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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. 

The Secrets to Success

Evan Jarvis


This fourth lesson from my experience at the Universal Championship of Online Poker (UCOP) is all about maximizing your productivity and results.

The formula for increased output (and quality output) is simple:

schedule + execution = happiness

Before I even sat down to play, I had everything scheduled. And I mean everything…

  • I scheduled when I was going to play
  • I scheduled when I was going to study
  • I scheduled when I was going to exercise
  • I scheduled when I was going to sleep
  • I scheduled when I was going to eat

In fact, I went so far as to plan out exactly what I was going to eat at every single meal throughout the series.

Why bother scheduling?

Simple. I knew all of these activities were extremely important to my output and performance. I also knew that if I didn't schedule many of those activities, they probably wouldn't get done.

We're all guilty of this, even when it comes to our most basic necessities. You know when you've got a really good flow going and you forget to eat for like, the whole day? Well, that's going to affect the quality of your output. But if you'd had a reminder, then you'd make time for nourishing your mind and body.

Because of my experience researching the fields of peak performance and individual development, I fortunately know the core habits I need and the keystone activities I need to put in my schedule to ensure optimal output.

If you don't have experience in this field, then the easiest thing to do to ensure you have the right items on your schedule is to consult with someone who is a little bit older, a little bit wiser; someone who's been through it before can guide you in the right direction. Someone who can point out what things you may have neglected to include on your schedule. You want this real-world understanding and perspective. It's going to pay off.

Thanks to my schedule, I finished every day feeling very accomplished and very satisfied with myself. The reason for this is simple: each day, I did what I set out to do, and I could to it because I'd laid out a plan that helped me every step of the way.

I made sure to include all the things that would make me happy (e.g. eating, exercising, learning more). This sense of achievement built up my self-esteem, which in turn made me more confident and excited about sticking to my plan and reaching those goals.

There's room for flexibility

The point of having a schedule is not to feel controlled or manipulated by it. It’s there to support you and your real life habits, while also ensuring you reach your goals.

This means the schedule is flexible, to a certain point. For example, in the midst of the UCOP, I realized I hadn't called my grandparents in a couple of weeks so I made sure to schedule in some time the next day to drop them a line. But this was a small, enjoyable addition that would not interfere with my goals. I didn't decide I needed to schedule time to go on an all night bender with my university buddies or learn Farsi; the adjustment in scheduling was minor, and did not affect my energy or output.

The Power and Importance of Scheduling: A Real Life Example

Here's a great example of the power of scheduling: for UCOP Event #9, I needed to be up at 8am.

Now, being a poker player, there is usually no way I'm going to be up at 8am. Still, because I had something I had to do - something I wanted to do - and because I'd created a personal contract with myself that this was something I had to do as part of my UCOP challenge, it was easy to get up at 7am, do my exercise, eat, and hit the tables on time, energized, well-fed and ready to perform.

And it was nice, since I actually got rewarded quite handsomely for following through and doing the right thing. I managed to take 2nd place in the UCOP early bird special for about $2000 Euros. I also hit almost 1000 viewers on Twitch, and I think it's because I put out what was probably one of my best streams of all time, if not the best. (You can watch this in the archives of the past broadcasts, if you want to see how it went down.)

No Excuses

Schedules aren't hard to create: you just need to take the time to do them. I guarantee that if you start to work with a schedule, you'll experience massive results. You're doing all the things you need to do; you're not forgetting, putting off or pushing out any of the steps to reaching your goal.

Your schedule is the key to your happiness and productivity. Don't forget this. Creating a schedule that works is a top priority.

Today’s Lesson

With this in mind, for today's exercise, I want you to go back to your comment from UCOP Lesson #2 and see how you could revise your schedule to include all the key habits and activities that will help you perform your best. So, I'm talking about scheduling your rest, your meals, your time with friends, your exercise, your time at the table and your recovery activities.

Again, if you do this, I promise it will be so easy to follow through on your schedule and reach your goals, whatever they may be. It works because reaching your goal is just the last stop on the journey; you have to take care of your entire being on the way there so that it can support you until the end.  

Extra Credit:

Look back on that bad habit you identified in UCOP Lesson #3, and then look at your new schedule and make sure that bad habit is nowhere to be seen in your schedule. Out with the old, in with the new.

Once you've done this, you know what to do: get out there and get stackin'!

Watch the video version...