Admitting when you aren’t the best at the poker table

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By Zack Bartholomew

There’s a piece of common knowledge I’m sure many of you have heard before about when you should play poker. It goes something like this: “Only play when you know you can play your best.” It’s sound advice, but I want to elaborate on it. How do you know when you’re at your best? How do you know when you’re not at your best?

If you’re anything like a normal person, you’re always at your best. As humans, unless we’re feeling absolutely in the dumps, physically or emotionally, we fancy ourselves to be solid as a rock.

But that isn’t the truth. Say you stay at work an hour longer than planned. How does that affect our ability to make decisions at the table? It probably doesn’t feel like we are making worse decisions, but they surely can’t be as good as when you don’t work that extra hour.
The truth is, so many things can throw you off your game. It would take an entire book to list the things that can mess up your decision-making in poker.

Not enough sleep. Didn’t eat right today. Missed a workout at the gym. The boss was in a bad mood. So what’s a regular Joe to do?

It’s simple. Track your sessions. Include dates, time, day of the week and whatever else you or your tracking app thinks is important. You can gain some real insight to your play. By having the ability to compare days of the week, what time you start your session or session length you will be able to easily see patterns develop.

By tracking these things you can gain some major insights as to when you should play. Say you normally play Friday nights after work and then again on Saturday afternoon. After a few months of tracking, you realize you’re winning a lot less or even losing on Fridays and crushing Saturday afternoon despite the game quality being similar.

It’s up to you to figure out why your performance suffers Friday night, but at least now you know there’s a problem there. It could be you stay up too late watching Thursday night football. It also could be you’re too excited to play because it’s finally the weekend and you try to force things.

The thing you have to remember is knowledge is power. You can’t gain knowledge without tracking your play. Even if you only play for fun, winning is a heck of a lot more fun than losing.

— Zack is a Big Slick Poker Academy instructor.