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Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2009 - by Randy Barron  

Leak #4 - Lacking Discipline in Hold'em Poker

Leak #4 "lacking discipline" is a weakness in any sport or endeavor. Discipline is the backbone of success in any field and poker is no exception. But in poker, lack of discipline can cost a lot of money in a very short time.

We represent lack of discipline with a picture of a young mother scolding her child, who listens attentively. She is learning discipline. Discipline is normally learnt at childhood and tougher to master when you are an adult.

Importance of Discipline in Poker

If you are dedicated to becoming a winning Texas Hold'em Poker player, discipline should be one of your top priorities, if not the top priority. Whenever you feel like you are lacking discipline at poker, remember the image above to help you regain control.

The reason why discipline is so important is that you will face many tough decisions in poker, and often the best action is to do the opposite of what you want to do naturally. The natural tendency is to call bets to see what happens next. But calling is usually the worse action, as folding or raising are often better plays. Both folding or raising require some courage, while calling is the easiest action.

Courage because the strongest actions can be costly. If one time you see your raise getting called by a bad player who gets lucky by the river taking plenty of your chips, you may not raise the next time a similar situation recurs. Or you may stay longer in a hand because you have been card dead for a while. Or you call big bets because you are starting to get enraged by the table bully who has been betting very aggressively.

Discipline in poker is crucial because there are a lot of temptations not to follow an optimal strategy. The meaning of optimal in poker is a strategy which makes money over a very large number of hands.

In online poker, it is believed that it takes 100,000 hands in order to have a good first approximation of your winning rate. If you play a session of a few hundred hands, the result will have no relation with the expected result because the sample is too small.

Poker Discipline is necessary to combat variance

The vagaries of chance during one session have no bearing on expected value because variance is huge in poker. The difficulty in being disciplined is to have the will power to not let yourself get affected by short-term results, and instead to focus on the long term. Being disciplined it to stick to the game plan whatever happens.

Undisciplined play can come from frustration. One of the secrets of great Hold'em Poker players is that they know how to stand the long periods of drought without a good hand. If you do not get good cards, do not diverge from your usual A-game. If you start playing cards you normally don't, it means your discipline is slipping away.

When you see other poker players at your table make bad moves and win big pot while you had folded the winning hand because of your disciplined play, this is a temptation to question your discipline, if not consciously at least subconsciously.

Tilting is the worse case of losing discipline, but lacking discipline can be a less noticeable and pervasive leak. Lack of discipline is frequent and affects most people to some extent. Absence of discipline is costly or very costly depending on the degree of the leak. If you do not correct it, it will affect your results over and over again.

Being disciplined in poker is easier said than done. Try your best to be cognizant of you own discipline or lack of it. By being self-aware you will notice when you diverge too much from your game plan so that you try to come back to the right course. It is a constant battle, but who said that winning at poker was easy?

If you need to improve your poker discipline, some of the software aids in the market can help you. The first step is to analyze your play and your opponents' play. Poker profiling software such as Poker Edge can be helpful in this respect

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