Jamie Burland: my poker goals for 2014

With a new year comes a renewed focus as Jamie Burland sets out his poker goals for 2014 while learning a thing or two from online hero Toby Lewis

The beginning of the year is a great time for reflection, resolution and self-improvement. It’s important to be realistic when setting goals for yourself, as setting the bar too high can affect your motivation in a negative way. When coming up with your list of poker goals for 2014, I think it’s far more valuable to identify areas of weakness in your game and work on improving them systematically rather than setting yourself monetary targets. For example, ‘I am going to spend 30 minutes reviewing my previous session before playing today’ would be a far better poker goal than ‘I am going to win $1,000 per month in 2014’. The reason being is that one of these things is well within your control and the other, I’m sorry to tell you, just isn’t. Take a moment to reflect on how badly you will be playing in the last few days of the month if you’re breaking even or even losing when trying to reach this arbitrary $1k milestone. 

Feed the brain 

One personal area of weakness I have identified is a lack of focus, especially as I get deeper into a session and am playing fewer tables. Annoyingly, the opposite should be the case where my focus levels increase to Jedi-like masterdom come the business end of the session but, with two screens and a Netflix subscription, it can be all so easy to shift your final few games to one screen while grinding a few episodes of Arrested Development on the other. 

This year I’m going to cut down tables a little, game select better and restart exercising regularly. In January 2013 I was working out every day and would still feel really fresh in the early hours of the morning. Alas, my training routine was interrupted by a three week trip to Vegas in the summer and I have failed to get back into it since. I can’t recommend the positive effect regular exercise does for your mental game enough. Your brain simply works better.

Oh, to be like Toby

One man we can all learn from is Toby Lewis. I saw him play a hand online in a recent Sky Poker UK Online Poker Series (UKOPS) event that inspired me to think about focus. Sky’s UKOPS series are always great value and I look out for them whenever they come around. They have a nightly TV show to promote the event, and daily satellites constantly run so that there are plenty of weaker players even in the bigger buy-in tournaments. Sky players even used to be able to play on their TV sets with their remote controls – if that’s not giving us an edge in the game I don’t know what is!

Without intending to have a pop at Sky, their software has always been a bit of a sticking point for me when considering putting more of their MTTs into my schedule. It didn’t used to work well when playing with other sites and I could understand why most of their players probably play all of their poker solely on Sky. That said, the software has recently been upgraded and they have tackled some of the major bugbears. In the middle of one £110 UKOPS event Toby was moved to the table I was sitting on. He was a super short stack of 2.5BB when this hand came up…

Every little helps 

The UTG player opened to 2BBs, and it folded to Toby on the button who just called (!) with his 2.5BB stack. I folded from the small blind and the big blind called. Instead of sticking it in with his 2.5BB preflop, Toby had the focus and discipline to just flat call which gave the BB 11/2 odds on a call, which is a price players will rarely turn down for 1BB. Once that extra BB is committed, Toby is almost guaranteed to also get action for his last 0.5BB from both players. It only occurred to me as the hand played out how huge squeezing that extra 1.5BB into the pot could be in the long run. If he won the hand he would have an 8BB stack instead of 6.5BB or, to put it another way, an extra 23%!

Toby was actually eliminated in that particular hand (by the big blind who made some sort of straight) but there’s still no question for me that Toby had given himself the best chance of winning the biggest pot possible with his Aces. I’ve decided that if I still have things to learn about how to play pocket Aces with a 2.5BB stack then it’s definitely time to turn off the Netflix account while I’m still playing online. 

Moving forward I’m going to be using monitor number two to search the screen names of some online heroes and rail their deep runs. These nuggets of gold are free – it’s just up to you to look for them.

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