After playing the Universal Championship of Poker (UCOP), I wanted to take some time to reflect and share with you what I learned from the experience.
Here's one of the most important lessons I took away: Single focus + immersion = results.
It's that simple. If you want to see results, fast, you have to bury yourself in the experience.
Let me break that down for you a little more so you can see what I mean.
For the UCOP, I decided I was going to play poker for 8 days straight. I also decided that when I wasn't playing poker, I was going to study poker, so I could develop my game even when I wasn't at the tables.
This was a powerful approach for me, since not only was I learning the material in theory, but I also had to put it into practice shortly thereafter. It reinforced the material I just learned - material I slowly but surely would have forgotten if I hadn’t put it into practice.
It’s imperative to make information part of your database by actively recalling it time and time again.
Even the things that were a little rusty or difficult became routine since I had to do them every day. Things like setting up my heads-up display, getting my screen organized, taking notes on my opponents, opening the software I planned to use and even working on my Twitch game became second nature because I had to do them all the time. I didn't have to worry about doing all these little things anymore; they were habits. I could then free up my brain power for more creative things, or just new things.
My blind defence was better than it's ever been, my leading game was extremely on-point, as was my re-shoving game. Actually, my re-shoves were better in terms timing and criteria.
My willingness to get in there and just gamble was also more accurate, because I wasn't worried that this was going to be my only game for the week. I was honed in and focused on making the decisions there and then.
You'll also see that my note taking was very accurate and relative to the situations. This was because I was using the theoretical knowledge I was learning and taking it straight to the tables, every single day. I was reinforcing and refining the lessons, over and over.
This immersion tactic is actually what Greg Merson did the year he won Player of the Year. He was playing every day. He was in the zone. It was poker, poker, poker, repetition, repetition, repetition, all the time.
When he showed up to play, decisions were basically second nature, so he had a lot of free energy to play well, play creatively and to make it through the day.
One thing at a time...
The other reason immersion is so effective is because the brain realizes what it needs to focus on, and it only focuses on that one thing. It will only support things that aid in the quest of that one thing. If you try to focus on too many things, it's too much distraction. Something is bound to suffer. Only focus on the information that is going to support that primary focus.
An Exercise in Immersion
Here's one quick way to bolster your game: map out a schedule that involves both playing and studying. If you want to get the best results for this, I strongly suggest you map it down to the hour.
Identify exactly how much time you're going to dedicate to studying, and exactly what you're going to be studying so you don't get bogged down looking through a video library or blog archives trying to figure out what you're going to focus on.
Also identify what type of game you're going to play, how many tables you're going to play and how long you're going to play for. Don't forget to identify how long you're going to spend reviewing your sessions.
If you do this, and you stick to it, I promise you will see crazy improvements happen, super fast. By end of the UCOP, I was playing some of the best poker of my life and I wouldn't have been able to do this without my regimented schedule.
This is the recipe for getting success in anything in life, really: total immersion, total commitment, no excuses.
I'd love to see some of your schedules, so feel free to share them in the comment section of this article.