I’m going to be honest with you right off the bat here. If you’re a poker player – either a professional, or a dedicated amateur – you probably have a time management problem. The reality is that whichever category you’re in, it’s always difficult to decide exactly how much time to dedicate to poker, and how to spend the time you’ve allocated to it. Let’s examine a few ideas that might help you fix flaws in this area.
Identify your biggest challenges
Everyone has their own challenges when it comes to poker. If you’re a professional, your challenge might be that you’re not sure how many days a week you should be working, or how many hours, in order to get in the requisite amount of volume necessary to pay the bills. If you’re an amateur, you might be struggling to find time after work to play poker, or trying to balance poker with raising a family.
Whatever your circumstances, it’s crucial to be honest with yourself about the challenges you’re facing. Many people tread water as best they can for a long time, hoping for a big tournament win or a cash-game upswing to save them from having to address the problem. It should be obvious that this isn’t a winning strategy – you don’t control whether you run good or bad. What you do control is how you handle the circumstances you’re presented with, and identifying your restrictions is the first step towards conquering them.
Find a structure that works for you
Once you’ve identified the lifestyle challenges that may be holding you back, your next step should be to develop a structure for yourself that allows you to move forward from the ‘treading water’ stage. For an example, as an MTT player, one step that made a difference for me early in my career was identifying that my poker session had to be the last thing I scheduled for the day. If I scheduled something for 9pm in the evening, I wouldn’t be able to fit in a full MTT session beforehand without a risk of one-tabling at 8.45pm and making mistakes as a result.
In your case, it could be something completely different – maybe you decide to focus on playing poker only on weekends to avoid playing when you’re tired after work. Maybe you switch from playing in the mornings to the evenings. Maybe you set aside one day per week for working on your game instead of simply grinding out the hours if you feel you’re hitting a wall. Whatever the situation, there’s a choice you can make that will add structure and organization to your life.
Always be optimizing
Finally, once you’ve put together a blueprint for how poker is going to fit into your lifestyle moving forward, it’s important that that blueprint be flexible enough to change and improve with the times. Maybe you decide that you need an extra day off every week to work on a new project, or maybe you find poker isn’t as much fun for you as it used to be and is starting to feel like a chore – maintaining your focus on time management even after you’ve developed a process that works will help you to factor these things into your planning. It’s also crucial to look at little details that can be easily changed to produce a bigger impact – maybe your mental game would be better if you exercised before your session instead of after, for example.
Try to treat time management just the way you would treat your on-the-table decision-making – you wouldn’t be satisfied with playing marginally +EV poker if you knew you could be playing better, so you should never settle for a mediocre time-management process that ‘just about works’ or is ‘more or less acceptable’. Time management is a simple, fundamental thing that forms the bedrock of consistently profitable poker performance, and making good decisions with your time is good practice for making better decisions at the table.