Thou shalt have a poker plan


Editor’s note: This is one in a series.

A poker coach should keep his players on track. This starts with a poker plan. Players tend to lament the big losses. Once upon a time, I stopped my student in mid story and brought up the concept of threshold of pain. I first read about this subject in a column by Mike Caro. He called it Misery Threshold. In any event, when a player crosses this threshold, he no longer cares about losing more money. It simply does not hurt anymore.

It seemed evident, that my student had reached this point during the session. Note that we cross these thresholds in life situations all of the time. One might gain weight and stop dieting. But let’s get back to poker. I asked him to pull out his poker plan. We discovered quite a few violations:

• He had to dust off the plan; he was supposed to be re-reading the plan before every session.
• After getting his money all-in and losing, he didn’t take a break. This was in our plan and fell under the money-management category.
• He had passed his threshold of pain. We previously had identified this number.
• We discovered he wasn’t sticking to his time-played, which was a critical part of his primary leak when he first started with me.
• He wasn’t recording his sessions by way of his plan. We had set up a diary. Furthermore, notes on players were incomplete.
• He wasn’t doing the assigned reading.
• Exercise. (Need I say more?)

In short, the plan was not worth the paper on which it was printed. He simply wasn’t executing his document in which he had spent quite a bit of time perfecting.

The good news is (as per the plan) he took a two-week poker vacation. He finished his month strong and was able to get back in the black. This relates to some monetary goals he had set. Even better, he got back to his plan.

I coach all of my players to focus on fundamentals. I hope this is not lost on the players who play at an expert level. If you are an “A” player, all the more reason for you to be continually fine-tuning your game. There is simply more at stake. Keep your monetary goals at a reasonable level. If you’re playing $2-$5 NLHE and playing 20 hours a week; writing down $1K winning per week as a goal is probably unrealistic.

— Mark Brement has spent 15 years teaching and coaching all facets of poker, including at Pima Community College. Email him at