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The 8 Poker Lifestyle Habits LOSING You Money – and How to Turn Things Around


Sky Matsuhashi

on February 6, 2024

Do your lifestyle choices negatively effect your poker play and results?

A lot of my students come to me as losing players and it's my job to help them turn things around. So, I ask them questions about their poker strategies and knowledge, and I look at their database to find issues with their statistics and win rates and we review hands to find their leaks. Then I help them plug their leaks with new strategies.

However, there's another important aspect to poker leaks, and that is your poker lifestyle habits: the playing, studying and life habits that negatively impact your poker play and results.

So, let’s discuss the top 8 lifestyle habits that are causing your online poker losses.

Watch this podcast episode #476 on YouTube:

Listen on Spotify:


1. Drinking & Playing Lifestyle

Most of my students have little time for playing poker with full-time jobs and families.

So, they play in the evenings after dinner and family time, and after a couple of beers to wind down from a tough day.

When you drink alcohol, your decision-making ability is weakened and your inhibitions get washed away.

Playing while drinking often leads to overly loose and aggressive play that spews chips at your opponents. And maybe you’re quicker to anger and tilting (and we’ll get to anger and tilt in a little bit, believe you me).


Solution: Don't drink before or while playing.

Yep, a pretty obvious solution to this problem.

But if that’s tough to do, figure out a way to play without alcohol.

Maybe wake up earlier to play in the morning, or play on weekend mornings before you have a beer with yardwork.


2. Playing Distracted

We often think we can do more than one thing at a time.

If I had a big blind for every time I thought I could play great poker while answering emails, I’d have a buckets full of big blinds.

Emails might not be your thing. Maybe it’s Youtube, Tick Tock, ESPN highlights or solitaire.

We think we can effectively kill two birds with one stone, but it often backfires and we do neither efficiently nor effectively.


Solution: “Poker time is focus time.”

Ditch the distractions, whatever those are for you.

It's also a good idea to avoid playing if you’ve got a monkey on your shoulder.

You know, like an item on your honey-do-list, or those bills to pay or that work task to do.

Get that crap done and out of the way first so that your mind is free and clear to focus on playing lights-out poker.


YOU Can Solve Your Own Problems

This is the perfect time to let you in on a secret: You can often solve your own problems just by asking yourself for advice.

Imagine you were someone else with your problem and ask for example, “I want to get better at tournament poker but every time I play while cooking dinner, I just can't focus on making good decisions. What should I do? Help me!”

The advice you would give is exactly what you need to do for yourself: “Stop cooking dinner while playing! Make dinner then play, or eat some Stouffer’s!”


3. Playing Too Many Tables

We want to make money, and for winning players, playing more hands = more profits.

But for losing players, more hands = more losses.

If you’re currently losing $5 per 100 hands, fitting in more hands per hour on more tables just leads to greater losses even quicker.

This is because with more tables, your brain is stretched even thinner, and you don’t have the time to make great reads and great plays, leading to even more loss.


Solution: Play to Learn, Not to Earn

Get profitable by playing to learn, not to earn (yet).

Just play 1 or 2 tables to give your brain space to make better reads and exploitative plays.

This also gives you time to practice new strategies and develop your skills.

Once you improve your play and results and consistently win with 1 or 2 tables, then you can start adding more to make more money.


4. Skipping Study Sessions

This is just as bad as skipping leg day!

How can you expect to learn and grow as a player if you never crack open the books to learn new strategies?

You might think you know enough to profit without studying, but you’re missing out on insights from others who have a different perspective and can add their lessons learned into your game.


Solution: Devote 10 Minutes to Daily Study

Everyone has 10 minutes to watch a quick video, or listen to a podcast or read an article or go through yesterday’s hands, right?

The great thing about building a habit of 10 minutes daily study, is that it often turns into more.

Just commit to 10 minutes daily. You get started, you learn something new, and that spurs you to keep learning and your 10 minutes grows into 20 or 30 minutes.

If you commit to this, I guarantee in the first week, you'll find yourself studying way more than the 70-minute weekly commitment.

Kick your studies up a notch!



5. Not Learning From Mistakes

I make mistakes every time I play, and some of them, I make over and over again. Maybe I:

  • Fail to do a pre-session warm-up.
  • Listen to a distracting podcast.
  • Fail to notice a great 3bet bluff.
  • Use a weak double-barrel sizing.
  • Don’t remove my hand from my mouse before a big decision.
  • Overpay for a draw on the flop and turn.
  • Keep playing even though I’m angry and tilt is building.

We often catch our mistakes in the moment, but if we don't take note of them, it’s easy to “play it and forget it” and NOT learn from them.


Solution: Have an Attitude of “Mistakes Are My Chance to Grow”

As you play, write down each mistake you make and keep track of the number of times you repeat a mistake.

Do this for a few sessions in a row with the same piece of paper.

This paper will be a gold mine of mistakes to learn from after just 3 sessions.

Work on these mistakes one at a time starting with the one you made the most.

told you about solving your own problems earlier, well, you can use that strategy with any of these mistakes. Imagine someone else keeps making these, and YOU have to help them fix ‘em. What would you tell them to do? And now, just do it for yourself.


6. Playing Scared Due to Insufficient Bankroll.

Just imagine if you only have a $500 bankroll and you bought into a $100 tournament.

Do you think you can play great poker with 20% of your bankroll on the line?

Most people can’t because with such a large portion of their roll on the line, ‘scared poker’ is a real issue and they fail to make the big chip-risking plays that they know they should.


Solution: Be Properly Rolled for the Stake You Play

When you have enough money in your bankroll, losing a couple buy-ins isn’t a huge issue.

Sure, it still feels bad, but you’re better able to handle the stress of losses and stay calm and collected during the downswings.

I recommend at least 40 buy-ins for cash games and at least 100 buy-ins for tournaments.


7. Chasing Losses with Bigger Stakes

This is a terrible bankroll killer.

I know I've been guilty of this: I lose a couple buy-ins and then I think to myself, “I can win this back. I'll just move up a level and stack somebody.”


Solution: Hide the Higher Stakes in Your Lobby

You have to fight the temptation to jump up in stakes and this takes some mental fortitude, especially if you’ve developed a habit of this.

To help yourself, set your poker lobby filter to only show you the stakes that you’re bankrolled for.

The extra step of turning off your lobby filters can help you avoid the temptation of bigger stakes.


8. Tilting Away Chips

This is #8 on the list, but it’s the most important one.

Anger and tilt are the top causes of loss.

I have it at the end of this list because the prior 7 causes all help to build the anger, frustration and tilt to the point where you lose control and even more money.


Solution: Make a Commitment to Improving Your Mental Game

This can’t be fixed overnight, and it's probably something that will be with you for the rest of your life.

But, if you tackle the 7 other items on this list, your anger and frustration will decrease as your results improve.

You’ll find more joy in poker and less tilt because of it.

And of course, I have to recommend Jared Tendler's book The Mental Game of Poker. There are many other good mental game-related books out there, but this is the one I started with and it’s still my top recommendation. Read it and put his strategies to use.


Take Action

I know that at least one of the 8 lifestyle habits here triggered something in you, and you know that's what you need to work on. So, your job is to put the solution I gave you into place ASAP. And you might even be able to come up with more of your own solutions. Do the work and when you feel that you’ve fixed the issue and it's no longer a habit hurting your poker game, move on to another one and fix that.


Support the Show

Want to study the easy way? Get the 1-Hour Poker Study Workbook. Much thanks to these rad poker peeps who never skip a study session (don't know about leg day, though 🤔): Kalle L, Sunil J, Jason M, Martin K, Sergio T, Thomas G, Alberto P, Robert S, Jaroslav V, Willian K, Octavian P, Tom W, Graeme R, Hans J, Peter L, Tony M, Patrick C, Ben C, Gurminder J and Mike F. 


Sky Matsuhashi

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