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Seven Habits of Highly Successful Poker Players

June 20, 2017

In 1989, Stephen R. Covey's influential book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was first published. This best-seller has inspired millions of people to improve their lives. It’s also given birth to a number of similar books on specific topics – including Ashton Cartwright’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Poker Players (2015), which was quickly repackaged as The Habits of Winning Poker Players. Legal problems, perhaps?

Aside from copyright concerns, there’s a problem with many of these self-help books: They talk about personality traits instead of habits. A habit is a specific behaviour that has been repeated to the point where it becomes nearly automatic. That’s the value of a good habit – you don’t have to spend time and mental energy thinking about what to do. With that in mind, here are seven habits shared by many of the world’s most successful poker players. Ingraining these habits might work for you, too.

  1. Setting Goals
    You can’t succeed at anything if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish. Start every month by mapping out your ongoing poker journey the same way you would a long road trip.

  2. Reviewing Sessions
    Before the start of your next poker session, spend time reviewing your previous session to see what good and bad plays you made, and think of some ideas for what to do this time around.

  3. Working On Problem Areas
    Devote one session every week to focus on your weakest areas and practice making them better. Play at lower stakes than usual during these sessions.

  4. Meditating
    This doesn’t have to be as new-age as it sounds. Just spend 20 minutes three times a week paying attention to your breath. Many of the pros do something like this every day for longer periods. It will help you increase your focus at the tables and lower your tilt.

  5. Managing Bankrolls
    Don’t just have a general concept of 20 buy-ins for cash games and 1% of your bankroll for tournaments. Take time at the end of every week to examine your finances and adjust your stakes as required.

  6. Studying Poker
    No matter how good you are at poker, there’s always something new to learn. Watch a training video every week, or every day if you can. Read or re-read a quality book every month.

  7. Studying Opponents Aside from the nuts and bolts of strategy, you need to learn how to read your opponents – and yes, this is still something to work on when you play the anonymous tables at Bodog. Devote another session every week to look for bet-sizing tells; you might be able to pick up some timing tells, too.