More Rules for Winning Poker


My thinking is that if I don't have time to prepare mentally, I don't have time to play.

Preparation is first all else follows.

So what do you do, as a online poker player,in preparation for playing? Of course you've acquired all the skill and knowledge of the game you can muster. But what about your preparation before each individual session?

If you're like most poker players, you walk into the cardroom, put your bottom on a chair, and start drawing cards without any mental preparation. An athlete will do a series of physical warm-up exercises before working out or going into a competition.

And more and more athletes are also doing mental preparation. Should you, with your money on the table, do any less? Mental preparation. I refer to that period of time immediately prior to playing. You can study, read all the books, take all the lessons.

But if you sit down in a game without being mentally ready, you’re giving up an edge to someone who is ready. This isn't to say that you can't be a winner without doing your prename mental footwork. Obviously, that is just not so. But I am convinced that mental preparation of some kind would greatly benefit most players.

There probably are as many ways of preparing to play as there are players who prepare. Let's look at a bunch.

I know several players who will read a chapter from a poker book or one of my instructional columns published over the years. This gets the mind attuned to poker. While they're driving to the poker cardroom, they will think about various poker plays, to keep the mind on poker.

When they arrive at the game, they are mentally ready. Another player puts on his stereo headphones and listens to soft, non-melodic music while talking to himself about what a solid, skillful player he is. A woman I know cranks up her stereo and gives the speakers a workout with stirring march music, while giving herself a loud pep talk during the drive in.

it's something to see when you stop next to her at a red light. But this doesn't bother her. She's preparing to win. And she does win. Another fellow I know stands in front of a mirror and stares himself directly in the eyes while saying over and over, I am a winner. I am a winner. When he gets to the point of firmly believing it, he heads for the game. He's hard to beat.

I'm not saying that any of this is a substitute for skill, knowledge, and strategy-but it can be a valuable addition for those who choose to use it.

A friend who is a born-again Christian prays for 5-to-10 minutes before playing not for a winning session, but to play his best, and to serenely accept whatever the outcome may be. Some players use hypnosis, having a professional hypnotist give them posthypnotic suggestions about their poker playing.

A world-class poker pro told me that he makes it an absolute rule to “sit down feeling good, and mentally ready, or I don't sit down. He meditates before each session he plays. Here I quote Bobby Knight, head basketball coach at Indiana, after hearing a comment that his teams have the will to win. Knight said, "No, no. we don't have the will to win. We have the will to prepare to win".

And that includes mental preparation. I believe that, for most poker players, if you are not prepared mentally, you are not prepared. If you are playing just to be playing because you have nothing better to do, or because there's nothing on TV-I would be willing to place a small wager that you are not a consistent winner.

I would suggest using some of your time getting into a winning frame of mind. I realize that tome is an important consideration for most people. If certainly is for me. But l've come to the strong realization that

If I don't have time to prepare mentally, I don't have time to play. Preparation is first. All else follows.

Playing time for many people is immediately after work. Whatever your circumstances, I urge you to take at least ten minutes to be alone. Spend these minutes quietly, relaxed, with your eyes closed. Think about your game. Then free your mind of all thoughts. It will be a good break for you, and will go a long way towards a proper mind set.

When I lived in California, my home was in Westlake Village. I played every day in the nearest legal cardroom of my choice, fifty-five miles away. Several times I drove the fifty-five miles only to find that I just didn't feel like playing poker. I wasn't really up for it. So I'd go to the beach, or drive back home.

That's 110 miles round trip without drawing a card. But I knew that was better than pushing myself to play just because I was there. I could, and would, be there again tomorrow. And the game would be waiting for me. Keep in mind that the poker game will be there tomorrow and the next day and next week. The game will wait. You can wait. If you can't wait, then it might be a good idea to examine your motives for playing.

I thought of framing the following rules in positive terms, but decided that they play stronger as don'ts:

  • Don't play if our mind is foggy from lack of sleep, or booze, or drugs, legal or illegal.
  • Don't play if your emotionally upset. Resolve your emotional issues and then come to the poker table.
  • Don't play if there is something else you'd rather be, or should be, doing. Go and do what must be done. Then play.
  • Don't play if you're not feeling physically fit. A cold or a headache will throw you off your game more than you might realize.
  • And don't play if you feel pessimistic about the outcome. You'll probably be proven right.

So our rallying cry at this point is: If we don't have time to prepare mentally, we don't have time to play.


I don't think there are any secrets to winning poker anymore. There were a lot of them several years ago, but now, with everyone and your brother writing articles, columns and books, the secrets have all been rather well-exposed.

But I'll have a shot at a few secrets of my own as we continue through this Course with the stuff if winning poker. The first is discipline, not for any reason other than it's most important. Most players don't believe that. Good! Those are more players for you to beat.

The beginning and end of consistent,winning poker is discipline.

If you don't believe that, good. Come play in my game. Several years ago I was approached in one of our local card emporiums by a young fellow who wanted to know the secret of winning poker. I looked him in the eye and said, Discipline.

He just looked back at me and said, "Well, okay, if you don't want to tell me" and walked away. Discipline is one of the most important aspects of consistent winning poker. It doesn't matter how good you can play; what matters is how good you do play.

And it is discipline that will determine how good you do play. Discipline is what makes everything else work. I know some very knowledgeable poker players who are always borrowing money.

They are constantly broke. It's because they don't have the discipline to make their knowledge of poker work for them. I'll define discipline for our purposes in this Course as doing what you know should be done- or not doing what you know should be done.

It's the second part that gets most poker players into trouble. Discipline will decide how well you play or how badly you play. If you are a solid, skillful player, but today you give up your discipline and play like a sucker, then today you are a sucker.

I'll say it again- It doesn't matter how good you can play; what matters is how good you do play.

It isn't enough to know what to do while playing poker. What's important is doing it!

If you're losing money in a bad game a game populated with tight, tough, solid players, a game where you stand little chance of recouping your losses-you must have the discipline to quit that game a loser.

If you have stuck any appreciable amount of money in any kind of game, and you pick up a mediocre hand that you wouldn't play if you were ahead or even, your better judgment will tell you not to play that hand. If you are exercising self-discipline, you won't play it.

Quite often, good players become bad players because they lose their discipline. The best players at the table one day might become the worst player the next day, or the next hour. A player might take a few losses and his discipline disappears. He gets his nose open and starts steaming. He begins playing long shots, trying to get even. He's lost.

A lot of money has been blown off by good players giving up their discipline.

When you see it happening, you have an opportunity to add to your Poker bankroll. When you see it happening to you, save your bankroll. Leave. Rapidly! Get it back and come on back.



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