17/07/2008

Choosing the Battleground

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

It was Sun Tsu who once said that if you understood yourself and your enemy then you need not fear the outcome of a thousand battles... or words to that effect. It has been a long time since I last read that book and I couldn’t be bothered to dig it out and locate the exact wording but I am sure that you get the meaning. There are many great works out there that have deeply embedded poker meanings that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with poker, or at least it seems that way on the surface.

In fact there are so many connections between poker and warfare that go light years beyond sayings like “poker is combat but with cards and chips”. This is not what I am referring to but what I am talking about are the subtle fundamental concepts and principles of warfare overlapping with poker. This connection with war has led me to order one of my all time favourite books from Amazon which is “On War” by Carl von Clausewitz.

I had this book once upon a time and lent it out to someone who then did the decent thing and lost it so hence the need to re-order it. But it is absolutely imperative in warfare that you not only choose your times of confrontation but you must also choose which opponents to do battle with.

These decisions are not taken lightly and especially when you are dealing with very formidable opposition. Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your own army and even yourself as a General are critical processes along with a careful and accurate assessment of your opposition. Even the actual battleground itself can favour one army over another.

But it is also critical in poker that you not only pick and choose your points of confrontation but that you also take every conceivable measure to increase your chances of making money. Playing by the seat of your pants and hoping for the best is not a recipe for success, not in warfare or in poker. You may still win the war but it also means that you have risked defeat along the way. Good Generals know the result of the battle before hostilities begin.

But if you want to be successful in poker then you must treat it no different to any other business and treat money in the same way that you would treat your life’s blood. Whether it is getting the best rakeback deals, finding the softest games, getting as many sign up bonuses as possible, only playing when you are mentally alert etc etc then you must take these precautions and you must take steps to get this money. It can literally be the difference between success and failure.

Sponsorships are also a great way of earning extra money and I was on a good site the other day that offered “weekly sponsorships” and that site was PokerInside.

What they offered was a highly flexible arrangement where they analyse your play and then construct a sponsorship deal around that which is tailored to you and you alone which I thought was kind of cool. But whether it is sponsorships or rakeback or whatever then one thing is perfectly clear... you more than likely need help of some sort to make you a successful poker player.

Also if you are a winning player now then what makes you think that you can continue to be so? Just because you have won the last battle does not mean that you will necessarily win the next one. Or if you think that because you have always prevailed in battles against the same opponents that this will always be the case and winning money will continue.

To all of the players out there who have decent games and are skilled in using poker tracker who think that this is enough to ensure success then I am sorry to have to tell you that you are wrong. It is always better to have skill and knowledge as this is akin to having training and discipline in the army. It is also advantageous to have technology on your side as well both in warfare and in poker.

But training and discipline coupled with technology does not guarantee victory in any military campaign and this is certainly the case in poker as well. Then where there is no guarantee we then have risk of defeat. Maybe not a risk of defeat on any one given day or week but taken over a long enough period of time then this is basically what it is. What causes this risk is a combination of two things, it is a lack of knowledge coupled with a lack of discipline although this tends to stem from a lack of knowledge as well.

Everything stems from knowledge and how you use that knowledge. Not just knowledge of how to play cards and pot odds and position... these are no more than fundamentals in what is a much bigger picture. But true “enlightenment” to what you need to do in order to become a successful poker player or what you need to stop doing in some cases. Your primary monetary objective is to be a successful poker player. Forget about being professional or whatever tag you happen to put on it... concentrate on being successful and the rest will follow on.

To get to be successful will require many things including discarding many theories and ideas that you previously thought were set in stone and were gospel. This is difficult for it is never easy to admit that what you previously thought as being right was actually wrong. As poker enters into a whole new age then it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the wise poker sages will be reading Sun Tsu and Von Clausewitz ahead of Harrington and Sklansky... you heard it here first.

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