When playing poker, stick with what works

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By Zack Bartholomew
Poker is a really tricky game to get a handle on. One minute you think you have a system down, you feel like you can see the code and then the next minute you wonder how you got sucked into this terrible game.

One thing I’ve really taken to heart the last year or so is to stick with the routines and plans that tend to work. I don’t mean superstitions or anything like that. I mean things such as when you play, how much sleep you need and what you eat the day of playing.

Unless you play for a living, you have a limited amount of time to play. Say you get off work early. It can be tempting to head to the casino for “just a few hours.” I have found that those sessions almost never go well.

I do the best when I show up well-rested sometime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Since I really only play on the weekends, I will often put in 24-hour-plus sessions. This is what works for me, though.

I come in well-rested and mentally prepared for the session ahead.

I know how the room and tables will change over the course of the next 24 hours and I have a general plan for those changes.

Basically, I have a solid routine. As I write this article, it is Friday evening and I will be in bed soon. I could have easily gone to my home casino and played a little bit. I decided not to because my routine has been working and there is no reason to change that.

You have to be honest with yourself about what works and what doesn’t. I would like very much to be playing poker right now, but I didn’t get enough sleep last night, I worked at Big Slick Poker Academy today and ate too big of a dinner. I am practicing discipline away from the table just like I would at the table.

I’m not saying you should play once a week for 24 hours at a time. You should figure out what works best for you. If you track your results and sessions, look to see where you are the most profitable.

Try to emulate things you do on your most profitable days every time you go play. Or you can try to increase the amount of the time that you play on your most profitable days and take some time away from your least profitable day.

— Zack Bartholomew is an instructor with Big Slick Academy.