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Mental Game & Life Strategy

The ability to set goals and the discipline it takes to achieve those goals without letting the rest of your life suffer are two of the most important things you need to master in order to improve as a poker player and begin getting serious about becoming a pro. One of the best parts of playing poker is getting out into the real world, playing in person, meeting new people and going on crazy adventures. This is also the riskiest part of the game because it takes you away from your comfort zone, and leaves you playing without your safety net. The solid footing of any healthy lifestyle depends balance and control, and a thriving poker lifestyle is no exception. Set realistic goals and learn to govern yourself so that you’re always working towards achieving your goals without letting the other, more glamorous things hinder your success. 

Table strategy is great to know, but you'll also need to understand how to manage yourself off the table to maximize your edge - and here’s where things get personal. I invite you to keep up-to date on my life and times as a poker player, and learn from my experiences so that you can learn from my triumphs and avoid my mistakes.  Any pro poker player will tell you your  mind is your most powerful weapon. Sharpen it, nurture it, rest it and give it peace so you can take to the tables - and your life - with killer confidence. 

6 Reasons You're Not Playing to Win

Evan Jarvis

No one ever said poker was easy. From the first time you're dealt into a hand, it's an almost constant uphill battle to not only one-up your competition, but more importantly, to one-up your own performance. Your skills will always need to be honed and sharpened. You will always have to adjust and readjust when, where and how you use them. 

It's tough out there.

This isn't to say you won't experience some peaks as your understanding of the levels of poker deepens. Damn well you will, and you'll have earned them. The thing is, as soon as you summit - as soon as you're above the clouds - you see there's another, taller mountain. And from your vantage, you can see there are other people at its top, and though you aren't sure how to get there from where you stand, you know other people have gotten there, so it’s possible. The question is, is it possible for you?

Well, that depends on how badly you want it. If you want to come out on top, you’re going to have to accept that your ascent is never, ever over. 

This is an overwhelming prospect, especially for players who are new to the game and haven’t found their stride. When it comes to keeping the momentum going, there are a few common issues that keep cropping up in comments sections and in my inbox. These are the issues stopping players from reaching their goals. Or even starting, in some cases. They are at the root of 100% of your problems at the tables. I'm going to address them now, using articles and intel I've shared before. 

No Excuses: 6 Reasons You’re Not Playing to Win

1. It’s Evan’s Fault.

This is one I’ve heard a lot. People – mostly newer players - watch my videos and read my blogs looking for a magic solution; thinking, "Hey, he makes it sound so easy! I'm going to give this a go." And then later to say, "Damn, that Evan dude's a liar. This poker shit is hard."

I get it. I really do. I've been where you are, and since I've been where you are now, and am where I am now, I can say this with certainty: the theories and strategies I present that you were seeing and interpreting as "easy" really are (for the most part) easy in theory. In practice, they're hard as hell. 

What got you going - what got you thinking you wanted a piece of the pie - was not really the ease, though: it was the excitement. It's the passion winning players have for what we do, and it's this passion you have to feed, because it will fuel you no matter how tough things get at the tables.

And you have to feed the passion to maintain the excitement, which won't be at consistent levels no matter how passionate you are about the game. You're human, and that's life. 

There are going to be days where you feel too scared to give up and too exhausted to try again. 

Like I said, I get it. On your journey, there is not and will never be an emotion you have felt that I and hundreds of other pro poker players have not felt as well. Despite what our mothers tell us, we're really not that special - at least when it comes to realm of human emotions. But as my bookshelves, video banks, blogs, hand histories, notebooks and my attendance at conferences will show you, I've put in a hell of a lot of overtime to get where I am. 

It's precisely because I put in all that time that I am in the position to be sitting here, writing this now, telling you how you can improve your game and your life. Now, if you want to take your ball and go home just because you didn't win that game or because I’m giving you some tough love, then by all means, go for it. But if you want to be the Wayne freakin' Rooney of the tables, get your balls back here and keep reading.

2. Life Gets in the Way.

Tell me about it. Between trying to spend time with family and friends, running a pretty substantial business, keeping myself in the game as well as all my students and followers, it often feels impossible. I don't doubt your lives are any less (or even more) insane than mine, and reality does have a way of stomping its oafish feet on our dreams. But it doesn't have to be this way. Your secret weapon against the erratic sway of reality? Planning, my friends. Plan your asses off. (Seriously, read this article.)

3. You Lose Your Way.

Even in the best of times, we can lose focus and forget why we even bother. And when you are trying to juggle the poker/life balance, you seldom find yourself in an ideal situation. It's easy to become overwhelmed. This is why you need to set goals. Small, realistic, accountable, rewardable goals. Set ‘em, and don’t forget ‘em.

4. You Have No Support.

Telling your loved ones you want to pursue a life of poker can often leave you feeling like the proverbial teenager, slamming the bedroom door while screaming, "No one understands me! I didn't ask to be born!" 

You're right on one front, and perhaps partly on two. No, you didn't ask to be born, but alas, here you are. Deal with it and make the best of it. And yes, maybe no one in your current circle understands you, but millions of other people do. Me, for one, and the Gripsed community. The people grinding it out at the local, the players who regularly attend poker tournaments and the ones who go to workshops and conferences. 

If you feel like you're out of the loop despite your best efforts, maybe you're just in the wrong loop. Get support. It's going to be one of your most valuable and most powerful tools, especially when things don’t go as planned, which they will. This is poker, and it’s a game that depends on our ability to make our best assessments based on limited information and, yes, plain, dumb luck. 

5. You're Overzealous.

Hey, I'm all for hard work, but you also have to know when it's time to shut down and recharge. Overdoing it is one of the main reasons a lot of aspiring pros fail: they burn too hard, they burn too fast and then they burn out.  It doesn't have to be this way. By understanding the importance and real, lucrative value of resting and recouping, your performance and ROI will skyrocket. 

6. You Don't Back It Up.

Grinding it out is great, but like an elite athlete needs to supplement their diet, you need to supplement your play. On a physical level, you need to be eating and sleeping properly while also exercising to optimize play. On a mental level, you need to read about poker strategy voraciously, soak up as many quality training videos as you can (like, ahem, this one) and make sure you are really learning from your time at the tables by taking and reviewing notes.  

Listen, we've all made excuses.

It's part of human nature. I just don't want you to let those excuses weigh you down and stop you from fulfilling your dreams. I certainly don't want me to be your excuse: that I didn't tell you what you really needed to know, because, I have. I am. That's why I'm here, and I do it because I love it. I do it because I believe in you can do it do. It all comes down to taking the lessons to heart and knowing that the formula for success is really just knowledge + practice + consistency over time. 

Unlike poor saps like Sisyphus, you won’t have to start again at ground zero even if you lose a hand or bust out of a game. That knowledge – all that planning and practice and studying and resting and eating and exercising and paying no mind to the naysayers and surrounding yourself with people who get you – all that is yours, forever. You’ll never be where you were when you started playing.

In other words, you may not be ahead of the game, but you’re ahead of someone’s game – and this is all it takes to make playing poker profitable.