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The Will to Win is Not Enough

Acquire the will to prepare to win

by Roy West |  Published: Apr 09, 2008


Hi. Come on in. I had the deli send over a couple of those triple-decker sandwiches you like with hot corned beef, pastrami, salami, and Swiss cheese. Fill your face with one of those.

Let's conduct a survey. We'll stand outside a major poker room and stop 100 players as they enter, asking them why they play poker. I'll wager that they all would say they play to win money. If we could then observe them as they play, it would soon become apparent that the vast majority are not there to win money, or they wouldn't be playing so badly. Sure, they would like to win, but mostly, they want to play! And they seem to be abiding by the old poker adage, "The next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing. The important thing is playing."

For many players of our beloved game, the social process is the important thing. And most players at the low and medium limits just like the action. For a few (like you and me), the idea is to leave the poker room with more cash in our jeans than we came in with. We don't go to the poker room to play poker; we go to get the money.

Every poker player on the planet has the will to win. What most don't have is the will to prepare to win.

Of the millions of poker players, relatively few will even get a book on how to win at the game. Notice that I used the word "get," not "study." That's because most of those who do get a book of instruction don't study the book. It's as if they believe that the act of buying the book and having it in their possession will give them the winning knowledge that they need, maybe through the process of osmosis. They'll read through the book once, quickly, promise themselves to really study it later (some undetermined, unscheduled "later"), and then rush off to the poker game.

In this day and age of available knowledge and information, you have been given, and continue to be given, all that you need to get the money – from Card Player and the many books that are available. But they will be worthless to you if they just lie around gathering dust.

Ever since you started taking the game seriously, you've probably read a lot of poker instruction. Go back and read it again, but this time – study it. Let it become familiar and part of your thinking – and playing. Do it over and over again. If you're beginning to think that this sounds like a lot of work, you're right. But nowhere have I promised you strawberries in your champagne or an easy time of becoming a consistent winner.

I'll remind you of what my boyhood idol, all-American basketball player "Easy" Ed McCauley, said about practicing: "When you are not practicing, someone, somewhere is practicing. And when you meet, he will beat you." Many of your opponents, right this instant, are somewhere studying poker. Many read every word in Card Player and every poker book they can lay their hands on. Many have taken my private lessons. You had better get ready to meet them.

Keep in mind that the poker information you study is also available to other serious players. While you have been studying, so have they. They know what you know, so the question becomes, how are you going to beat them? That's not a rhetorical question; how are you going to beat them? I hear a lot of different answers, but I think the most important word out of your mouth should be, "Discipline." Remember, it doesn't matter how well you can play; what matters is how well you do play. The player who maintains his discipline and consciously works on eliminating mistakes from his game will be the consistent winner. Solid poker gets the money at the low and medium limits.

I'm reminded of an old one-liner that I will paraphrase: "There are only two people in the entire world of poker who really are willing to study the game – you and I – and I'm not too sure about you." My objective is to become sure about you. Get to work.

Forget about the will to win; instead, acquire the will to prepare to win. Let me know how you do.

Now I tire and require sweet repose. You've finished most of your cholesterol sandwich. Take the rest for your breakfast and kill the light on your way out.

Roy West, poker author and teacher, continues giving his successful poker lessons in Las Vegas for tourists and locals. Ladies are welcome.