Not long ago, I wrote a couple of columns about strengths and weaknesses in limit hold’em and pot-limit Omaha, my favorite games. I discussed 24 vices one may have, and gave an indication of the seriousness of each vice for the games mentioned. A while later, I basically combined these columns for a seminar, which was called Strengths and Weaknesses in Poker. Once again, I discussed 24 aspects of poker (like discipline, starting-hand selection, reading hands, playing the players, tilt, and table selection), and gave an indication of their relative importance in most games.
After rereading the columns and the text of the seminar, I concluded that I had left out one very important aspect of poker: focus. A lot of people I see play a pretty good game of poker. They are fairly disciplined, know all the odds and percentages, don’t go on tilt very often, pay attention to things like table, game, and seat selection, have their starting-hand selection in order, and know how to adjust to specific players and/or circumstances. However, they still seem to perform significantly worse than people who are less proficient in some of these areas. The reason is a lack of focus. Just as tennis players like Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt, and in the past Michael Chang have been able to outperform better and more talented players on a regular basis (because of their unwillingness to give up and their ability to focus 100 percent on giving it their all), so do poker players with lots of heart, intensity, and the ability to concentrate totally on the task at hand outperform other — in theory, equally skilled — opponents. (The “task at hand” is always playing your best possible game, in order to maximize your long-term results.)
What exactly is focus? I would define focus as a combination of concentration and the ability to perform under all circumstances, regardless of the possible distractions and negative influences around you. It is not an easy thing to acquire, though. Most people would claim, “You either have focus or you don’t,” which is also the way they’d view things like heart, courage, and true desire to win. For the most part, they are right: It is not easy to “learn” how to become more focused. Also, if you confront people who play a pretty good game but still can’t get the results one would expect and argue that their lack of focus might be the cause of it, they will probably dismiss your suggestion as nonsense, claiming things like, “Don’t worry, I’ve got as much focus as anyone else,” or, “Tell me, smart guy, who has ever won a pot with focus, anyway.” But the fact is that a player’s ability to focus can have a huge impact on his overall results — even though it seems to be a somewhat intangible factor.
I have a poker online friend who is a pretty good poker player. While he thinks he is a very good player, I would say that he’s apretty good player — but there’s no question he can play. He plays as often as I do (which is often), and he seems to be as knowledgeable and talented as I am; in fact, I would argue that he might be evenmore talented. Yet, he performs significantly worse than I do, and in my opinion, his lack of focus is the number one reason.
When I’m in a game, I watch every hand; I look at each and every player’s moves, habits, and tendencies. If for some reason I miss a few hands, I always want to know who won during my absence, who lost and how they lost, who got lucky, and so on. I want to know every single thing that may influence a player’s mood, seemingly unimportant things that may nonetheless bother someone. Then, I try to combine this knowledge of some of my opponents’ habits with my own high level of concentration in order to play my best possible game at all times.
Now, while I’m doing all of these things, my friend is reading a magazine, talking to his neighbor, making phone calls, and just not paying any attention to the developments at the table — for the simple reason that he is not involved in them. And then when he finally finds a playable hand or a situation that seems to be profitable, he doesn’t know which opponents may be mad, hot, stuck, or on tilt, and is therefore unaware of which players may be vulnerable. Therefore, he almost certainly isn’t able to make the best possible decisions.
Some Final Words
Make sure this won’t happen to you. Try to focus on the game at all times and stay alert for every development that may occur, for each and every little thing may influence the game later. If you can do this, and are able to combine it with a true desire to win and an unwillingness to ever give up, no matter how badly things may seem to be going, you will have a big edge over your opponents — simply because of your better mental state of mind. spades
Poker and the Law
Regulation is the largest issue within the global online poker industry — and all eyes are on the United States
The United States is a paradox when it comes to online poker. Estimates put the US share of the world’s online poker market as high as nearly 80%. Yet this is the only market that allows the $2 billion online poker industry to operate in an unregulated environment. Without regulation, it is difficult to manage issues such as underage gambling, excessive gambling, fraud, collusion, and money laundering.
The United States is moving in a direction completely opposite to the rest of the world when it comes to online poker. Rather than accept the fact that online poker is here to stay and demand safeguards to prevent underage gambling, overspending by players, and collusion during poker games, as regulators in other countries have done, the US is trying to prohibit this thriving industry.
The United States government cites three laws when explaining why online poker is illegal in the US: the Wire Act, the Travel Act, and the Anti-Gambling Act. However, upon careful analysis, according to top legal experts, their arguments just don’t add up.
Since 1995, when the first online casino began operating, there has not been one single judicial ruling that online poker playing violates any federal law. Quite the contrary, the only judicial ruling available, a November, 2002 ruling by the 5th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals, clearly holds that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting, not poker.