Hey! Get out of your comfort zone

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The reason we have such a hard time following advice and staying with the program is if we did just that, then we would no longer be ourselves. We, as humans, are simply not hard-wired for change. Stepping up our game is not as “easy as pudding ‘n’ pie.”

Imagine you’re heading off to Las Vegas to play the World Series and you plan to enter a few events. You want to win an event but you know deep down inside, based on prior results, you need to improve. So you take action. You buy a book on tournaments and read it thoroughly. When you saunter up to the cage to enter the event, you’re feeling good, but deep down inside you know you’re really the same player who you used to be, which leaves you in the same spot you were in last year: good chance to make the money, but in all likelihood, the final table will elude you.

“So, Coach, how do I improve my game?” Hire a coach.

Incidentally, my job as a poker coach is to bring your game to a higher level. Think of me as a golf coach. It’s much easier to bring a 16 handicap to a 12 than it is to bring a 6 to a 4. Count on this: We will find your leaks and plug them. And books? Yes, we will be reviewing books together.

Change your goal. Getting knocked out early should be worn as a badge of honor. Your goal is not to make the money. Your goal must be to get to the final table with chips. Super tight solid play will get you into the money, but it’s not enough to take you all the way. Again, change your goal.

Keep in mind that for the first two hours, your opposition will be on their “A” game. After that there are all forms of tilt that start to enter the picture. Your job in the first round of play is to focus on opponents and their habits. Figure out who’s passive and who’s loose. This will prove invaluable in your decision-making process. You can use your tight table image to accrue chips from the second round onward.

Show up to the tournament fresh. I get it. Poker players want to play. I am speaking to a WSOP event or any significant event. It should be obvious to you that your “A” game starts to wane when you’re tired. And never play in a cash game after a tournament exit.

In summary, play your best game and come to the battlefield well-rested with the idea of taking down the trophy. Keep in mind that poker is a big game. Hire a coach and you will reap the rewards.

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