22/06/2009

It Was There All Along

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

I have been delving into the world of sports psychology over the past week or two and have had my head in a couple of books. Mainly to do with how athletes and sportsman at the highest level maintain concentration. This I feel has a strong link with poker as when you start to approach a certain level, any further progress probably needs to come from areas like game selection and improving your own mental capacity.

Both of these have nothing whatsoever to do with how a hand is played. This is why I don’t often get involved in debating specific hands on the forum because in most instances then the hand could be played numerous ways anyway. Plus as I have said before on this forum, a player can deliberately sacrifice known EV for lower variance if that happens to suit their own individual attitude to risk.

So there are complex variables involved in how hands are played and deciding on what is “optimal” isn’t as straight forward as what many so called “experts” would have you believe. This is before we even discuss differences in bankroll sizes and whether or not the player has the capacity to constantly top up or not, both of which impact on what is “optimal” play.

But I do feel that something that most of us share on this forum with regards to online poker is that we lose focus after a certain period of time. These periods differ from person to person but mental stamina isn’t something that you can just switch on. Speaking from personal experience, I have never had the ability to maintain concentration for long periods.

It’s why I never really did well at school or in any field that required focus and concentration that I have undertaken to do since. But yet poker demands that you have this ability but because of the lure of the game then we don’t always play when we are mentally sharp. However, concentration is like memory or physical fitness... it can be worked on and improved.

From a personal point of view, I don’t really need to work that hard anymore as my writing and other work means that I don’t really have that much time to play poker. I play around 10-15 hours a week now which is an amount of time that can be achieved simply by playing short sharp sessions.

For those of you who play longer than this and find that you are losing focus and not maintaining concentration then I definitely advise you to get a couple of good books on the subject and dive in…..it will be well worth the effort and will more than likely add to your bottom line.

I also feel that this is one of the underlying advantages for having a sniffer. Despite my objections to them in the past and while I feel that online poker would be better off without them, they are probably here to stay and avoiding them is impossible now for most serious players.

I have never gone mainstream and have stuck to using Poker Office but what I feel is one of their underlying strengths is that they allow you to make accurate automated emotionless decisions. What this essentially means is that you can make better poker decisions for longer periods of time, or at least you should be able to. In principle, this is like a blackjack card counting system in that the count decides whether or not you increase stakes and gives you a track to run on. But critically, it still requires concentration to maintain the count to even stay on this so called “track”.

However, even having a sniffer still means that you have to focus and concentrate on your HUD and what it is telling you. So I don’t see how this problem can be totally eradicated and once you get used to the HUD actually being there then you can easily become desensitised to it and your concentration levels can begin to drop dangerously low once again to a stage where you are not actually seeing what is on the screen.

So I definitely recommend delving into the area of sports psychology and for anyone who is interested, if you send me a PM then I will tell you the name of a very good book that I have just read on how to build and maintain concentration.

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