“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle
I’ve seen this quote in Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, Instagram pics, NBA commercials, and almost every self-help book I’ve ever read. Yet somehow it still rings true every time I read it. We are what we repeatedly do. That leads to my question. What do you repeatedly do? By that I mean are you at least doing the simple things correctly? I see so many of my students committing unforced errors that, sometimes, I feel like they need a life coach more than a poker coach. You have to do the simple things right. Here is the first question you should ask yourself every morning:
Did I get enough sleep?
There are so many studies that say that adults need at least eight hours of sleep for optimal performance. I think this is especially important when you’re trying to learn the extremely complicated and frustrating game we call poker. You may be fine the first day, week, or month you go without eight hours of sleep but at some point that “sleep pressure” will catch up with you and cause chronic fatigue. I see so many people trying to play 30+ hour sessions on the weekends.
I also see a lot of people trying to play 16 hour sessions, sleep three hours, and come back for another session. How is that productive? Sure, if they’re good they out-earn me in the short-term but there is certainly no way they can maintain that level of intensity. You have to have stability and you have to do the simple things right if you want to last as a poker player. Here’s another thing you should ask yourself:
Did I have the right breakfast?
I’ve experimented with several diets designed to stabilize my energy and concentration levels throughout the day. The one that has by far been the most impactful on my performance is called the “Slow-Carb Diet.” Tim Ferriss, the author of the Four Hour Work Week, The Four Hour Body, and The Four Hour Chef is a huge proponent of this diet. He has tracked the results of thousands of people on this diet and the results are pretty astonishing. You can read more about it at his blog fourhourworkweek.com.
The biggest component of this diet is starting off your day with 30mg of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. I accomplish this by going over to Starbucks and getting a $5 Protein Bistro Box. It includes one cage-free hard boiled egg, some white cheddar cheese, honey peanut butter spread, multigrain muesli bread, apples, and grapes. It’s cheap, quick, and perfect for stabilizing my energy levels at the poker table. You can read more about it here.
After you’re done with that make sure you ask yourself the biggest question of all:
Am I studying enough?
I study poker at least two hours a day. Two hours of poker study per day times 365 days per year equals 730 hours of poker study per year. I’ve been playing poker professionally for four years. 730 hours times four years equals 2,920 hours of poker study. Think about that for a second. People ask me how I’m breaking $60/hour in 2/5NL and $110 in 5/10NL over the last 2,000 hours of live play. It might have something to do with me studying poker more hours a year than most amateurs play per year.
2 hours of study/day * 365 days/year = 730 study hours/year
2,920 hours is a conservative estimate of how many hours I’ve spent studying poker. That’s more hours than most people have played live poker in their lifetimes. Now obviously I realize that you all have families, jobs, and lives outside of poker. But I also want you to realize the level of commitment and consistency that it takes to be an excellent poker player. If it was easy everyone would do it. If you want a win rate like that you have to work for it. You’ve shown a level of commitment by reading this article. Now take that a step further and add some consistency to your poker.
To recap, consistency is far more important than short-term results and achievements. Anyone can have a big day playing cash. Anyone can bink a tournament. Very few people can show up everyday and maintain that level of performance. Consequently, very few people can truly play poker professionally. Many try and many fail because they can’t even do the simple things right. Sleep eight hours a night. Consider the long-term implications of your diet. Actively study to improve your game. Anyone could do those three things on the first attempt with no training. Very few people can do that everyday. Very few people are truly successful at poker. Very few people are excellent. Excellence is not an act. It’s a habit.