What is fun? I don’t know the answer.
I’ve poked and prodded this question for the past 12 months and it’s a labyrinth. I keep getting lost.
I love going to the cinema, reading and getting embroiled in deep philosophical conversations. But are these things fun? Is fun conjoined with laughter?
Do you need to be laughing to experiencing fun?
I am more confused than ever. And this brings me nicely to the first change that I am going to make in my poker game throughout 2016 and beyond.
1. Have More Fun at The Table
Poker used to be fun. Then it wasn’t.
Thinking back, it was fun because of the characters at the table. The fun came from listening to stories, or telling them.
In my home game each cast member had their little nuance. It belonged to them and them only. Watching these evolve was fun.
It’s different when you compete against strangers. But it doesn’t have to be. All I need to do to have more fun is to …
2. Talk More at the Table
Put me in the midst of a party of people and you can’t shut me up. Put me on a poker table and you can’t get a peep out of me.
I don’t talk at the poker table because I am trying to concentrate. Concentration is necessary if you want to be successful. Balance is also important.
If you have a face like thunder then you aren’t enjoying the game. Get into that funk and it will be tough to turn the tide.
The waves won’t spew the cash onto your shore.
Not only does talking to people create the foundation for fun but you also learn a lot of strategy from your opponents.
Who are they? What are their tendencies? Are they pros? Is this their first game? How important is the buy-in to them?
Which leads me nicely to the next part of my improvement plan …
3. Find the Spots
Watch the top pros play the game. Each of them understands how to find a spot and apply leverage.
I would play my part in the hand and then switch off. I would play, record the hand details on my phone and then read a blog post or some other life-ebbing waste of time.
During 2015 I cut down on this dramatically. I started to pay keen interest to what everyone else was doing when I wasn’t playing.
I am going to build upon this during 2016. I am fortunate enough to have a lot of friends who play poker professionally. I can go through hands with them in minute detail.
Over time it became apparent that I wasn’t paying as much attention to the game as I should have been. My friends would ask me basic questions like player tendency and stack sizes, and I didn’t know the answer.
How can you choose your spots if you don’t understand the underlying trends of your table mates? All of which leads me to my next improvement …
4. Improve Hand Recording
If you love playing poker it’s a cardinal sin not to use the knowledge and experience of some of the game’s best if they are your friends.
I have been very guilty of this for many years but I got better in 2015 and will continue to progress in 2016.
Most of the top pros that I interview credit talking through hands with their peers as being one of the fundamental reasons they got so great at the game.
If it works for the sharks then it will work for the fish like me. You need to record as much information as possible.
I always maintain detailed records on my phone when I play in a hand. You should include blind levels, chip stacks of everyone involved, position and, most importantly, a little history of the personality and previous hand history of some of the players.
It’s why being happy and talking to people at the table is such a fundamentally important point. And that segues nicely into my next major learning point …
5. Slow Down
I do everything at breakneck speed. And I mean everything.
It’s not smart. It causes all sorts of health issues, communication problems and losses in poker.
I was listening to a podcast today. The teacher was talking about the times people ‘um’ and ‘ah’ because they are uncomfortable in the presence of space.
That’s me. And it damages my poker. When it’s my turn to act I feel an incredible amount of pressure to move quickly. I feel people staring at me.
I feel the clock ticking away like I am at some crazy Mad Hatters Tea Party. It’s all nonsense. Nobody is looking at me, but the story I create makes me make my play without taking in all of the information available to me.
It’s not easy to slow down. It’s not easy to be in the moment. This helps …
6. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or tapping, is an excellent way to learn to slow down and check-in with the moment.
It’s a technique that requires the repetition of mantras while tapping certain meridian points on your body with your fingers.
If it sounds wacky, then it is. When you first begin tapping you feel like a Class A idiot. But it works.
If you are brave enough to start tapping at the table then kudos to you. For the rest of us, we need to be able to walk away from the table and take a break when we feel our emotions getting the better of us.
Find a space and tap. I tapped in the steam room today when I found myself feeling anxious about the size of my To Do List. I was ready to stop had someone walked in.
They didn’t. After 30 minutes of tapping away, all of my worries fluttered away with the steam. Had I done this during a difficult period in a poker tournament I would have returned with a renewed focus on the game.
Have more fun at the table. When you’re happy, significant matters such as luck seem to go your way.
Talk to more people at the table. It increases the likelihood for fun and you will learn some strategy along the way.
Keep focused on the game at all times and search for the spots. Make careful notes on the dynamics of the game and the characters that make it tick.
Improve your hand recording. Think about Gus Hansen. He recorded all of his hands during one Aussie Millions run, ended up winning it and used his hand analysis to write a best-selling book.
Slow down. Nobody is looking at you. Nobody cares. It’s important that you make the right play. Take your time.
If you find it difficult to slow down, then practice EFT. Tapping is a great way to remove angst and anxiety and replace it with nothing but air.
Now, there are my primary six poker improvement goals for 2016. What are yours?