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Mental Game & Life Strategy

The ability to set goals and the discipline it takes to achieve those goals without letting the rest of your life suffer are two of the most important things you need to master in order to improve as a poker player and begin getting serious about becoming a pro. One of the best parts of playing poker is getting out into the real world, playing in person, meeting new people and going on crazy adventures. This is also the riskiest part of the game because it takes you away from your comfort zone, and leaves you playing without your safety net. The solid footing of any healthy lifestyle depends balance and control, and a thriving poker lifestyle is no exception. Set realistic goals and learn to govern yourself so that you’re always working towards achieving your goals without letting the other, more glamorous things hinder your success. 

Table strategy is great to know, but you'll also need to understand how to manage yourself off the table to maximize your edge - and here’s where things get personal. I invite you to keep up-to date on my life and times as a poker player, and learn from my experiences so that you can learn from my triumphs and avoid my mistakes.  Any pro poker player will tell you your  mind is your most powerful weapon. Sharpen it, nurture it, rest it and give it peace so you can take to the tables - and your life - with killer confidence. 

Know Your Limits

Evan Jarvis

I'd like to lift the tagline for this next lesson from the gold ol' OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation):

Know your limit, play within it.

If you've frequented casinos, you've probably seen signs with this expression before. The basic thrust of the slogan is this: know how much you can afford to lose gambling, and to stay within that limit. Of course, putting that on a banner isn't going to encourage people to empty their pockets.

I personally think this slogan could be carried over to a couple of other areas: I think it is physically and mentally important to know your limits as well.

Broke, Broken Down and Burnt Out...

  • In the case of our finances, if we play outside our limits, we are likely to end up broke
  • Physically, if we play outside our limitations, we're going to end up broken down
  • Mentally, playing outside our abilities is going to leave us burnt out and cranky

In the UCOP, I experienced playing outside my limits.

After the 8 day series, I needed 3 full days of recovery, and a few half days of recovery after that. For it to be more sustainable, I would have had to do 5 days on, 2 days off, or 2 days on, 1 day off, repeat. That would have been a more sustainable model that was within my emotional, physical and mental limits.

No pain, no gain...

Of course, one of the benefits of pushing myself to the edge is that I grew.

We don't experience growth if we just stay inside out comfort zone. We experience growth when we go to the edge.

Just like working out at the gym, you experience growth because you stimulate; you challenge your body and your mind's preconceived notion of what you are capable of doing. The actual growth that comes from that stimulation happens when you're resting and recovering.

Mentally, the same applies. You want to push yourself to the edge to see what you can do, and then you want to chill out, recover and let the parasympathetic nervous system kick in and restore and replenish your system so you can prepare to visit that edge again.

The problem with staying at the edge too long is that you're almost certain to fall off. Think of Steve Irwin, the beloved late Crocodile Hunter. His death was tragic, no doubt, but was anyone truly surprised to find out he was taken out by a sting ray? Probably not. Play with fire, you're bound to get burned; mess with the bull, you’ll get the horns, and other such clichés.

Now, I'm not saying crocodile wrangling is an exact metaphor for life. For most of us, our passions won't kill us, but staying out on the ledge too long can mean that when we fall, we'll need to build up a lot of momentum to get back out there. This means a lot of lost time, and in the case of poker, a lot of lost opportunity.

Let the High Come, Let the High Go

I get it: adrenaline is amazing. Pushing yourself to the limit is a rush. But life is a dichotomy. The highs only exist because there are lows. If you're one of those people who use stimulants to try to prolong the high, the crash is just going to be more pronounced. If you've been working outside your limits, it will catch up to you. Whether you want it or not, your system will take over and make you slow down.

That's a big lesson I learned from staying at the edge a little too long, and pushing myself beyond it a bit. Rest is essential. But the bigger lesson I learned is that if you can identify your limit, you can plan to slowly and mindfully inch your way beyond that. You won’t fall of the edge. You'll have strategic growth on your side.

You won't have to worry about burning out, breaking down or going broke.

Today's Exercise

With this lesson in mind, I'd like you to use the comment section to identify what bad habit you have that pushes you to - and beyond - your limit.

(I know my bad habits are staying up to late working, not being able to push the 'off' button and just chill, and comparing myself to other people who are in completely different circumstances.)

By posting the bad habit you're going to try to break will help you create a healthier relationship with yourself. In a week, come back and respond to that comment with how you feel after having dropped that bad habit (or indulged it less).

Once you've mastered your pain point, you know what to do: get out there, take your lessons to the tables, and get stackin'!

Watch the video version below...