Playing Too High

Playing Too High

Poker has afforded me so much, it’s only fair I give something back to the community.

In this mini series I will share the knowledge and skills I have acquired from years of playing, traveling

and talking to the world’s best players. Following each post, I will be offering further advice and answering any questions on the subject.


We’ve all done it and we all know we shouldn’t, so I’ll skip the lecture. Instead, I’ll focus on how to change the behavior.


The purposes of goal setting are plentiful: provide motivation for playing our best, make the game more fun and stimulating, track progress and liberate us from the burden of choice. The lure of a big game is that one can win a lot of money in one session. But if I know that this month I want to play 100 hours and make $10,000 (assuming I expect to earn $100 per hour), suddenly, I am less compelled to take shots to get there. When I have a goal that is motivating and challenging yet attainable, I alter my priorities toward a long term focus.

Instead of over emphasizing the monetary aspect of my goal setting, I assume that I’m going to reach my target. It will not only helps me to stay on course, but also to play with confidence and ease. 

It’s important to constantly revaluate and be fair with my expectations.

Saying I want to earn $500 per table hour is unrealistic if I’m playing $10/$20 No Limit. If it’s too difficult, I’ll be overwhelmed and quit. If it’s too easy, I’ll be likely to jump back into that big game.

I make my objective short term and record each session to track the progress. Never mind if I don’t get it right the first time or am a victim of variance. It will get better.


If someone asks how I am doing in poker, my answer is the same: I am even. The logic is this. Right now there is only the present moment and in this moment, there is no change. Whatever downswing I had or hand I lost is in the past.

How does one interpret the phrase “I’m winning?” Does it refer to today? A week? A year? I can always be up or down. The answer is arbitrary and changes depending on how I define the time frame. Thus, the streaks only exist in my mind.

I know you are doing this correctly when I don’t lament over folding for 10 hours. After all, if I am always even, then each hand is my first hand.
The only time I should take a streak into account, is how my opponents may perceive them.


How do I know if I’m playing within my means?
I want the game to be comfortable enough where I will not think twice about pulling a check-raise bluff on the river, but still sting a little bit if I lose.

If I can’t do this, it means I am playing too big. When I successfully play with indifference I do not root for certain cards to come. Doing so implies favoring an outcome, which could affect decision making.

My job is to process the information and use it to make the best decision possible: not to care about it.

Cheering and wanting to win are different. I can want to win without being emotional. I am free to cheer after the session is over. I am also free to care.

* Please share if you have any other effective strategies that work for you or ways to improve upon mine. I will also be answering all of your questions .


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