In previous entries we reviewed Bill Walsh’s experience as a head football coach and how he came to fall into the trap of a negative scoring system as well as how it affected himself and management of the San Francisco 49ers.
We also looked at a couple of poker examples of how failing to maintain our awareness in regards to managing expectations could turn good situations into negative ones.
Our last entry
reviewed looked at a few solutions to the “Zero points” scenario.
For our final blog on this topic, we will look at a couple of our existing tools that can be put to use to either keep us from entering or pull us out this situation:
USING OUR EXISTING TOOLS EFFECTIVELY
Warmup Regiment and Our PHTL:
The first tool to help us continue to play the game that will provide us with the highest overall expectation is our Poker Hand Task list. As discussed in the Tilt Series
here at Leggo, we can use our PHTL during our warmup to provide a clear perspective of the default game that we are looking to play. The PHTL will help heighten our awareness to how we play our A-Game and help us to avoid the situation discussed in our previous post of coming off of a sick session where small suited connectors and one gappers are big paydays for us and we potentially roll into our next session misplaying them.
As discussed in an earlier blog
, I believe that Post-Session Notes are an excellent addition to our cooldown process (for myself it is actually the task that I focus on the most immediately following a session).
As part of our Post-Session Notes process we can review our expectations. How did we feeling going into the session? How do we feel now that the session was over and we have either won or lost? Do our wins make us unrealistically optimistic and unhealthily excited to play the next time? Do our losses make us gun shy and assume that we need to play a more conservative style so that we feel like we are losing less while our bankroll is really dying a slow death?
When we come back later to review our Post-Session Notes, we can determine how realistic or unrealistic our expectations are as well as what is driving them. What is driving them is the key – if they are unrealistic there is an unrealistic interpretation that is driving them. Once we determine this unrealistic interpretation we can work to replace it with a more realistic interpretation and correct the expectation in the process. Even before we swap out our unrealistic interpretation we can heighten our awareness to the unrealistic expectation by updating the PHTL that we review during our warmup and refer back to during our gameplay.
One of the biggest issues with a negative scoring system is that it will begin to take over both our professional as well as our personal lives, and become incredibly difficult to correct once entrenched in our psychological makeup. Therefore, as with most things in life, we are much better offer working to prevent the situation than to correct it.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them here, shoot me a PM, or contact me on Skype.
Previously, we discussed Coach Bill Walsh’s book The Score Takes Care of Itself
relates his experience of falling into the trap of a negative scoring system as well as how it affected himself and management of the San Francisco 49ers. We also took a look at Coach Walsh’s advice for avoiding the “zero points” situation.
In a previous entry we looked at a couple of poker examples of how failing to maintain our awareness in regards to managing expectations could turn good situations into negative ones.
So now that we understand the concept, how it can affect us, and how it can relate to poker we will continue to look at solutions. In this entry we will look at another way, beyond those provided by Walsh, to keep ourselves out of the negative scoring system.
AN ADDITIONAL SOLUTION
Probably the greatest pre-emptive “solution” to any negative scoring system is to generate realistic expectations
. In order to do so we must first consider how and/or where we can gather the information necessary to assist us with this and then apply that information once we have it.
To look at this process in practice, let's consider how we can work to generate realistic expectations in relationship to our example of the sick heater turned downswing:
One of the best ways to manage our expectations in regards to running well is to understand where we could be statistically both from session to session as well as at the end of the day. We can go a long way towards accomplishing this by understanding how “ugly” and “beautiful” variance can really be and how unrealistic our expectations can become if we allow them to go unchecked.
One very simple way to approach this task is to head over to the BBV Forum at 2+2 and look at some of the graphs that people are posting there. See how many people are running ridiculously behind in expectation and realize that these types of swings, while less probable are nowhere near impossible. Also, consider that the variance being shown here can go the other way and that just as someone may have a -45BI expectation, someone else may have a +45BI expectation graph running (though they are probably a lot less likely to show you their All-In Expectation line). Realize that both of these scenarios could be happening to us.
Another, much better but more time consuming way to understand variance would be to really understand probability and statistics. Unfortunately, I am miserable in the poker math area, but there are others who excel at it. We could seek them out for their recommendations as to where one can get a wider knowledge of how poker math really works and the types of deviations that one could both reasonably and unreasonably expect (while I am *meh* at math, I know that the unreasonable expectations happen more often than we would expect – most players never thought that they would run “so bad” multiple times or they never consider our sick upswings to be more than a “little” positive variance coupled with their vast storehouse of superior skill).
We could use the wealth of player information available to us on in our personal database as well as on the internet to see what realistic winrates are at our limits. Rather than looking at big name pros that are probably not playing anywhere near your limits, consider the winrates of players that you play against and whose skills you really respect. Take a healthy sample of the solid players at your limits and look how their lifetime winrates vary. Note well, that as poker is a “more is just enough game” we are not looking to ever allow the winrates that we find to make us complacent with ours, but rather to help us just how epic our 22PTB period is and that it cannot last forever.
When are We Close Enough?
With the exception of really getting into the details of poker math, none of the solutions that I provided are going to be 100% precise. For example, if we use internet data to determine a player's winrate we typically do not get to see their All-In Expectation Line, which means that the winrate could be skewed (either up or down). But, realistically, as long as the samples are large enough we should be able to get "close enough" as long as we look at information for several players. We will most certainly be closer to reality than if we opted to not use the information available to us.
ONE MORE TIME
Our final post on this topic will continue to work us through our poker example and take a look at a couple of tools that we can use to assist us in anticipating and correcting unrealistic expectations, which are a huge root component of a negative scoring system.
In previous blogs we reviewed Bill Walsh’s experience as a head football coach and how he came to fall into the trap of a negative scoring system as well as how it affected himself and management of the San Francisco 49ers.
So what did Coach Walsh believe that he could have done differently to avoid the negative scoring system?
THE BILL WALSH SOLUTIONS
Coach Walsh provides some general advice as to how to avoid “Zero points…” syndrome:
1. Look for small positives within any situation, even a loss.
2. Enjoy winning, but do not allow it to define who we are and how we think of ourselves (keep in mind from a poker perspective that we need to be mindful of all emotions, both good and bad).
3. We cannot isolate ourselves from others.
For item 3, Coach Walsh believes that maintaining healthy relationships both on a personal and professional level are keys to success. He advocates heavy delegation in order to involve others in the enjoyment of success and managing the failures (note, this is not spreading blame, but rather everyone banding together in the face of adversity to work on the process and win the next time). From a poker standpoint we are not really in a situation to “delegate” our responsibilities, but what we can do is form peer relationships with others that allow us to share thoughts, concepts, and ideas related to poker: how we play hands, how we view ourselves as players, accepting our accomplishments properly, dealing with downswings, etc.. Using the collective knowledge of our group we can sample different perspectives which will hopefully result in more varied input and ideas to help us with both managing our expectations as well as our overall game.
In our next post we will look at another solution not mentioned in Walsh's text. We will also look at this solution can be applied, by continuing on with our first poker example.
In our previous posts we reviewed Bill Walsh’s experience as a head football coach and how he came to fall into the trap of a negative scoring system as well as how it affected himself and management of the San Francisco 49ers.
Now we are going to work on correlating this to poker to see how it could affect us.
RELATING THE NEGATIVE SCORING SYSTEM TO POKER
Any time that we find ourselves in a situation where our expectations are wholly unrealistic, we are potentially entering into or have entrenched ourselves into the negative scoring system that Coach Walsh discussed.
While I believe that as we progress as poker players we are able to limit or even eliminate results oriented thinking on a small timeframe (i.e., a single hand or maybe even a session), we will still allow some form of results oriented thinking to enter our overall outlook on our game. This is understandable, because if we book a million hands and find ourselves to be break even then we do have to admit something is wrong, so ignoring results is not optimal. Where we can run into an issue with this is if we review our results but fail to manage our expectations.
EXAMPLE #1 - HEATER GONE HORRIBLY WRONG
An example that some of us may have experienced and one that parallels the Bill Walsh negative scoring system (albeit on a much smaller scale), would be a situation in which short term results timed (im)properly skew our expectations.
Say that we start the month off on an unbelievable heater and run at some insane winrate for an extended (e.g., two week) period of time – any winrate will do, but we can choose 22PTBB/100 for our example. Poker is easy at this point, we have figured it out, we are soulreading everyone, etc.. The positive results are great, it is when we fail to manage our expectations and they become overinflated due to our newfound success that our issues begin. We post our sick winrate on the forums as an early brag, we joke about how our winrate is sustainable, and we may even go so far as to extrapolate our winnings out to the end of the month or perhaps just think of how sick our month will be if we finish with the winnings that we have. Assuming that variance is really smiling upon us at this point, there is a high likelihood that we have nowhere to go but down, due to the simple fact that even variance that is still moderately in our favor will not allow us to maintain our 22PTBB winrate. Before we know it that magical 22PTBB is floating down around 20’ish…we think that if we can just stay at 20PTBB for the month how sick that will be, so we adjust our game to play a more conservative style and bleed our way below 20PTBB. Once we dip below 20PTBB, we now start to press to push ourselves back over that magical landmark we have set and bleed a bit more profusely this time and find ourselves down around 17PTBB. Our “pressing” moves into a “meltdown” and we end up donking off too many BI in a less than optimal state and finish the month with a winrate of 12PTBB/100, but more importantly we are actually depressed at what most would consider to be excellent results and in the midst of putting ourselves into a full blown downswing possibly doubting our ability and future as a poker player.
The example that I have given above use somewhat arbitrary numbers (they are actually taken from results that I experienced early in my career). Our “sick” winrate could be 33PTBB, or 12PTBB, or 6PTBB and the duration could be a week, two weeks, two months. The exact numbers are not totally relevant (though understanding our limitations and realizing what we consider a “sick” winrate is a good thing). What is relevant is that we have to maintain our awareness in regards to the management of expectations.
EXAMPLE #2 - SESSION TO SESSION
Example #1 is a fairly drastic scenario in which our expectations become horribly skewed. There are other, less drastic examples that we could look at that are more likely to occur to us and while they will most likely not have as much of a negative effect on our game and our results they can chip away at our winrate.
Consider how we enter into a session immediately following a winning session. If we ran amazingly well, hitting flops and getting paid with crazy hands like small suited connectors and one gappers, are we going to continue to play those properly (i.e., in position against opponents that pay off with marginal hands) or do we start to open them earlier and start calling 3-bets oop against opponents that will not payoff if we wake up with a monster? If we begin to "misplay" our suited connectors/one-gappers based upon the results of our previous session it will have an adverse effect on our winrate. This adverse effect is caused by our unrealistic expectation of the performance of these types of hands.
Our next post will take a look at ways to help with maintaining our expectations and avoiding “Zero points…” situations.
In our previous post we looked at the material provided in The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh, specifically the concept of the “Zero points for winning…” or negative scoring systems as well as Coach Walsh’s progression.
In this entry we will take a look at just how powerful the effects of the whole situation were.
HOW BAD DID IT GET?
Just how powerful was the issue of the negative scoring system for those associated with the 49ers? In the text, Coach Walsh states that his change on perspective of what provided his sense of accomplishment cut 4-5 years off of his career as head coach. It also caused management to become completely irrational in regards to their expectations.
From a personal standpoint Coach Walsh had begun to allow victory to determine his self worth. He had attached his own self image to whether or not the team won and any mistake that a player made became his mistake. If a pass was dropped, he felt as is he had dropped it. If a quarterback threw and interception, he felt as if he had thrown it. Football for him went from being “…enjoyable to unenjoyable to unendurable…”. The worst part for him was that it crept in and began to damage his personal life as he made choices that he states he later regretted. Ultimately, the real pain came from the fact that knowing even if he achieved the ultimate goal (winning a Super Bowl) he knew that failure would occur sometime in his future and he would feel miserable about himself as both a coach and a person. So even reaching the "pinnacle" was not good enough.
Coach Walsh also states that the feeling of hopelessness was not unique to himself. As an analyst he saw the same looks of desperation in the eyes of countless other head coaches.
In regards to management, he writes about how his relationship with Eddie DeBartolo changed over time. As with Walsh’s perspective, in the beginning, DeBartolo accepted any type of improvement as a “win”. Once the teams record improved, Mr. DeBartolo stepped up and paying big money for great players and also treated those players very well. Over time as the team achieved greater success DeBartolo’s perspective changed in ways similar to how Walsh’s had. He became “distraught” or “enraged” if they didn’t win the Super Bowl – even making the playoffs was not enough.
In Walsh’s opinion, part of DeBartolo’s anguish was driven by the fact he felt helpless when they lost. So DeBartolo (who had no football background at all) began to micromanage Walsh (a 3 time Super Bowl winner as a coach with a lifetime 92-59-1 record in the NFL). Walsh says that the micromanagement started as providing advice at first, but ultimately degenerated into the questioning of his decisions as well as belittling of Walsh, despite the fact that DeBartolo had limited knowledge of the game.
As evidence to managements need for a Super Bowl every year, Walsh points out that his successor, George Seifert, was fired 2 years after a Super Bowl win with a lifetime head coaching record of 98-30-1, which was the highest winning percentage of any coach up to that time.
In our next post we will take a look at a couple of examples of how the negative scoring system can relate to poker.
If I am lucky enough, on the weekends I will eventually find myself at the local Border’s where I sample various books trying to figure out what to commit to read next. It is inevitable that of the selections I read, I will draw correlations to poker.
Last weekend I read through parts of former San Francisco 49er and Stanford University Head Coach Bill Walsh’s The Score Takes Care of Itself
. It is a business leadership book and for the most part contains the information one would expect to find in a leadership book, with anecdotes taken from his coaching days to provide the examples that tie the material together. There was one subsection of a chapter called “Zero Points for Winning…Means You’re Losing” that discussed Walsh's personal experience with something I call a "negative scoring system".
In the text Coach Walsh talks about how when operating at the top end of the competitive scale many people, in many different walks of life, cope with the fact that losing causes some pain or anguish. He goes on to state that the fear of failure is a distinct part of the competitive nature due to the pain that is caused by loss, but we must work to control this fear of failure. The real danger is that the desire to succeed, when misshapen, has the potential to psychologically cripple us as our flawed expectations push us into a situation in which we give ourselves “Zero Points for winning…[and] minus points for losing.”. At this point we have entered a negative scoring system - a mental state where our expectations cause us to acknowledge failures and ignore success.
WALSH’S PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
When he started out with the 49ers Walsh took great pride in any improvement that he could make to the team as a whole as well as individual players. His satisfaction and sense of accomplishment were closer to being more process driven and less results oriented. Over time, the process got away from Coach Walsh and he found himself in a spot where even winning week to week wasn’t enough. The progression of Walsh’s situation went like this (taken from the text):
1. In the beginning teaching players to execute and perform at higher levels provided satisfaction and gratification. This success was reinforced by increased stats (more yards/carry, fewer turnovers, etc.), but winning was not an issue; good play and execution were enough to provide the feelings of accomplishment.
2. Later, good play and execution were satisfying as long as they were accompanied by a win.
3. Finally, good play and execution even if accompanied by a win resulted in only temporary relief from the fear of pain (loss).
At this point, Walsh stated that he was giving himself “zero points for winning”. Even if he won this week, next week was another opportunity to lose. He had become entrenched in a negative scoring system.
Over the next few blog entries we will take a closer look at how the negative scoring system impacted Coach Walsh and those around him. We will also use what we learn from Walsh's observations to look at a couple of poker examples as well as ways to keep ourselves from engaging in negative scoring systems.
For both myself and my clients, I recommend writing out a brief list of Post-Session Notes as part of our cooldown process. The intent of these notes is to help journalize any specific thoughts and/or feelings that came up during the session that was just played. The Post-Session Notes will help us to improve more quickly as well as heighten our awareness to areas of our game that may normally not get a significant amount of attention.
WHAT TO INCLUDE
From a technical game standpoint we can do a brief review of our hand histories to look for any spots that may have us wondering if we made the right play. We can then note (I use the MARK feature in HEM) the hands in question, while putting any specific thoughts that we may have about the hand in our Post-Session notes so they are available when we do our more detailed hand history review (Note: I am not a huge fan of performing detailed hand history reviews immediately following our sessions for a few reasons, the two most important of which are the fact that we are more likely to drive ourselves to a state of inefficiency through fatigue and we may be more likely to justify marginal results for hands that we just played based upon our current mindset).
We can also consider any general thoughts on our play as well as the nature of the games that we have just played in. Sometimes when we write out these thoughts we can begin to see common threads and help steer ourselves back on course if we are beginning to stray.
A personal example that I have experienced multiple times is having 2-3 sessions fairly close together in which I feel that there is very little action. This will prompt me to take a closer look at my aggression (both preflop and postflop). Usually, what I find is that my preflop game is running standard and that my postflop aggression is tailing off a bit – sometimes this is due to being card dead, sometimes it is due to being slightly fatigued (lack of sleep recently) or distracted with rl isuees, and sometimes I could allow a session in which I was card dead and got floated a ton to spill over into subsequent sessions. Once I have heightened my awareness to this issue I can delve a little deeper to determine and correct the cause. Now obviously a slight tailing off of aggression over a couple of sessions is not a huge issue, but I like to look for these types of lapses in my game for a couple of reasons. First, I am always looking for any way to add another 0.1 to my winrate and second, I want to catch weak-tight play (which is in essence tight passive tilt) before it causes me to drift into some other more damaging form of tilt (frustration being the most likely next step).
From a mental game standpoint we should have listed out any of our physical, mental, and emotional “symptoms” that we may have exhibited while we were in the session. We can still use our Post-Session notes as a spot to air out any concerns that we may have in regards to issues such as approaching tilt, tilt control, session lengths/hand volume, balance checking, performance in relationship to our PHTL, etc..
Using the information that we come up with in our Post-Session Notes, we can work on providing ourlselves with action items as the need presents itself. Sometimes we will not have any, but in line with my personal example above, I will add a line item of “Check preflop and postflop aggression for last (3) sessions” to my personal to do list. Some of these action items we will clear up right away and sometimes we will start to dig into the issue a bit further and find that it is going to take a bit longer or we need input from another source (peers or coaches). It is always okay to come back to an item later. It really is case specific.
WHAT NOT TO INCLUDE (AND HOW TO CHANGE IT TO MAKE IT “INCLUDABLE”)
With any type of journalizing I recommend that we avoid defeatist language and less than factual assessments. For example:
This sucks, I just couldn’t win
…is pretty bad, as is…
The games on FTP are so nitty, I am changing to another poker site.
Instead, we should be looking to quantify statements such as these or at the very least spin them slightly so that your notes are not all doom & gloom and preparing to put you in a less than stellar mood when you come back to them later. Changing how we write these two statements can help to keep us from spiraling into a negative mindset when we review our notes:
Tonight I seemed to run into a significant number of nut and near nut hands.
ACTION ITEM – Review losses greater than 20BB to determine percentage of hands at which we ran into top of villains range.
Overall villains on FTP seem to play a tighter style than other sites I have played on.
ACTION ITEM: Review table stats for recent FTP sessions to see how tight villains are playing on average. How can we adjust to beat these games? Are there better games elsewhere?
We may find that FTP (or whichever site) does not offer us the highest expectation and we may change sites. We may find ways to tweak our game in order to beat the games on the site that is giving us troubles. We may find that we are playing at the wrong time because on the weekdays the site is a quarry and on the weekends the site is a pond. The steps of journalizing and analyzing are meant to help us come to these types of conclusions more quickly.
|THE PRACTICING MIND
Recently I was able to squeeze out a bit of free time and get through The Practicing Mind: Bringing Discipline and Focus Into Your Life
by Thomas Sterner. The main theme of the book is to provide theory and exercises to assist us with becoming more process oriented and less product oriented.
Overall this was an exceptional book that does a solid job of walking us through how to improve in relationship to becoming and staying process oriented. I believe that we as poker players do a better job than non-poker players of staying process oriented on the short term (e.g., not being resulted oriented for single hands), but we tend to fall into the same traps as the rest of the world when it comes to our processes for learning, improvement, and long term progress. So based upon this, I believe that it would be a beneficial read for most.
The key element to Sterner's methods is remaining in the present moment, rather than dwelling on that which has already happened (past mindedness) or futilely pursuing some unrealistic image of perfection (future mindedness). He uses consistent logic coupled with a few examples to get his points across. The book is extremely short with little to no filler; it is structured very well and flows through the idea of process to theory of being process oriented to exercises to assist us with becoming more process oriented and finishes with a nice summary of all of the content in a single chapter (this chapter can be read for an easy review of the material).
There are a couple of minor issues with the text:
Due to the subject matter there is no real scientific data to back up a lot of Sterner's conclusions. This is to be understood and really cannot be pointed to as a "flaw" or "fault", but we do need to analyze what the author is telling us and really think critically about whether or not we believe it to be true. As an example, Sterner mentions in a couple of different chapters the fact that when we look back on our lives we do not think about the things that we have, but rather the hard work that it took to achieve them. The issue that I have with this line of thinking is that it is not a universal truth. A personal example would be that I have a very nice home that my family and I enjoy very much. We are able to live in this home due to the many successful projects that I worked on in my day job. However, when my kids are swimming in the pool I think "I am enjoying my family enjoying our home" and not "I remember all of those wonderful projects that I worked on in order to be able to afford this house."
About the only other minor issue is a chapter Sterner included on teaching children to be process oriented and how it will help us. I think that this concept is great, but a chapter is far too little space to devote to such a topic and the content would not have suffered had it been left out. If he really wanted to push this idea, he would have been better off discussing the idea of mentoring directly and not just limiting it to children.
But the above issues are of little significance in relationship to the rest of the material and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking to improve how they practice/learn and has time to read 100'ish pages.
I will most likely highlight some of the areas of discussion from this text in future blogs (giving credit to the author of course) as I believe that they can assist greatly with our overall development as poker players.
TILT - EPISODE 6 UPDATE
It was pointed out that I was remiss in providing an update on Ep 6 in my last post. I apologize for this and thank both of you that are reading for shooting me PM's.
Ep 6 is coming along well. The content is complete and I have started storyboarding the slides. We are probably looking at another week or so before it is recorded, rendered and shipped to Vitas barring any non-poker impacts.
|PROGRESS AS THE MOTIVATOR
A multi-year study by Harvard Business School
showed that the top motivator of performance in employees is progress. This is really interesting given that in a survey of (600) managers, also conducted as part of the study, ranked “progress” as the least likely motivator of performance, while things like recognition, incentives, clear goals, interpersonal support all ranked higher.
The study goes on to state that workers’ emotions were most positive and the drive to succeed was at its peak when they felt that they made headway on a project or received support to overcame obstacles. In contradiction, days when employees felt like they were spinning their wheels their moods and motivation were at their lowest.
HOW CAN THIS HELP US WITH POKER?
If we can make the basic assumption that the idea of progress as a motivator is universal, then we should experience the same increased motivation when we make progress in relationship to our game as well as the same hit to our motivation when progress slows down. Moving forward with this theory, we can come up with ideas to make ourselves better students of the game.
Tracking our Progress
In order to realize the benefit to our motivation, we need to realize our progress. How this is accomplished will vary from person to person. For some of us, having detailed daily to do lists that we can check off when items are complete will help us to realize the progress. For others, journalizing what we accomplished that day will help us to consider what progress we have really made that day, rather than just getting things done and then not realizing how much we really accomplished (the journal also has the added benefit of reflecting on the day’s tasks, which goes to further solidify their importance in our mind).
Something that we do not want to lose site of when reviewing our progress is that we do not want to use results to measure our progress. Of course we already know this, but sometimes it is easily forgotten that variance and fluctuations make results an even worse measurement of progress than they are in the business world.
Knowing is Half the Battle
Another way that the concept of progress can help us is in heightening our awareness to the fact that if we do string together a series of losing sessions and we feel our motivation start to drift a bit (especially as our peers are telling us to “take time off from playing and review your sessions” - the last thing we want to do when we are stuck, right?) that the reason for this may be our lack of progress actually killing our motivation. For some of us, understanding what is causing an issue is a huge first step towards our solution.
Also, tying this in with the information from our Tilt Series
, we can use the understanding of lack of progress and how much it affects us personally as a de-motivator to help us formulate triggers and/or contributors to various forms of tilt (most likely meltdowns and frustration).
Finally, if we happen to be experiencing a stretch where our motivation is lacking, the we could consider throwing in some tasks from our master to do list that can be accomplished relatively quickly and easily to see if this jumpstarts us. It should go without saying that we do not want to go crazy with this concept and find ourselves completing easy tasks for weeks on end, only to come to the end of the month and find that we booked 100 hands. Another way to spur motivation in the face of significant commitments would be to take larger tasks and break them down into smaller steps, at least temporarily, to help us realize more progress.
Sorry all, I had accidentally saved this as a draft rather than posting it, so I have corrected this.
Also, it was brought to my attention that the article linked is just the first few paragraphs unless you have an online subscription to Harvard Business Review (apparently I am not smarter than my cookies). If you want to read the full article, you can find it in this month's issue of HBR, which is carried by the larger bookstores.
With the coming of the New Year a significant number of us will be creating our annual goals, so following is a refresher on how to develop, evaluate, and implement our goals. I hope that the following helps with this process.
THE KEY TO DEVELOPING OUR GOALS
We all have some ultimate goal or reason that we are playing poker. In reality, every goal that we have should, in one way or another, be directing us to this goal. So it is incredibly important that we clearly understand what that ultimate goal is. Using this as our guide, we can then develop all of our lesser goals.
As discussed early last year, one of the elements that will lead to our success in any undertaking is to “Begin with the End in Mind”
. We need to use this concept to develop all of our poker related goals, from our ultimate goal, to the major goals that lead up to that ultimate goal, to our minor goals that feed into our major goals, to our sub goals that feed into our minor goals, etc etc.
Once we have created our goals, then we need to evaluate them to ensure that they are fall within the framework of beneficial goals…
HOW TO EVALUATE OUR GOALS
We need to work to ensure that our goals follow a set of criteria that help us rather than hinder us. Goals that help us will do so by using clarity, forethought, and inherent challenge in order to maximize our personal growth. Goals will hinder us if certain negative factors exist that lead to goal and potentially performance frustration; examples of these negative factors would be ambiguity, unattainability, goals that are too easy to achieve, or goals that misdirect us (do not lead towards a larger goal).
In previous blogs I provided the criteria that I typically use when evaluating goals
as well as a brief example of goal evaluation using these criteria
. I use these (3) criteria extensively for the evaluation of goals that I set as well as goals set by my clients (in the case of poker) or subordinates (in the case of my day job):
1. How well is the goal defined?
2. How much will our goal challenge us and how realistic is the goal?
3. How does meeting this goal get us closer to our larger goals/ultimate goal in this endeavor?
Something to remember when evaluating our goals is that variance will typically preclude short term monetary or results based goals from being realistic!
CATEGORIZING AND PRIORITIZING OUR GOALS
Once we have evaluated a goal or set of goals it can be helpful to categorize them. This step will help us with developing our Action Plan (in the next step) and also with reviewing all of our goals as a whole.
As a poker player we need proficiency in three basic areas: our technical game, our mental/psychological game, and our money management. Using an analogy borrowed from trading, we can view our overall success as a three legged stool
. If one of the legs is too short then the stool topples over. Ideally we will maintain our balance by focusing on all three areas as we move forward in our poker career.
By categorizing our goals as “Technical Game”, “Mental Game”, and “Money Management” we will have a clear understanding of which leg of the stool we are working on.
Ideally, we will be able to always be working on all of our goals, but in reality there are so many hours in a day and we will usually have to put certain goals on hold. Goal prioritization is a simple process and really comes down to which goal we think will be most helpful in helping us attain our ultimate goal. So if we happen to be going through a serious stretch in which various forms of Tilt are impacting our game then we are better off choosing the goal to "read The Poker Mindset" before the goal of "reading related threads from the 2p2 Anthology to better understand floating".
After we have developed a goal and determined it to be valid through the evaluation process, we will want to come up with the Action Plan that will allow us to accomplish this goal.
Action Plan example #1 -
An easy example would be a goal of “Play 120,000 hands in 2010”. This obviously averages out to 10,000 hands per month, but we need to take into consideration any months that we may be taking off or playing less due to personal commitments. For instance, let’s say that we will be taking off June and July for the WSOP and we usually visit relatives in BFE for Christmas. If this is the case, then we need to factor that in and structure our monthly targets accordingly. So while our previous Action Plan may have been “Play 10k hands/month” our new plan will be something like this:
1. Play 13k hands January through May
2. Play 12k hands August through November
3. Play 7 k hands in December
Action Plan example #2 -
A slightly more complex example would be determining the Action Plan for moving up in limits. If we are currently bankrolled for 30BI at 200NL and want to be rolled for 30BI at 400NL by year's end then we need to determine how many hands that we would need to play at a given winrate in order to hit our goal. If for example we see ourselves as a slight winner at 200NL (say 2BB/100) then we will need to play approximately 150,000 hands.
One last point, we want to be sure to compare our Action Plans to confirm that they do in fact make sense with those in place for other goals. For example, if the goals associated with AP#1 and AP#2 above are both active then we have an issue as we are not putting in enough hands to move up from 200NL to 400NL.
Once we have developed and evaluated our goals, we need to record them. The easiest way to do this is to type them into a spreadsheet format. A standard header for our spreadsheet may look like this:
The beauty of entering our goals in a spreadsheet format is that we can add specific fields to better help us with tracking of the goals if we want to do so later on down the line. A free spreadsheet app, such as the one found at google docs
works well for this.
The importance of writing our goals out is that it provides us opportunity for the following:
1. We can evaluate all of our goals together to ensure that they are not repetitive or contradictory.
2. We can evaluate all of our goals together to see if there are just too many. In the event that we do have too many, we can put certain goals “on hold” and wait until the next cycle (year, half-year, month, week) to activate them.
3. We are able to easily evaluate how many of our goals are emphasizing any particular area of proficiency (technical game, mental game, money management). If we are not developing one area of proficiency enough then we can shift our prioritization of goals around to make sure that we are taking a more balance approach.
4. We are able to more easily evaluate our progress and re-evaluate our goals as the information is consolidated into one location.
EVALUATE PROGRESS AND RE-EVALUATE GOALS
So as we move forward in the process,...