biggest wins came just after putting together a group training session or working with a particular student for a while, as I was so focused on the fundamentals and the experimentation that my game was in great shape and I had a tremendous amount of confidence in all of the decisions that I was making. Most of us at one time or another have been at that place with our poker game. Every move seems right. You know what your opponents are holding.

So, why does it all stop working sometimes? Life. Small stuff, big stuff, family, money, girlfriends, boyfriends, work, health, annoying neighbors. … life can get in the way and if anything is weighing on your mind it can affect every decision you make, in poker and life.
Be honest, are there things killing your mind-set? If you’re not actively working on your game and don’t have your life issues sorted out, then you’re reneging on your commitment to winning.

I recently got asked to record a video of the FTOPS main event from November when I reached the final table and had my largest online score. It’s going to be released on a training site called Tournament Poker Edge. It has some of the top online pros producing videos and blogs, so I have logged quite a few hours absorbing its knowledge.

But I know I haven’t spent enough time doing this and I’ve been slack with my training. But making this video was eye-opening for me. It brought me back to truly analyzing my game. I questioned a lot of my decisions and found spots where I didn’t know what the right decision was.

Now when I’m playing, I’m always thinking more about explaining why I’m doing what I’m doing and what the optimal play is. This doesn’t mean I’ll always be right, but at least it gets me back to the critical thinking and decision-making I need to be successful. Take the time to think about every decision you’re making as if you have to explain it to a poker coach or respected poker player.

Some of you have had success but are struggling. Some of you haven’t had the success you keep thinking is just around the corner. And some of you are in the middle of a heater. Whichever category you fit in, be sure you take the time to analyze your life, mind-set and level of complacency. You must have everything in your life in order and continue to work on your game. If you stay honest with yourself and maintain your dedication and commitment to winning, you will. Decide to Win!

— Lee Childs is a poker pro who founded Acumen Poker.