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Making 2014 New Year’s Resolutions

by Bernard Lee |  Published: Jan 22, 2014

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Bernard LeeI hope everyone had a Happy, Healthy New Year!

As you reflect on your 2013, I hope that you achieved all of your personal goals on and off the felt. Hopefully, you can look back with satisfaction on your play and decisions.
However, some of you may have been somewhat disappointed with last year’s results. Maybe you did not cash in many events, maybe you did not make many final tables, maybe you did not win a title. Whatever the reason, if you struggled during this past year, it is time to start 2014 anew. To accomplish this, I suggest you making some New Year’s resolutions to help turn around last year’s downfall and make 2014 a successful poker year.

Here are some ideas for you to develop your own New Year’s resolutions:

1. Be Honest With Yourself

When a player tells me, “I cash in almost every event I play in,” I quickly realize that they are not being honest with themselves. Pride, which is one of the seven deadly sins, is prevalent among all poker players. Players often boost their personal statistics in their mind, ultimately fooling themselves.

Additionally, no one wants to admit that they make mistakes at the poker table. They often recollect being eliminated from a tournament by describing the final hand as a bad beat, instead of possible poor play.

In the end, you need to be honest with yourself and realize that your unsuccessful year may be due to leaks in your game. Until you admit this, you will not be able to improve.
Here are a few ways to help you see the reality of the situation.

First, keep accurate records of every tournament including buy-in amounts, type of tournaments, starting chip stacks, time length of levels, what place you were eliminated in, and whether you cashed or not. By keeping detailed records, you will be able to analyze what your true cash rate is (which is always lower than you expected) and what type of tournaments you perform best in (whether it is a deep stacked ten-handed main event or a shorter stacked six-handed turbo event).

Additionally, write down the hand details in which there was a significant outcome. The best hands are the ones you won or lost a significant number of chips or your elimination hand. Then, carefully dissect these hands to find any potential leaks in your game.

If you are having trouble taking a step back and analyzing your own game, I would recommend the following two ideas…

2. Study

If you play poker professionally, I realize that many of you love the freedom that poker brings and studying is not high on the priority list. For those who play poker recreationally, I realize that many of you work full-time and studying is that last thing you want to do in your spare time. However, to get better in the game that we all love, you must work hard at it. It is not enough to just play the game, especially if you are getting into bad habits.

First, analyze your game to find potential leaks, as I recommended above. Next, find training tools to help fix these deficiencies and modify your game. Some ideas include finding an online training site with lessons and videos. Another possibility are the dozens of books available today. Maybe private instruction or enrolling in a class/workshop would better suit your learning needs. In the end, find a resource to help improve your game, which will lead to better results.

3. Confide In A Friend

I’m sure that you talk poker with many people. Most of your discussions are probably focused around bad beats or your triumphs. However, I would like you to find someone that you truly respect in poker and feel is better than you or at least has a specific strength in tournament play (for example, short-stack strategy). With this confidante, analyze the significant tournament hands that you recently played. Additionally, ask them to watch you play a tournament, maybe to see if you have any noticeable tells or betting patterns. In the end, this person should be able to take an objective view about your game, challenge your decision making process, suggest different possible moves, and ultimately help you find ways to improve your game. Poker playing friends can be an invaluable resource for any player.

4. Positive Mindset

Poker is a truly frustrating game. Unfortunately, when you are having a bad run at the tables, you clearly remember the bad beats and develop a negative attitude toward the game. You believe that you can never win a race, never complete a draw, and always get bad beat on the river. Of course, there are times when this does occur, but you have to remember that these situations will all even out in the long run. You must be able to overcome the bad beats and keep a positive mindset without going on tilt. If you enter every tournament with a negative outlook, you are just throwing away your money.

5. Bankroll Management

Watching the World Series of Poker main event and seeing the final table players collect millions and millions of dollars, players dream of striking it rich. Players play tournament after tournament to try to fulfill their own dreams. However, players realize that to win higher amounts, they must play in more events and even bigger buy-in events. Suddenly, these players (often without solving their own personal leaks) play in event after event without success and deplete their bankrolls. Players must focus on solid bankroll management and not play in tournament buy-ins above their heads. As a general rule, do not buy into an event that is more than two percent of your bankroll, or you will quickly find yourself with no funds to play.

6. Take Time Away From The Felt

I realize that you love to play poker. However, there can be too much of a good thing. Of course, if you are having an unbelievable streak at the tables, ride the wave and keep playing. But, sometimes, players need to take a break and step away from the game. Take a day or two to enjoy another hobby, go see a movie or do some sightseeing.

If you are a touring poker player, you have a great opportunity to explore the new cities that you are visiting. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the city, go play a round of golf, visit the tourist attractions, or indulge in the local cuisine. Understandably, you may not want to miss the tournaments if you travel out of town. Therefore, plan to stay a day of two later or come in early to enjoy a mini-vacation. This will allow you to recharge your batteries and have that positive mindset which is so critical in poker.
For those players who had a disappointing 2013, I hope you consider some of these thoughts to create your own New Year’s resolutions. I wish you all the best and good luck in 2014. ♠

Bernard Lee is a poker columnist for ESPN.com, author of “The Final Table, Volume I and II” and radio host of “The Bernard Lee Poker Show,” which can be found on RoundersRadio.com or via podcast on iTunes. Lee has over $2 million in career earnings and is also a team member of RunGoodGear.com. Follow Bernard Lee on Twitter: @BernardLeePoker or visit him at www.BernardLeePoker.com.