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My Poker Mindset Journey (pt. 3: The Benefits of Taking a Break from Poker)

stoic poker taking a break from poker
Stoic Poker recently took a month break from the felt, how did it go?

I recently was forced by a downswing to take a break from playing poker. At the time, it was the last thing I thought I needed. I thought all I needed was a fat cash injection so I wouldn't have to worry about risk of ruin to my bankroll, but that turned out to be wrong. I actually had someone offer to inject that cash for me, but given some history I know about that particular backer, I turned it down. Not that I wasn't tempted.

Upon turning down that offer, I had a little meeting with myself. What am I really trying to do here? Do I just want to play? Is the goal to become great? rich? Do I just want a hobby I am good enough at to make a slight yearly profit? Do I just want to have fun and not care if I lose as long as it is within the confines of my "fun bankroll?"

I often like to set aside time in my life to figure out what my goals are in a particular avenue of potential growth, and to determine my best way of reaching those goals. I like to make an action plan for myself and if I can add it in, the best element is having something I can do immediately after that meeting to take a step in the right direction.

At the end of my meeting I had decided on the goal of being the best player I can be. I want to be a humble learner and build skills where I have weak points in my game. I want to keep learning the middle ground between GTO play and exploitative play that works at the level I am playing (ex. did you know if you node lock like 2 extra folds in a river spot for an opponent, the solver just starts shoving EVERYTHING?)

What was the plan you might ask:

  • I would stay away from the tables for 1 month

    • this would give me time to rebuild my bankroll and do all the other steps in my plan.

  • I would review all my session notes with a particular eye for coolers vs. mistakes

    • Coolers make me feel better to see, because it means I wasn't just giving away money, but finding mistakes is how I can improve and come back as a better player.

  • I would bucket my most frequent mistakes and look for good material to study in order to improve my play in those spots.

    • Some things were new, but most things I went over were from programs I have already gone through. I wanted to make sure the things I was adding to my play would match up with the other things I was already doing well.

  • After reviewing and learning as much as I can about my weaknesses I loaded those spots into a trainer and played that as much as I would have played for money if I wasn't on break.

  • Also, it never hurts to get in better physical or mental shape so I doubled down on the things I was doing to improve my life in those areas.

    • workout EVERY DAY

    • meditate EVERY DAY

    • NEVER eat shitty food

    • NEVER drink

At first I just wanted to get back and beat those guys who got lucky against me, but focusing on the things I could actually improve helped to switch the focus of my mind from revenge to becoming something better than I had ever been before. I saw a lot of things I could have been doing better. A lot of bad habits I had picked up by trying to "fit in" with the gameflow.

Now I am at the end of my month and I feel no rush to return to the tables. I am not afraid, or avoidant, but I do not have an insatiable hunger to get out there and stack someone like I had right after all those back to back to back to back... coolers (which my notes did indeed confirm.) I just wanted to get better at the things I had been bad at. I wanted to understand what had been wrong about my previous heuristics.

I am fine with people thinking I am horrible and I just get lucky, I actually prefer it to people thinking I am great at poker, but I need to know as close to the truth of my own game as I can, and I think this experience really helped me gain that perspective.

I hope you enjoyed this and I hope you come back for the next one. Thanks.



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