The greatest poker player that ever lived recently passed away at the age of 56.
David "Chip" Reese wasn't the most famous name in poker, but he certainly was the consummate poker pro. More than any player in the world, he understood the importance of balance and consistency in his life. To Chip's everlasting credit, he always put his family first.
Now, there's no such thing as a perfect poker player, but Chip came about as close as you'll ever get. Friends told moving stories about him at his funeral. There was one particular story that really stood out to me.
It seems that Chip was frequently asked the question, "How can you play in the toughest games, against the best players in the world, and still win on a regular basis?"
Chip answered that when those other guys played their best games, they were fantastic. In fact, at their best, their A-games might have been better than his.
But, as Chip said, "My worst game just isn't much different than my best, and that's where I get my edge."
Think about that for a moment. There's a lot of wisdom in those words, because at the poker table, you're only as good as you are on your worst days.
It's all about consistency.
No surprise, poker players tend to perform at extremely high levels when things are going well. Many of those same players, though, lose their cool and go on tilt when the cards suddenly turn against them. It's a phenomenon that's left too many talented players in the poorhouse.
It's simply not good enough to play your best some of the time. You have to bring consistency to your game, just like Chip Reese did, day in and day out.
The first step to building poker consistency is to recognize what causes your game to suffer performance swings from high to low. Then, do something about it!
That takes introspection on your part. It means learning what makes you tick and having the discipline to make the right decisions in regards to your playing style and bankroll.
Study your poker sessions and look for any troubling patterns. Even though you might think you play just as well when you're losing, chances are you're not.
Figure out what situations most adversely affect your game.
For many players, bad beats will send them reeling from their best game to their worst. Streaks of bad luck can cause players to get emotionally involved. They start chasing their money and then find themselves in full-scale tilt mode.
You can't let that happen. Don't ignore what you know to be fundamental poker and make incorrect plays in an attempt to quickly get back to even.
Too much time at the table can also destroy an otherwise solid poker game.
Chip could play 24-hour sessions at the felt without his game faltering. That ability is rare, almost superhuman. Don't expect that type of endurance from yourself.
Instead, vary the length of your sessions and monitor your performance over time. Don't be afraid to quit when you feel your game beginning to tank, and consider putting a loss limit on your session to protect yourself when it does. Extend your playing time only when you're winning.
The one element that best demonstrates successful long-term performance is consistency in results. No one knew that better than Chip. So, keep track of your poker wins and losses. If your average loss is greater than your average win, you've got some work to do.