The first step to becoming more self-disciplined is to accept responsibility and acknowledge that your success is entirely on you. You are the only one responsible for your goals, time, and work ethic. If you keep relying on external things or hoping that someone or something else will drive your success, you will never become self-disciplined. Even if you’re getting staked, coached, or sponsored, success is still ultimately in your hands.
Taking on the responsibility of being your own boss can often be harder than it seems. You are the one making all of the important decisions and you are the one to blame if anything goes wrong. You feel less pressure when someone else is running the show because the ultimate
responsibility is on them, not on you. Knowing you alone control your fate can feel like a heavy, burdensome weight on your shoulders. Sometimes it just becomes too much to bear and you end up resorting to behavior that can relieve some of this weight.
Deflecting blame onto someone or something else is one way to relieve the pressure. For many players, blame has become such a hardwired reaction that sometimes they aren’t even aware they’re doing it. To begin breaking out of the habit, answer the following questions:
• What or who do you tend to blame?
• Why are you having a hard time taking responsibility? • In what situations does this tend to happen most?
• What steps can you take to accept more responsibility?
Most often, players will blame variance or other players. They say things like, “I didn’t lose because I played badly—it was variance.” By saying this, they make themselves feel better by placing the blame on some- thing out of their control. And while it’s true they’re not responsible nor have control over how the cards come out or how their opponents play, that doesn’t mean they’re helpless. Players always have the responsibility of understanding the realities of variance and knowing their opponents’ games as well as possible. In poker, there’s always some way to accept more responsibility. Work hard to recognize the instances where you’re blaming someone or something else, and redirect the responsibility back on to yourself. When you can accept blame and acknowledge your weaknesses, only then can you start to improve.
Many poker players set rules for themselves in an effort to stay in control of their game. For example, they’ll determine a stop-loss, what stakes to play, how long to play for, and the caliber of player that they’re willing to face. Unfortunately, these rules are often broken as quickly as they’re set. They end up losing more, jumping up in stakes, playing too long, and playing against tougher competition. Players often wonder why it is that they can set rules for themselves and then so easily break them—sometimes just a few hours later. There are two major reasons:
1. They haven’t truly experienced the benefits of following the rule or the cost of breaking it. So, in the moment when they’re faced with the choice to follow the rule or to break it, they go with whatever seems best at the time, rather than what’s in their best long-term interests. Let’s say you have set a stop-loss of two buy- ins, but you’re playing in a juicy game and get coolered twice within the first hour. Do you quit as your rule says, or do you keep playing? The answer isn’t so easy. On one hand, you’re giving up a ton of value by quitting. But, if you’re susceptible to tilting and losing control, quitting could be a strong option even if you’re not yet on tilt. Your stop-loss rule needs refining in order for you to maximize value and protect your game from tilt.
For each rule that you consistently break, write out a list of benefits for following it, and a list of consequences for not following it. For example, if you’re continually opting out of doing your warm-up and jumping right into playing, your list of benefits and consequences might look like this:
Benefits of a warm-up:
- I play better and make fewer mistakes.
- Variance is less likely to bother me.
- It makes me feel confident and ready to play.
Consequences of not doing a warm-up:
- I’m more likely to tilt.
- There are more spots where I get lost.
- I get bored more easily, especially when card dead.
When you find yourself itching to play, take a few slow, deep breaths and inject this list of benefits and consequences into your
mind. Use them as the rationale for why it’s so important that you do the warm-up. Over time, you’ll reinforce these reasons more and more, until you start following your rules without even having to remind yourself why it’s so important that you do.
2. You may be rebelling against your own rules just as you did with your parent’s, teacher’s, or coach’s rules when you were younger. If you were an expert at defying authority as a kid, you could actually be doing the same thing to yourself that you did to those authority figures years ago. You’ve learned how to be really good at it and there may be underlying reasons (yet to be resolved) for why you defy authority. Consider how your own personal history may be repeating itself, and use the mental hand history to help you break down and resolve the cause of your defiance. This issue is one that originated well before you started playing poker and likely has emerged as a problem in other areas of your life—it isn’t going to go away instantly. Write a list of the excuses you make to rationalize breaking your rules. Then, inject logic, goals, and inspiration to undermine those excuses and reinforce the importance of sticking to your rules.