Here’s some poker-related advice we all can use. Like… right now!
Dr. Patricia Cardner and Gareth “Gazellig” James’ new book Purposeful Practice for Poker focuses on giving poker players advice about the “right sort of practice” they should be pursuing in order to improve their games.
Cardner is well suited for such a task, having two doctorates (including one in psychology), experience as a licensed professional counselor, and having spent plenty of time at the poker tables where she’s earned more than six figures’ worth of cashes in tournaments. Put together with James’ experience as a player and poker coach, the pair do well to present the idea of “purposeful practice,” sharing many techniques and exercises players can do to start improving right away.
The book is divided into two sections — “The Theory” and “The Practice.” The first section on “The Theory” takes a broad approach to poker learning, addressing the importance of having goals and the right mindset when setting about improving your game. “The Practice” then gets into more “nuts-and-bolts” in-game situations such as preflop opening ranges, blind defense, playing from out of position postflop, and short-stacked strategy while also covering ICM and final table strategy (among other topics).
Below find an excerpt from “The Theory” section in which the authors address the problem of procrastination and how it negatively affects poker players’ ability to work on improving their games. As they do elsewhere in the book, the authors don’t just identify the problem, but also offer concrete solutions players can use… and right now!
We’d be remiss if we didn’t briefly touch on the subject of procrastination. This is the single most important bad habit that keeps most people from achieving their long-term goals. The funny thing about procrastination is that everyone seems to struggle with the urge to procrastinate at least some of the time. The first thing you need to know is that you’ll never get rid of the urge to procrastinate, but you don’t need to conquer procrastination completely to be a success. While it’s impossible to completely get rid of the urge to procrastinate, you can learn some strategies to deal with procrastination. If you want to be an effective learner, you want to reduce the number of times you give in to the urge to procrastinate. Nobody’s perfect. Everyone’s going to procrastinate at one time or another, but you just need to recognize when the urge arises and then accept it and defuse from the emotion and thoughts that are derailing you. You can allow those emotions to be present while acting in accordance with your deepest values.
The second thing to know is that the most common reason why we humans procrastinate is because we anticipate a task being painful or boring or frustrating. MRI studies show that thinking about doing tasks you don’t like causes the pain centers of the brain to light up. The very act of thinking about doing math caused math-phobes to feel pain in one MRI study! What’s even more interesting is that once the math-phobes started working on math problems, their pain centers stopped being active. Math no longer hurt! The dread of doing math was way worse than actually doing math. This is good news because it indicates that if we are dreading a task and using procrastination as a strategy to stop the pain, we can remove the pain by just getting started. In fact, this should be your mantra if and when you find yourself procrastinating on anything. Just say to yourself, “if I feel like procrastinating on my learning projects, then I’ll just get started for five minutes.” Most people find that once they get going on something it’s not as bad as they thought it would be and then they go for much longer than five minutes!
You also don’t want to fall for the erroneous thought that a distraction will only take a minute. That is, we often get lulled into thinking that it’ll only take us a minute to check email or make this Facebook post or whatever the case may be, but what happens is that once we go down the rabbit hole it’s hard to stop engaging. We need to be able to observe when this voice in our head starts telling us that this distraction will only take a minute and resist it to make sure we don’t go down that path. A quick text can turn into a half-hour wasted. Realize that nothing ever takes just a minute. Focus on what you need to get done instead. You can always do the texting later. Learn to reward yourself for work done and not the other way around. First you work and then you get a reward; that’s the proper order of operations.
When thinking about procrastination, it’s important to think about our motivation. The motivation equation states that:
Motivation = Expectancy x Value / Impulsivity x Delay
To be optimally motivated, you need to expect that you’re going to be successful at learning this game and you should have a deep reason for doing it. One way to increase the value portion of the equation is to remind yourself that you really value doing well at poker. It’s helpful to have a clear understanding of how getting better at poker is going to improve your life. You must have the confidence to see that if you do the work, you’re going to experience the benefits.
You also have to make sure that your impulsivity is under control, which you can do by turning off all the notifications, all the distractions, and getting really focused when it’s time to study. Now we need to think about the delay portion of the equation. Achieving poker excellence and expertise is a very long-term goal. When there is a long delay between when we put in the work and when we reap its rewards, procrastination is a likely result. To combat this, we need to set up daily goals. You need to take your big vision and cut it down into very small steps. Do something every day towards your goals.
Purposeful Practice for Poker is available to order in paperback, as an e-book, and as an audio book at D&B Poker.
D&B Publishing (using the imprint D&B Poker) was created by Dan Addelman and Byron Jacobs 15 years ago. Since then it has become one of the leading publishers of poker books with titles by Phil Hellmuth, Jonathan Little, Mike Sexton, Chris Moorman, Lance Bradley, Martin Harris and more, all of which are available at D&B Poker.