Eliminating bad habits is job No. 1

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Strong players always look to improve their poker game. Attempting to discard bad habits is something we often think about around New Year’s, and in the process of coaching players, plugging leaks always is in the conversation. However, when we break a bad habit, wow, that is a breakthrough. This type of breakthrough makes a huge difference in a player’s profit and loss statement. You do keep meticulous records, right? Let’s talk about a few habits I encounter with students and, unfortunately, have crossed my play over the years.

PLAYING TOO MANY HOURS: The sooner a player comes to terms with knowing he plays better when fresh, his hourly rate will double. Yes, that is a sick promise so bear with me.

Take a strong player with a reasonable hourly rate of profit. This player hates to lose and has the fortitude to play for days if that means getting unstuck.

He also keeps accurate records. After combing through a month of records, he made $2,500 in about 250 hours of play (50-60 hours per week). I bet him that he would double his hourly rate if he maxed out his sessions at five hours and he had the option to do a split shift.

Sure enough, his hours reduced by about 20-30 percent but his hourly wage skyrocketed. Your poker session is one big game that lasts a lifetime so stop thinking in terms of the daily session. Imagine having a job where your boss offered to double your hourly wage. In poker, you’re the CEO.

REVERTING TO BAD HABITS: Players, in their quest to improve, constantly make the necessary corrections to improve their game. Unfortunately, we revert to old habits. This vexing issue recently came up with two students. The first one emailed me a hand that, after we dissected, demonstrated he had played it too passively.

We had lopped off this leak several months earlier. But passivity or lack of aggression had reared its ugly head.

In this case, he had been running a little cold and started that old limping thing, which we had eliminated. This phenomenon happens to pro athletes all of the time. That’s why they all have coaches.

The next player simply got off of his poker plan. There are so many ways for this to happen that one could write a book. Keep an index card with a simple checklist. Check it every couple of hours.

Breaking some cardinal rules? There’s always tomorrow, now cash out. And remember, your session is a lifetime.

— Mark Brement has spent 15 years teaching and coaching all facets of poker, including at Pima CC. Email him at brementmark@gmail.com.