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Happy New (Poker) Year!

Resolutions, resolutions

by Matt Matros |  Published: Feb 01, 2011

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I’m a young guy — young enough to use Facebook regularly, to tweet (@jacksup) chip-count updates, and to (sometimes) get carded when I go to bars. But in poker terms, I’m positively ancient. I’ve played this game professionally for six years, semiprofessionally for two, as a serious amateur for four, and as a clueless young gambler for seven. One thing I’ve learned during this time is that it’s easy not to see the big picture. Poker doesn’t always pay out on a weekly basis, so it’s important psychologically to sometimes take a step back to reinforce the good memories and reaffirm your decision to invest time and money in playing this crazy game. A few years ago, I started to help myself in this way by writing an annual column in which I look back at my previous year in poker and then set goals for the next year. This exercise of looking back at the previous year and then setting goals for the next year could be helpful to you, too.

Part of this tradition is to pick out three things that went well for me during the past year. For 2010, my first choice was pretty obvious.
1. Won a gold bracelet at the World Series of Poker, in event No. 12 ($1,500 limit hold’em): I wrote two entire columns about this, so I won’t dwell on it too much here. But a friend of mine who doesn’t play poker recently asked me if I ever did anything to celebrate winning my bracelet. I realized that I hadn’t. This is a perfect example of how hard it is to enjoy the good moments in poker. I’d always intended to celebrate winning the bracelet properly, but I didn’t get home from the WSOP until five weeks later, and by then, I had lost the energy to get it together. I’m glad that I’m remembering my victory again now, and maybe I will do something to legitimately celebrate it before I head out to the 2011 WSOP.
2. Cashed in four other WSOP events, including a second final table in limit hold’em: I really can’t complain about how my WSOP went this year. (Well, I could, but I vowed to my buddy “ActionBob” as I was playing event No. 12 that if I won the bracelet, I wouldn’t complain about anything poker-related for a year. I’m going to keep that promise.) I made the final table of the next event that I played after winning the bracelet, made two other deep runs in preliminary events, and then made a run in the main event. Of course, I didn’t play perfectly, and I ran pretty good all summer, but this is not a column for rationalizations. This is a column for remembering the things that went well — and the WSOP went well.
3. Made the final table of the Borgata Winter Open main event: I finished 10th, so the result wasn’t anything to write home about. But when I played this tournament and its preliminaries in January, I started making some subtle changes in my style of play. These changes were hugely beneficial, and really helped me to put up some good results in June and July.
Now it’s time to look at the resolutions that I made for this year at the end of 2009:
2010 resolution: Make weekly schedules so that I am focusing and working on the things I want to be focused and working on.
Grade: B. I didn’t always write out a schedule, but I almost always had a schedule in my head, and I tried to stick to it as much as possible. I still have plenty of room for improvement, but I did a lot better at this in 2010.
2010 resolution: Play at least 30,000 more hands of pot-limit Omaha (PLO), and then consider learning a new game, or continue to play PLO at higher limits.
Grade: B+. I had an issue with some of my records (stupid computers), so I don’t know if I got to 30,000 hands, but I fulfilled the spirit of this resolution by playing a lot more PLO and satisfying myself that I had gotten better at it. Of course, now I know how much I don’t know about PLO, and I want to keep studying it a lot more. 2010 has taught me once again that it takes longer than a year to become an expert in a poker game.
2010 resolution: Play one or more PLO events at the WSOP.
Grade: Incomplete. The WSOP schedule didn’t mesh well with my planned days off, and there were a few times when I was busy making late runs in other events and had to miss a PLO opportunity. I never did get a chance to play a PLO tournament at the WSOP. It wasn’t really for lack of trying, though, so I’m not going to give myself a poor mark here; I’ll just say “incomplete.”
2010 resolution: Do more poker studying, especially on days that I don’t feel like playing.
Grade: C-. I made some token efforts at this, but I didn’t do nearly as much studying as I had envisioned when I made this resolution. I’ll have to work harder on this next year.
As I said in last year’s column, prioritizing my life and putting in the hours on the projects I want to be working on is really the only resolution I need. I’ll add some more poker-specific resolutions, though, to keep me focused:
2011 resolution: Make a concentrated effort to study and play events in the winter and spring, so that I am in peak poker form in June for the 2011 WSOP.
2011 resolution: Include poker study time in weekly schedules.
2011 resolution: Eat healthier over the course of long poker tournaments.
That last resolution definitely shows that I’m getting older, as I never used to think about nutrition when I was young and thin. But feeling physically well is hugely helpful when you’re playing 12 hours of poker a day and need to maintain a high level of concentration throughout. I know that if I’d done better at this in the past, I would have avoided some mistakes in some important spots.
Best of luck to you in 2011. Here’s hoping that you will work hard and put yourself in position to make that big score. ♠

Matt Matros is the author of The Making of a Poker Player. He is also a featured coach for cardrunners.com.