All August I've been writing a lot of poker articles geared to newer players covering a large range of subjects. My writing juices have been sapped and my blog hasn't been as regular or inspirational as a result. Sometimes when I address a newer to poker audience, I feel it isn't as appropriate for here. This particular subject does, apply to all level of player, in my opinion.
How many of you start with a plan when you play poker? I don't mean "I want to play some poker and win some money." When you are developing a plan, you need to consider your plan in three time frames; in terms of your immediate hand, in terms of your session, and in terms of your poker career.
Any established winning poker player has realized that having a plan for a hand you play will always lead to better results than not having a plan. You want to raise pre-flop to take control. If you are just calling, you want to do it with position. What flops will you continue on? What scary flops may you put pressure on the pre-flop raiser? What hands are you representing? How do you see your opponent reacting to your various moves. A plan isn't so rigid that you can't adapt during the hand, but you start with a particular strategy in mind and look to execute it.
In any particular session you should also have a plan. How long do you plan to play for? How many tables will you play? Will you stick to your stop loss if you lose? What if you win big early? What is your goal for the session? It may be the same set of goals you usually have, or it might be specific to the time frame or period you have available to play that day.
Equally important is your plan for your poker playing career. At the lowest levels I rarely see players with a plan. If they win a little money, they want to immediately withdraw it. They don't look to have a plan to move up. They don't follow strict bankroll management guidelines. They justify all kinds of gambling because they want to have fun and maybe get lucky.
The natural plan for most serious players is to structure your play so you don't ever have to deposit again. They want to make a certain win rate over a certain number of hands. They want to win X amount of buyins before they move up to the next higher level. It's not that you can't reward yourself with a withdrawal when you do well, but not at the expense of jeopardizing your online roll. No matter if you are serious or not, you can still plan a schedule of times to play, whether it's 2 hours a week or 40.
I was talking to a poker friend today who was raving about the discipline of some CR members he knew. They take their game very seriously. They meet almost every night to go over hand histories online. They plan time for study and review in addition to their heavy play schedules. They support each others passion for the game. If one player has a particularly good result or bad downswing, they help each other stay on their plan, not getting distracted by the emotional swings that poker tries to take you on.
Even the amateur player can greatly benefit from having a plan. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Don't play a game because it's popular or your friends play it, but because you feel competent. Look to take advantage of the edges available; including chasing bonuses, rakeback, freerolls and other such promotions. They can be a big part of your poker plan. The amateur player needs a plan as much as the professional player if they want poker to be profitable and fun. The demands of time and work may be less, but the need for a structured plan is no different. If you won't take your game seriously, how can you expect to have your results follow any particular plan?